MondaythruFriday: ""Mike MacIntosh"


Last Call Devotional Network

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"MondaythruFriday" Devotional Series


"Mike MacIntosh"

And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt.
Exodus 7:3

Why would God "harden Pharaoh's heart"?  Wouldn't that make Him a "cruel" God, if He would show such callousness to an individual?  No, we must understand that God is a gracious, loving God -- even to Pharaoh.

That word "harden" literally means "to stiffen."  A lump of clay, sitting on a table, will become stiff if left alone.  It needs a potter; it needs hydration.  And just as that clay needs water to keep from becoming hard, so we, as people, need the grace of God to keep our hearts pliable.  Except by the grace of God, we would all be "filled with all unrighteousness," and given over to a "reprobate heart" (Romans 1:28).  We would all have hardened, sin-stained hearts without Christ because, as Romans 3:23 says, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

You see, Pharaoh was like the clay on the table, left all to itself, without water to keep it pliable, or a potter to give it shape.  He watched the Lord do wonder after wonder through Moses, and yet he still rejected God, so his heart became hard.  He didn't want anything to do with God, so God pulled away.

Notice the Bible never says that God didn't love Pharaoh.  Quite the opposite! If God didn't love Pharaoh, He wouldn't have given Pharaoh the opportunity to reject Him.  If God were a cruel God, He would have forced Pharaoh to obey Him, like a dictator forces his subjects to heed his every word. 

 

Instead, God allowed Pharaoh to make his own decision.  And not only did God honor the decision, He actually used it for His glory.  "For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, 'For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth'" (Romans 9:17).

God allows us to make our own decisions. He loves us with an unyielding love, and He will honor our choices. We can choose to let the Lord mold and shape us -- like a potter with clay -- or we can refuse.  If we refuse, we are like the untouched clay that sits on the table and becomes hardened. 

But if we will allow Him to do His work in us, He will be faithful to "complete it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).  For better or worse, He will be glorified. Hebrews 3:7 says, "Today, if you will hear His voice, do no harden your hearts..."  Let the Lord's grace be the water that keeps your heart pliable.

And the LORD said to Moses,

"Why do you cry to Me?

Tell the children of Israel to go forward."
Exodus 14:15

Leadership is never easy. If you've ever been in a place of leadership, you probably know what it feels like to have people second-guess your every decision, complain behind your back, and talk negatively about you. Can you imagine, then, how Moses must have felt, tasked to lead 1-2 million Israelites through the wilderness? And can you imagine the sheer panic that must have broken loose amongst the Israelites as they realized they were being pursued by the entire Egyptian army? Here they were, the Red Sea ahead of them, and Pharaoh's armies behind them. They feared for their lives; they were trapped.

Having spent the past 430 years in slavery, the Israelites had no experience in warfare. In fact, they probably possessed not a single sword, arrow, or combat weapon. And with so much at stake, not only did they complain to Moses, they actually accused him of wanting them killed. "Have you taken us away to die in the wilderness?" they cried to Moses (Exodus 14:11). Moses must have felt the weight of the world on his shoulders, but when he cried out to the Lord for direction, God said, "Why do you cry to Me? Go forward" (Exodus 14:15).

Moses simply needed a reminder: It was God who had "led the people by way...of the Red Sea" (Exodus 13:18). And it was God who "went before them...in a pillar of cloud...and a pillar of fire" (Exodus 13:21). Moses had embarked on a journey without even a map to follow -- his only task was, literally, to follow God. Each day, he pursued the pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night. His destination each day was not a city, landmark, or border -- it was the pillar, itself.

You see, not only does God lead us; He goes ahead of us. He doesn't just point us towards our destination -- He is our destination. When we live a life in pursuit of God, His will becomes our only aim, and His provision becomes our only need. When our eyes are fixed on the Lord Jesus Christ, we realize that we have no need to fear -- even when we feel trapped on all sides, because His "perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18).

Sometimes we make following Christ more difficult than it needs to be, especially when we feel pressed on all sides. "How will I accomplish this? How will I pay for that?" Sometimes we complain about, and like the Israelites, even accuse others for our problems. And sometimes we are the ones, like Moses, being blamed. But just as the Lord led the Israelites across the Red Sea, so He wants to lead you through the trials you face in your life today. You must take your eyes off the oceans of problems before you, and make Him your only focus. Today, make Christ your destination, and, like Moses, "go forward."


 

 

Jesus said to [the Pharisees], "Have you never read in the Scriptures: 'The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'?"
Matthew 21:42

If someone you loved were in grave danger, wouldn't you rush to help them? Before even blinking an eye, you'd probably drop everything to rescue them from losing their life -- even if it meant losing your own. I think we all have people we love for whom we'd lay down our own lives to save. But would you do the same for someone who hated you? Would you stop at nothing to lay down your life for someone who had rejected, despised, and even tried to kill you? That's the sacrifice Jesus made.

In Matthew 21, we see Jesus talking with the very people who would be responsible for plotting His death -- the religious establishment; the Pharisees. Jesus knew their motives. He knew they despised Him because He spoke with the authority of God, and He knew they "sought to lay hands on Him" (Matthew 21:46). Here were men who had spent their whole lives building up a religious construct -- a pious institution over which they reigned unchallenged -- and along comes Jesus, threatening not only to tear down their empire, but to build something totally new in its place. It would be a new kingdom -- a heavenly kingdom whose boundaries only exist in the hearts of its people, and where the only requirement for citizenship is a simple acceptance of the grace of God. And of this new kingdom, the very person the religious leaders hated and rejected -- Jesus Himself -- would be the "chief cornerstone" (Matthew 21:42).

Jesus, then, was too big a threat. The Pharisees wanted Him dead. And Jesus, the Son of God, could have thwarted their plans, or even sought revenge. After all, the Pharisees were hypocrites! They were self-righteous cowards! But Jesus didn't seek revenge; He warned them of the mistake they would make -- the mistake of rejecting Him -- that they might avoid it. He wasn't out for blood -- He came to shed His blood, that even those who put Him to death might be forgiven.

You see, we are the Pharisees. We are the hypocrites whose sin put Jesus to death. Romans 3:10 says, "There is none righteous, no, not one." Our sin made us haters of God. And still, Jesus chose to die for us. Even though it was our sin that caused Him to be rejected, despised, and even killed, He chose to sacrifice His life for our sake. And today, even though you may love your sin and hate God, He chose to die for you, that you might turn from your sin and be forgiven.

Jesus died for all of us -- those who love Him, and those who hate Him. His love is that amazing! If you've never experienced the awesome love of God, and the freedom from sin that it brings, let today be the day.

"If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9).


 

 

"Stand before God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to God. And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do."
Exodus 18:19b-20

My father-in-law was a man for whom I held deep respect. He walked with God, and always demonstrated such great wisdom. Just before he passed away, he told me something that I've never forgotten: "Mike, don't wear yourself out." It sounds simple enough, doesn't it? But he knew my workload at the time, and that I was taking on a lot, especially as we were starting a new church ministry here in San Diego. His words were not a recommendation that I take a vacation, but an encouragement for me, as a leader, to share the burden of leadership -- to delegate. He knew that a good leader doesn't hoard control -- he empowers others with it.

Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, gave Moses similar advice. Moses was spending every hour of every day addressing the Israelites' quarrels, questions, and concerns that inevitably arose as they journeyed through the wilderness. And with 1-2 million people on the journey, it was no small task. Something had to change, or Moses would not only wear himself out -- he would cripple the people he was leading. So Jethro told Moses to delegate -- to find "able men, such as fear God," and place them as rulers over the people (Exodus 18:21). Moses, then, would only be concerned with the issues too big for the rulers to handle. This way, the rulers would "bear the burden" with Moses (Exodus 18:22).

You see, when Moses delegated power, not only did it ease his burden; it empowered the people. As he became free to "show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do" (Exodus 18:20); the people became empowered by his guidance. Instead of receiving only analyses and verdicts, they received purpose.

What makes a good leader? Volumes have been written on the topic. But a good leader is not so concerned with being recognized by the people he leads as he is with empowering them. Often, as leaders, we fail to delegate power because we fear losing control. We fear the very empowerment of others that will make us effective leaders! But if we fail to empower, we fail to lead.

Today, as followers of Christ, we have purpose because He has empowered us. He does not hoard control over us like a dictator -- He gives us free will to serve Him and walk with Him. And He didn't have to. Do you realize that the very people to whom Moses delegated power would become the Sanhedrin -- the court body that would, centuries later, deliver Jesus to Pontius Pilate to be crucified? No doubt, God knew from the beginning that by empowering His people, they would make mistakes -- even the ultimate mistake of rejecting Him. But His love is so great for us, that He was willing to pay the ultimate price. He was willing to give us free will, even if it meant He must die to fix our mistakes. That's true leadership.

May we become people who lead others to the God who has forgiven and empowered us, that they, too, would be forgiven and empowered!

 

 

 "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

Matthew 22:37-39

Growing up, I tended to push the envelope. I think I was thrown out of more bars than I walked into. I wasn't a bad guy, but I was always getting into mischievous trouble. Why? Deep down, I felt empty. I feared I would never amount to anything. I was afraid of what people might do to me. I feared where I was headed, but I feared changing course. I lived in perpetual fear... and I blamed myself.

Years later, as a new Christian, I came across a verse that changed my life. 1 John 3:20 says, "For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things." Boy, I could relate! If anyone had a condemning heart, I did. I carried such guilt. I knew God loved me enough to forgive my every sin, but I was afraid to forgive myself. In essence, I had made God smaller than myself -- I had allowed my own sense of guilt and sinfulness to trump the perfecting work of His love in my life. One thing had always stood in my way: fear.

The opposite of love is fear. Perfect love and fear cannot coexist, because "perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18). Where there is fear, love is lacking. And in my heart, God's love was lacking. You see, I'd never realized that all the guilt, shame, bitterness, and anger in my life was rooted in fear. I was afraid of love, because I didn't think I deserved it. From the moment I allowed God to uproot the fear, I realized the sheer power of His love. I didn't have to defend myself. I didn't need to strive to be somebody. If God was in charge, why should I fear? "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7).

All the Lord requires of us is love -- to love Him, and to love others. That's it. All the commandments boil down to this one thing: love. Nothing is more powerful than the perfect love of Jesus Christ. Today, allow His love to permeate every cell of your body. Let Him cast out all the fear in your heart, and the sin it causes. Let His love bring forgiveness and restoration to you, your family, your friends, and your enemies. Let Him give you a love for others that you've never known or experienced, and that radically transforms your world. "He who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:8).

 


 

 

MondaythruFriday: ""Devotionally Taught""


Last Call Devotional Network

(on Blogger)

lastcalldevotionalnetwork@gmail.com

"MondaythruFriday" Devotional Series


"Greg Laurie"

THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF JOSEPH

Genesis 37

 

The story of Joseph reads like a summertime paperback thriller—family drama, international

intrigue, worldwide crisis, attempted murder, and false accusations. But it is also a story of God at

work, His hand guiding every aspect of the story.l

 

Joseph’s story is your classic rags to riches tale, rising from complete obscurity and constant setbacks

to become the second most powerful man in the world. He was a young man who never doubted

God, and was unwilling to compromise his principles—particularly in his famous encounter with

Potiphar’s wife.

 

PRACTICAL PRINCIPLES

 

1. Everyone will be tempted. There’s a misconception that as you mature as a believer, temptation

will become less of a problem. But the reality is that temptation—in every way, shape, or

form—will always be an issue for us. Jesus was tempted at the beginning and the end of His

ministry. We should expect nothing less.

 

2. Joseph understood that there are consequences to sin. Joseph knew his life was a testimony, and

he didn’t want to discredit himself or his witness to a nonbeliever. There are no exceptions to the

Scripture that says, “Your sin will find you out.” Unconfessed sin will take its toll on you and

those around you; one way or another.

 

3. God’s standards are absolute. Joseph didn’t get a break because he dealt with hardship, or

because he was a slave living in a godless culture. Right is right, and wrong is wrong, and that

doesn’t change for any reason. Rather than conforming God’s Word to our culture, we should be

conforming culture to God’s standards.

 

4. Joseph recognized that all sin is against God. It is one thing to not sin because you fear the

consequences. But the greatest motive for not giving in to temptation is our love for God. Our

response to temptation is a barometer of our love for God. If we truly love God, it will show

itself in living righteously and resisting temptation.

 

RELEVANT REMINDERS

 

We might do a good job of resisting the obvious temptations, but how are you doing in the subtle

ones, like jealousy or gossip? It’s easy to rationalize minor sins for whatever reason, but we are to

resist all forms of evil (Psalm 97:10; Romans 12:9). That’s the only way to successfully defeat Satan

(James 4:7).

 

APPLICABLE ACTIONS

 

Are you facing temptation right now? Don’t play around with it, or let it linger. For Joseph, losing

his jacket was better than losing his morals. We should be willing to do the same. May the Lord

strengthen all of us to walk closely with Him and flee all temptation.


  The Place We Long For

For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 
—Hebrews 11:14

I am navigationally challenged, so I like having a GPS to help keep me from getting lost. But I read about a Wisconsin motorist who actually ended up on a snowmobile trail because her GPS led her in the wrong direction. She ended up stuck in the snow and had to call 911. A deputy who responded to the call said, "People shouldn't believe everything those things tell you."

A GPS can fail us. But that isn't the case with the sophisticated homing instinct God has given to certain birds. Their built-in navigational systems are probably better than our latest technology. The Manx Shearwater, for example, nests off of the coast of Wales and has an amazing homing instinct. Scientists tagged and released a number of these birds at different points around the globe to see whether they could find their way back home. In just 12 days, all the birds made their way back.

One bird in particular made it all the way from Boston, traveling 250 miles a day from a place it had never been to get back home. Now that is what you call a homing instinct.

God has placed a homing instinct within you and I as well, and I believe it is a homesickness for heaven. We long for a place we have never been before. We are prewired that way. The Bible tells us that God has put eternity in our hearts (see Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Heaven is the real thing that we long for. Heaven is not an imitation of Earth, but it is really the other way around. Earth is the copy, the temporary dwelling place. Heaven is the real deal, the eternal dwelling place of every follower of Jesus Christ. It is the place we long for, because it is our future home. 

 

 

 

In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 
—John 14:2-3

Sometimes we act as though everything and anything that can be done must be done while we are living here on earth. Of course, we want to make the most of our time, because we don't determine when we are born or when we die. But we do determine how we will live our lives. We also need to know that life does not end after our time on earth; it continues in heaven.

When a life is limited by disability or illness, when a life is cut short through death, we tend to think, Well, that is unfortunate. They never realized their dreams. But who is to say those dreams could not be realized on the other side? Who is to say that God would not complete on the other side what He has started on earth?

When we see someone who has lived a long life but has wasted it for the most part, and then we see someone with so much promise and ability and gifting who dies unexpectedly, we think it is so unfair. But that is because we are thinking about life on earth and not realizing that life continues on. For the follower of Jesus Christ, death is not the end of life, but a continuation of it in another place.

When you book a flight, sometimes you will have a stopover. I don't like stopovers myself, because sometimes things happen during stopovers. Bad weather can roll in, which can mean getting stuck there for some time. I like to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible.

For the Christian, earth is just a stopover. Waiting for us on the other side is heaven. And we will arrive there sooner than we may realize.

 

 

Measuring Up

"Tekel means 'weighed'—you have been weighed on the balances and have not measured up."

Daniel 5:27



Normally when most people step onto a scale, they want to weigh less. But when you step onto God's scale, you want to weigh more. You want to have substance and depth and purpose and weight to your life. When Daniel confronted the wicked King Belshazzar, he told him, "You have been weighed on the balances and have not measured up." Effectively he was saying, "Belshazzar, you are a spiritual lightweight. You have done nothing with your life."

The Bible tells us that all believers will stand before the judgment seat of Jesus Christ. In speaking of this, Paul wrote, "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ. Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person's work has any value" (1 Corinthians 3:11–13).

It is not so much about bad things you did; it is more a question of what you did with your life. Did you accomplish anything? Did you impact anyone? Did you seek to glorify God with your life? Or did you spend it in the pursuit of nothingness?

Don't worry about what God has called someone else to do. Focus on what God has called you to do, because the key in that final day is not how much you did, but why you did it. God is far more interested in our faithfulness than He is in our success. It is all about faithfulness. It is all about doing what God has set before you and doing it well, with all of your might. That is what you will be judged for in that final day. 


 

 

   

iFaith?

 

America has never been more spiritual, yet so immoral at the same time.

A 2009 poll found that Americans are more interested in “faith and spirituality” than they are in Christianity. One expert said, “Americans increasingly want to shape their own faith experience,” what he calls “concoct[ing] a uniquely personal brand of faith.”

“What they’ve done is they have put together a whole series of beliefs and a series of religious practices and a series of relationships and connections—all of that that makes sense to them and helps them to feel good about themselves,” he said.

iFaith

Why not? In the age of the iPod, iPhone, iMac, and now the iPad, we have “iFaith” and “iGod.”

With iFaith and iGod, you control the home screen. You can write your own programs or apps. You can customize it to your own liking.

You can leave the parts you like, such as love, forgiveness, and heaven. You can take out the parts you don’t like, such as hell, judgment, and righteousness—just highlight them, and hit the “delete” key.

Moral Relativism

We, as a nation, no longer accept certain truths that our Founding Fathers held. Instead, what we have instead is moral relativism.

What is moral relativism? It is the belief that there are no absolutes. In other words, there is no right or wrong.

Now, to some, this may sound fine in theory, but if you play it out, it is madness!

If you were to go out in the middle of the night and remove all the traffic lights, all the lane markers, and all the signs, you would have chaos.

And for many, that is what their life is: chaos. They have no moral compass to guide them. There is no set of absolutes, just their opinions.

If there is a God in moral relativism, it is a God of our own making. What you really have is people “making God into their own image.”

As it’s been said, “God made us in His own image and we returned the favor.” Instead of us becoming like God, we want God to become like us.

It’s time to get back the other way around again.


 

 

MondaythruFriday: ""Devotionally Taught""


Last Call Devotional Network

(on Blogger)

lastcalldevotionalnetwork@gmail.com

"MondaythruFriday" Devotional Series



"Devotionally Taught"

 

 

   So Near and Yet So Far
      
      Thou art not far from the kingdom of God--Mar 12:34
      
      Difficult to Estimate Crowds and Distances
      
      There are two things which it is very difficult for the uninstructed eye to gauge, the one is the dimensions of a crowd, and the other is the measurement of distance. So much depends on the clearness of the air, and so much on the intervening landscape, that the most accurate observer may find himself at fault when estimating distances in unfamiliar places.
      
      Difficult Also to Estimate How Near You and Others Are to the Kingdom of God
      
      Now as it is in the material world, so is it in the spiritual world. There is nothing harder than to gauge with accuracy how near a man may be to the kingdom of God. I believe there are many whom we think very near it who as a matter of fact are far away. I believe there are many who seem to us far away who in the sight of God are very near. And as this should make everyone of us more earnest, for some may be farther from God than we imagine, so should it make everyone of us more hopeful, for some may be nearer Christ than we conceive. We are often in error in such measurements, and therefore in charity we should avoid them.
      
      Christ Was Never in Error in Judging Others
      
      But of this be sure, that Christ was never in error, never miscalculated in these finer judgments; and here we have Him saying of a scribe, "Thou art not far from the kingdom of God." I want to examine this deeply interesting case. I shall give you some signs that the scribe was near the kingdom. And I do pray that the spirit of Jesus Christ may bring the word right home into your hearts, that one here and another there may say, "Lord is it I, and is it I?"
      
      Signs That This Scribe Was Not Far from the Kingdom of God.
      
      Let us note then some of the signs that this scribe was not far from the kingdom of God. And in the first place, and in a general sense, this is true as a plain fact of history. This scribe was a Jew, trained in the Jewish faith, familiar with the doctrine of the kingdom. He lived in Palestine, in the providence of God, at the very time when Jesus Christ was there. Often would he have seen Him in the streets, often would he have listened to Him talking, and no man could be so near the King without being near the gateway of the kingdom. He was not an African, like Simon of Cyrene, with an ocean between his home and that of Jesus. He was not, like Lydia, a European, born in another continent from Christ. He lived within a stone's-throw of the Master; he studied the very books the Master loved; and doubtless among the followers of Jesus were some whom he would call his friends.
      
      Now there are none of you of whom similar things might not be said. By birth and upbringing and Christian nurture, you are not far from the kingdom of God. It is near you whenever you hear the Gospel. It is near you in every Christian character. The influences of that kingdom are around you; its activities are incalculable in this city. In the providence of God you have been born here, where there is an open Bible and a Christian church--and it may have come even nearer you than that. You may have had a mother who was a saint of God, or a father who was an exemplary Christian; you may have a sister within your home today whose religion you would never dream of doubting. And therefore remember, however vile you be, however foolish or prayerless or unclean, if you want to return you have not far to travel; you are not far from the kingdom of God.
      
      He Had a Great Admiration for the Lord
      
      Again this scribe was not far from the kingdom because he had a great admiration for the Lord. I think we can see, if we read the passage closely, how very warmly this man admired the Master. Probably he had listened to Christ before, and had been deeply stirred by what he heard. Dissatisfied with all his weary studies, there was that in Christ which made him dream of peace. But now, as he heard the discussion with the Sadducees, and saw Christ's masterly handling of these skeptics, all other feelings, dim and ill-defined, gave place to a great and glowing admiration. Had he been a little man his spite would have rejoiced to see his rivals the Sadducees confuted. Had he been a blind and bitter pedant of the schools, he would have been angry at any triumph of the Carpenter. But there was something noble in this scribe--something that lifted him above all petty feeling--he felt he was in the presence of a Master, and was filled with warm and lively admiration. Now whenever a man feels that, I want to say he is not far from the kingdom. You are not a Christian when you admire Christ Jesus, but you are nearer His kingdom than when you jest and sneer. And if I speak to any young man who can say from his heart he admires this man of Nazareth, I urge you to take one other step, just because you are so near the gate. We are not saved by admiring Jesus Christ. We are saved by loving Him and serving Him. It takes something mightier than admiration to pierce to the very deeps of a man's being. But admiration is so akin to love, and is so truly its herald and its harbinger, that if you truly and morally admire Christ, you are not far from the kingdom. Not far, yet on the wrong side of the gate. That is the infinite pity of it all. "O the little more and how much it is; and the little less, and what worlds away." And therefore I appeal to you who are so near, because you so admire the Son of Man, to take the last step of full surrender that you may have the blessing of the free.
      
      He Was Intellectually Convinced That Christ Was Right
      
      Again this scribe was very near the kingdom because he was intellectually convinced that Christ was right. With perfect frankness, and with full sincerity, he admitted that what Jesus said was truth. Nothing would have been easier for him than to challenge Jesus' answer to his question. It was a matter of endless debate among the scribes which was really the great commandment. And had he been seeking what so many seek in argument, not truth, but a dialectic triumph, he could easily have summoned his scholastic learning. But the scribe was not a disputer of this world; he was a genuine searcher for the truth. Weary with all his study of the law, he longed for a ray of light upon his darkness. And when he welcomed the doctrine of the Christ, and said, "Well, master, thou hast spoken truth," Christ recognized what was implied in that, and said "Thou art not far from the kingdom of God." If he had flouted the answer of the Lord he would have been far away from the kingdom. If he had let the words sink down into his heart, that moment he would have been within it. But he gave them an intellectual acceptance--said "Yes, master, what you say is true"; and that, though it did not stamp as a citizen, was a mark that he was not far away.
      
      Now I think that that very hopeful sign is one which meets us everywhere today. There is a greater respect for the teaching of Christ now than there has been for many generations. Men want to know what Jesus Christ has said on every relationship and every problem. There is a widespread feeling that in these words of His lies the true answer to a thousand questions. And so within the past twenty years we have had countless books upon the teaching of Jesus, and attempts innumerable to bring His words to bear on all the problems of our modern life. There is much that is hopeful in that deepening of interest. It is not everything, but it is much. It takes more than the intellect to make a Christian, for faith is something deeper than the intellect. Still, when a man comes back to the words of Christ, after a trial of the words of other masters--when he says to himself, "There are no words like these for none are proving themselves so true to me"--that man is not far from the kingdom of God.
      
      He Was Near the Kingdom Because He Was Deeply Stirred by Jesus' Answer
      
      And then, again, the scribe was near the kingdom because he was deeply stirred by Jesus' answer. Emotionally as well as intellectually he was very deeply impressed by Jesus Christ. You may often notice in the life of Jesus how deeply His hearers were moved by what He said. It was not cold truth they heard, but living, burning truth, and it profoundly moved them in sympathy or anger. So here there is emotional excitement; had you been present you would have seen a kindling eye. There is more than intellectual assent here; there is the stirring of a man's nature to its depths. It was a dangerous thing to acknowledge Jesus Christ, and the scribe would never have done it in cold blood. To admit in public thus that Christ was right was to expose himself to bitterest suspicion. And then the words that followed his confession are so torrent-like, and so intense, and so aglow, that you feel through them the excitement of the speaker, and realize how deeply he was moved. There is no sign that his conscience had been touched; there is every sign that his feelings had been touched. The crust of formalism had been broken through--he was no longer the cold and dry scholastic. And it was then, when he was so impressed--so ready for great action and decision--that Jesus looking at him said, "Thou art not far from the kingdom of God."
      
      Now you have all heard it long ago that it is not our feelings which save us, but our faith. It is not by what we feel that we are saved; it is by laying our hand in that of Jesus Christ. It is the height of folly for one to trust his feelings when the Bible calls on him to trust his Savior. It takes more than emotion, as it takes more than intellect, to enter the glad kingdom of the Lord. But what I want you to realize is the value of our seasons of emotion in sweeping us forward to a great decision in a way that argument can rarely do. It may be that we come to church indifferent and a word is spoken which reaches to our hearts. It may be that a children's hymn is sung and its memories unlock the fount of tears. Or someone who is dear is called to suffer, or someone whom we love is called to die; or we have been ill, and are still weak and helpless, and a simple prayer is offered by our bed. In some such ways, and there are a thousand ways, we are brought to hours when we are deeply moved. And the crust is broken, and the deeps are stirred, and we cease to be indifferent and worldly. And I plead with you to seize these hours, and to seal them at once in personal decision, for in all your appointed journey through the world, you are never so near the kingdom as just then. I care not how deeply your feelings may be moved; I must tell you plainly that they will never save you. Could your tears forever flow you might still be an exile from the grace of Christ. But when your tears are flowing, and your heart is tender, you are so near the kingdom of the Lord that the pity is infinite if after all you miss it. There are times when a single step makes all the difference, as when a man is standing on the quay. One step, and he is on board the ocean vessel that will carry him over the deeps to other countries. But let him refuse that step and stand inactive, and all the feeling of which the heart is capable will not prevent his return to the old life, there to be haunted by a dull regret. Is it such an hour with anyone? Thou art not far, my brother, from the kingdom. It was never quite so near you in the past. It may never be quite so near you in the future. Take it by violence. Storm its walls now. Say, "I am thine, my Savior, in a full surrender." What a difference that will make in time, and what a difference through all eternity!

 


   "  The Grace of Appreciation

      
      She hath done what she could--Mar 14:8
      
      Appreciation Alleviates Drudgery
      
      Few gifts are more helpful than the gift of appreciation. It is like rain on the mown grass, or sunshine falling on the flowers. When one of our Scots ministers died, a very beautiful thing was said of him. It was said that there was no one left to appreciate the little triumphs of little men. Mrs. Oliphant, too, in her Life of Edward Irving, tells us that not a little of his influence sprang from the possession of this grace. "He addressed ordinary individuals as if they were heroes and princes; made poor astonished women in tiny London apartments feel themselves ladies in the light of his courtesy; and unconsciously elevated every man he talked with into the ideal man he ought to have been." A recent essayist has divided people into minus and plus people. The minus people are those who leave us poorer, and the plus those who leave us richer. Among the latter, in the common ways of life, where there is little applause and many a weary hour, are those who have appreciating grace. It helps folks wonderfully when things are difficult to know that somebody appreciates. It is always easier to march to music. A little word of appreciation now and then would make all the difference to thousands whose day's round is very largely drudgery.
      
      Appreciation Is Different from Flattery and Praise
      
      One must distinguish true appreciation both from flattery and praise. Flattery is veiled insult, and praise may be condescension in disguise. Newman has said that people shrink from praise, because the right to praise implies the right to blame, and Scripture warns us with no uncertain voice against coveting the praise of man. But genuine appreciation is different from praise or flattery, and for it every heart is hungering. A story is told of Robert Browning, how once at Oxford he got a great ovation, and when someone hinted that he must hate all this, he said, "Why, I've been waiting for it all my life." Men of genius, who would scorn to stoop to the passing fashions of the hour, are as eager for appreciation as the rest of us. Just as everybody yearns for love, so everybody yearns to be appreciated. The drudgeries of life are always lightened when there is somebody who understands. There are few nobler heroism's in the world than that of those who have to toil for years without a single appreciative word.
      
      Appreciation Is a Mark of a Noble, Generous Nature
      
      This gift of appreciation is always the mark of a noble, generous nature, just as the constant habit of depreciating is the sign-manual of littleness. To depreciate is not to criticize, for true criticism has an eye for beauty. To depreciate is to betray an uneasy feeling of inferiority. But generous natures are always self-forgetful, and are touched with a certain sweet serenity, and so have the heart at leisure from itself. "See," said Nelson, "how that gallant fellow Collingwood takes his ship into action." There is nothing harder than to appreciate richly the men who are doing the same work as we are. The noble nature of Sir Walter Scott is never more beautifully evident than in the appreciation which he lavished on the efforts of his inferior fellow-craftsmen. When I went as assistant to Dr. Alexander Whyte, Professor Lindsay laid his hand upon my shoulder. "Never forget," he said to me, "that all Whyte's geese are swans." It was a playful warning not to lose my head when I found that the least service I could render was appreciated with amazing generosity. Little souls delight in faultfinding; big ones in appreciating. Mean folk are always minus folk; it is the great hearts who are the plus ones. They add to life and make it richer; they call out all that is best within us by the sunshine of their appreciation.
      
      Christ Appreciated What He Saw in Others
      
      Then one turns to the story of the Master, and sees how gloriously Christ appreciated. That was why life blossomed in His company. When the woman broke the alabaster box, He alone appreciated what it meant. When the widow cast her mite into the treasury, He saw in a flash the splendor of her giving. Others appreciated a cup of wine; He a cup of water, and that was characteristic of His life. Hating sin as no man ever hated it, because He knew the Father with such perfect intimacy, the wonderful thing about our Lord is how He appreciated the common heart. He saw the worshipping woman in the harlot, the disciple in the despised tax-gatherer, the rock in the unstable will of Simon. Common things were beautiful to Him--the lily was more wonderful than Solomon. Sparrows, of little value on the market, were in His eyes fed by the catering of God. The love of woman, the wonder of the child, the fine things lurking in the pagan breast, our Lord appreciated them all. No wonder folk came to their very best with One who could appreciate like that, and so they are doing to this hour.
      
      Love Is the Secret of Appreciation
      
      It only remains to add that love is the secret of appreciation. Love is not really blind; it has the most generous of eyes. Professor Henry Drummond used to say that if you buy a box, it must be flawless. But if your little son with his rough tools makes you a box, very probably it has a hundred faults. Yet you appreciate that clumsy workmanship far more than what you purchased in the market, because it's the work of the little chap you love. Love wildflowers, and you come to appreciate what to other people are but weeds. Love the hills, and you find beauties in them that other eyes are powerless to see. When love reigns, as it is going to reign when God's Kingdom is established on the earth, there will be such appreciative grace abroad that life and labor will be set to music.


 

 

 

 The Blessing of the Unexpected

      
      And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross--Mar 15:21
      
      His Physical Weakness Speaks of His Humanity
      
      I want you, please, to note the words that are employed in Mar 15:20-22. In this, the greatest hour of history, every word is of supreme significance; thus we read in Mar 15:20, "They led him out to crucify him." And then we read in the Mar 15:22, "They bring him unto Golgotha." These two words are just a little window on to the supreme physical exhaustion of the Savior in this the greatest hour of His agony. You see, when He left the Praetorian they were leading Him; when they came to Golgotha they were bearing Him. He had started walking; He had stumbled; He had needed the support of these strong hands, and I think nothing could more eloquently speak to us of the full true humanity of Christ than just the awful physical weakness of that hour. For fifteen hours, since the hour of the Last Supper, our Lord had suffered the most awful strain, strain of body, agony of mind. "My soul is sorrowful, even unto death." Now, He was so utterly forspent that He staggered and stumbled in the way. "He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." All this, my brother, He bore for you and me when He might have had hosts of angels at His bidding. Here, as at the outset of His mission, He refused to turn stones into bread, refused to avail Himself of anything that might break the bond between Him and us when He was dying in our room and stead.
      
      The Romans and Jews Were Not Anxious to Alleviate Jesus But to Keep Time
      
      It was the custom of these Roman soldiers to make the criminal carry his own cross, but in this instance that was quite impossible. What were they to do? No Roman would have touched the horrid thing--Roman shoulders were not meant for that. To have made a home-born Jew bear it would have been to court uproar; and just then, coming down the way that probably led from the uplands about Bethany, they saw the very person that they wanted. Others were travelling in companies, this man was travelling alone. His dark skin showed that he was a foreigner; his costume showed he was an African; he was a stranger who had no kith or kin, he was far from home, probably friendless. This was the very person that they wanted. I don't suppose these soldiers pitied Christ; half an hour before they had been mocking Him; they were irritated at the loss of time, things were not going according to their program, and they cried, "You, you, Cyrene come here!" (He was known afterwards as Simeon Niger.) And him they compelled to bear the cross. This Gospel is very rich in vivid touches; is there a touch so vivid as this one?--the sinking Savior, the irritated soldiers, the dark-skinned foreigner coming from the country, and over everything the blue heaven, and the birds singing as they used to sing when Jesus was a happy boy at home.
      
      A Man Can Serve Christ Although He May Be Ignorant as to Who He Is
      
      I want for a little while just to try and show you some of the teaching of that story, and in the first place, will you notice how a man can serve Christ though he is utterly ignorant who He is. I don't imagine for a single moment that Simon had ever seen the Lord before. Possibly, and indeed probably, he had never even heard His name, for the Lord's name had not penetrated Africa, and it was in Africa Simon had his home. Probably he had just arrived the other day. Then, you observe, he was coming from the country; that means he had his lodging in the country. At Passover the city was so full that many had to get lodgings in the country, and therefore that morning, coming to the city, he had no idea who the prisoner was--he was doing something for somebody he did not know. The strange thing is that he was called to serve somebody whom he had never heard of; called to help in a great hour which was going to change the future of the world; called not to a little service, but to a great service, so splendid and unique that any of Jesus' disciples might have envied him. Mary broke the spikenard on His head; Martha made Him a supper in the evening; Joseph served by giving Him a grave, Lazarus by giving Him a cottage; but all these services, however beautiful, are not to be matched with this of Simon when he relieved the Lord of the burden of His cross. To him and to him alone was it given to help our Savior in His deepest need, to him to relieve Him of His cross when all the others forsook Him and fled. And how profoundly significant it is that this service, such a glorious service, was rendered to the Christ he did not know. And then one thinks of the parable of Jesus about the Last Judgment of the world: "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom that is prepared for you; for I was hungry and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink," and then the blessed are going to say in frank astonishment, "Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or thirsty?" You see, evidently in the mind of Christ thousands are serving Him who never knew Him--in little actions, in the kindly loving deeds, in the little offices of courtesy and love; and what is to hinder us widening out that thought to the great services of men written in the history of the world? The men who built these highways across continents--they were serving Christ although they never knew it; the men who constructed railways across Africa--they were serving Christ although they never knew it; the man who invented printing, though he may never have thought about the Lord, he too has been a magnificent evangelist. So was it with Simon; he knew nothing of the prisoner, he had not the least idea whom he served when he carried the cross up the hill, but he was serving the Lord Christ, he was helping on the coming of His kingdom. He has got his reward.
      
      The Unexpectedness of Life
      
      And then, another thought embodied in our story is just the unexpectedness of life. This was the great hour in Simon's history, and it just came to him like a bolt out of the blue. You have got to picture him that beautiful spring morning leaving the cottage where he had had his bed, crossing the fields brilliant with anemones, going up the pathway to the city, meditating on the goodness of the Lord in bringing him to the city of his dreams and allowing him to see the holy place. He had come there to celebrate the Passover, and that done, he was going home again to his wife and his two boys in Africa who had been praying for him every day; and just then, dreaming his own dreams and meditating upon the God of Jacob, he was gripped and brought into the presence of the Lord. And one feels how it would come to him all in a moment that he was present at the greatest hour of history, the hour for which the world had been waiting, the hour that the Psalmist had foreseen, the hour that the prophets had foretold, and it just came to him without any sound of trumpets. Simon dreaming his own dreams, his greatest hour met him by the way. And I scarcely need to tell you how true that is of life. Have not we a proverb in almost every language that it is the unexpected thing that happens? Joseph came out to see how his brothers fare, and Joseph is never going to see his home again. David in the morning is king, and when night falls he is flying from his son. Matthew is sitting at the receipt of custom; somebody speaks to him and calls him, and the future is never to be the same again. How often our sorrows take us unexpectedly! How often our joys take us unexpectedly! How often the things we have looked for never come, the things that we never looked for have arrived: all of which should teach us not that life is chance, but that our highest wisdom is to trust Him when we know not what an hour may bring forth. How often Jesus meets us unexpectedly when our thoughts are busy upon something else! And I beg of you never to forget that that is how the Lord is going to come, in an hour when you never think of it. If you and I were in the hands of fate, life's unexpectedness would be its tragedy; but we are not, thank God, in the hands of fate. We are in the hands of One who loves us and who knows us; One who sees the fall of every sparrow, in whose eternal love is no tomorrow, whose everlasting purposes embrace, as Wordsworth says:
      
      "Whose everlasting purposes embrace all accidents, converting them to good."
      
      "Almost by the merest chance I met the Lord." I dare say Simon spoke like that. "Had I overslept myself by half an hour I never would have stumbled on the Savior." He did not oversleep himself, because the Lord God is merciful and gracious and loved him from the foundation of the world.
      
      We Are Blessed by the Things We Are Compelled to Do
      
      Then the last lesson which I want to touch on is this, how men are blessed by the things they are compelled to. As the years went by and Simon's hair grew white, I am perfectly certain he often thought of that. Will you please observe he was compelled; his wishes were not consulted in the matter. Very probably he was rebellious; this was degrading to an honest Jew, and then, was not he due in the Temple at that hour, and was not this interfering with his plans? But it was no use struggling; he was one, the might of Imperial Rome legion; better to yield to the inevitable, although he did it with a curse within his heart. And the beautiful thing is that just that bitter task to which he was compelled proved the glory of his life. There is no question that he became a Christian. Alexander and Rufus were members of the Church. Mark talks as if everybody knew them; they were familiar figures in the Church at Rome, and all the blessing and the altered home, and the new deepened spiritual relationships came from something to which he was compelled. If he had had his way that morning, if nobody had interfered with him, if he had been allowed to do just as he pleased, he would have gone back to Africa, and we would never have heard of him. But the bitter thing he had to do, doing it perhaps with a curse within his heart, was just what proved his blessing. There are things in your life you are compelled to do; there are things in your life you are compelled to bear. Sometimes you think that if you were only free from them life would become sunshine and music, but one of the deepest lessons of this life is that things we are compelled to are the road to character and heaven. Accept that task you have got to do; accept that burden you are compelled to bear. The wonderful thing is how often it proves the very cross of Christ; it brings you into His fellowship; it deepens your character; it steadies you; it gives you the kingdom and the patience of the Lord; it draws you into sympathy with others. Simon became quite a noble character through the bitter thing he was compelled to. Has not it been the same with you and me?

 

 

 

Misunderstood
      
      Behold, he calleth Elias--Mar 15:35
      
      Christ's Life Began and Ended in Misunderstanding
      
      We are here in the center of the Gospel mystery. It is the closing scene in the earthly life of Jesus. Jesus has been betrayed, He has been scourged and crucified, and in a little while the sorrow will be over. It is then that in His unutterable agony He cries, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani"--and some of them that stood by when they heard it said, "Behold, He calleth Elias." They misinterpreted that last dear cry. They thought He was speaking to Elias and not to God. So at the very end, and on the cross itself, Jesus was misunderstood.
      
      The strange thing is that what happened in this last scene of the life of Jesus had happened also in the first of which we read. It had happened on that memorable occasion when Jesus was a lad of twelve years old, and had gone up with Mary and Joseph to Jerusalem. There they had lost Him--you recall the story--and they hurried back to Jerusalem to find Him; and all the time they thought it was childish wantonness--the careless wandering of a happy boy. "Son," said Mary, "why hast Thou thus dealt with us? Behold thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing": and He said unto them, "How is it that ye sought me: wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?" His nearest and His dearest misconstrued Him. There were purposes of heaven in His waiting, and they thought at the best it was a boyish frolic. So Christ began by being misunderstood, and ended misunderstood on Calvary.
      
      The Way in Which Jesus Was Misunderstood
      
      On that subject I wish to speak tonight--the way in which Jesus was misunderstood. And the very fact that He was so misunderstood is a tribute to the greatness of our Lord. There is, it is true, a very real sense in which we are all of us misapprehended. Even the shallowest heart is far too deep ever to utter itself aright to any man. Yet in large measure we understand each other when we are moving on the same lines and levels; it is when a man is transcendently original, that he is certain to be misunderstood. Men did not misinterpret John the Baptist; they recognized him as a prophet and they honored him. And I feel that Jesus must be greater than John when the whole nation misunderstood Him so.
      
      You will observe, too, that if Christ was misunderstood it was not from any subtlety of character. If He was supremely great, do not forget that He was supremely simple--His life is transparent as the finest glass. It is hard to say how high the mountain is when the mists hang round it and it is wrapped in cloud; and there are men like that--men who never reveal themselves, and such men are certain to be misinterpreted. If you have not the courage to be a clear, straight man, you must not wonder if we all misjudge you. It is part of the penalty which every hypocrite pays that he is involved in perpetual misunderstandings. But Christ? He was sincerity incarnate! filled with one passion and pressing for one goal. There was never such a simplicity on earth as that of the character of Jesus; yet for all that there never was a character which was so hopelessly misunderstood. Is not that very strange? I think it is. It sharpens the thorn in my Redeemer's crown. Great Savior! who wast so true and open--it was Thou who wert misunderstood!
      
      Men Misunderstood Christ's Motives
      
      I want to follow that misinterpretation into one or two spheres of the earthly life of Jesus: and I notice first that men misunderstood His motives. Think for example of His healing miracles--"He casteth out devils by Beelzebub," they said. There was no gainsaying that the devils were routed, and that the sick were healed, and that the dead were raised. It was all part and parcel of Christ's gracious ministry. It was the kingdom of God coming with power among them. That was the motive of it--let God's kingdom come. That was the meaning of it--let sin be overthrown. And "He casteth out devils by Beelzebub," they said. Or think of His eating with publicans and sinners. You know the motive of that condescension? It was love--it was love unutterable for mankind--that shattered the barriers and made Christ a brother. But "He is a gluttonous man and a winebibber," they said. "He feels at home with sinners, and so He eats with them." That condescension spelled out love divine, and they thought it was proof positive of guilt.
      
      If you are Christ's you must expect that too, for the servant is not greater than his Lord. If you are truly in earnest about the kingdom, and striving to live along the lines of Jesus, be sure your motives may be misconstrued. There is not a deed you do but men may question it, and run it back into your secret thought, and if there be two possible motives for it, you may be certain that the world will choose the worse. Tell me what are you really thinking in the very moment when you are praising so and so? Ah, if we could only read your thoughts sometimes, I fear we might think little of your praise. It is that knowledge which keeps a Christian steadfast through the world's censure and the world's applause. In the light of Christ he has learned to expect his motives to be misunderstood. And so he takes the world's praise very lightly, detects the fester at the roots of it, lifts his brow heavenward, goes forward to his duty, and leaves his final judgment to God.
      
      Christ's Speech Misunderstood
      
      Again I remark that men misunderstood the mystical and poetic speech of Jesus. They took Him very prosaically and literally when He only meant to suggest as music does, and so time and again they misconstrued Him. Take for example one of His early words, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again." And as He spake, I doubt not, He would wave His hand toward His own body. That was the Temple, the home of the living God, a thousand times greater than these mighty stones; but they were literalists--the Temple? There it was--and not one Jew in all the circle caught the rich suggestion of the Lord. So, too, in the sad sweet story of the home at Bethany you recall how Jesus said to His disciples, "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth." And they all loved Jesus--that little band of followers--and love gives a man eyes to understand. Yet they answered at once, "Lord if he sleep, he shall do well," and Jesus, with a touch of pity at their dullness, had to tell them plainly that Lazarus was dead. They had not grasped the sweet suggestion of the word. They took Christ literally and misunderstood Him--and yet they were His disciples, and they loved Him.
      
      I think that Jesus is still misunderstood that way. There are men who love Him as these disciples did, and who are striving to serve Him in a life of duty, but they have taken the music of His speech, that was meant to suggest and to lead into the infinite, and they have built their arguments upon the letter of it, forgetting that it is the spirit that giveth life. Believe in the possibilities of Jesus' speech. No creed or commentary can ever exhaust it. It may have been interpreted a thousand times, but there is some new gleam of heaven in it for me. Take all the words of Jesus at their largest. Be not afraid: expand them infinitely. In everything He ever said there is far more than has ever yet been grasped by Christendom.
      
      The Silence of Jesus Misunderstood
      
      The world, then, misunderstood the speech of Jesus; but it also misunderstood His silence. There is no clearer instance of that in the four Gospels than in the scene we read from the Gospel of Luke tonight. Christ had been sent by Pilate to Herod, and Herod when he saw Him was exceeding glad. He plied his prisoner with ceaseless questions, and he hoped to have seen some miracle at last. But Christ would do no miracle and would answer nothing. Silent and unresponsive, He stood still. And if ever the silence of Jesus was misunderstood, it was that day by Herod. He took it as a confession of His impotence. It was because Christ was powerless, that He was speechless. The dignity of it, and all the royalty of it, was lost on Herod. He misunderstood the silence of the Christ.
      
      Is not Christ's silence still misunderstood? There is nothing harder for many a mind to grapple with than the apparent silence of our ascended Lord. It is not what God does, it is what He fails to do; it is not what Christ says, it is what He fails to say, that puzzles and perplexes many an earnest soul. Has He no word of answer when we cry to Him? Does He not hear the moaning of the world? Why are the heavens of brass, when such things happen? Is there no eye to pity this poor earth? Until we are tempted to say, He does not know: until we are tempted to cry, He does not care: and all the time, like Herod in the Gospel, we have misunderstood the silence of the King. Not that I can explain that silence. It is inscrutable and mysterious and dark. But I am determined not to misinterpret it; I shall suspend my judgment till the glory. And then, I take it, it will so shine with meaning and will be so bright with patience and with love, that at last I shall begin to understand the mysterious silence of my Lord.
      
      Misconstruing the Part as the Whole
      
      One word and I have done. Come back to our text again before we close. "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani," and when they heard it they said He calleth Elias. Do you see the reason why they misunderstood Him? They had only caught a fragment of His speech. They had only heard a syllable or two. Had they caught the whole of it--let the whole sentence sink into their hearts--they would have known that He was calling upon God.
      
      There never was a time when Christ was more misunderstood than now, for the very reason that we find at Calvary. There was never a time when fragments of the Gospel were proclaimed with such assurance as the whole round truth. One man will take the Sermon on the Mount, and neglecting everything else say, This is Christianity. Another can think of nothing but the sacrifice: the whole of the Gospel is in that for him. They are like the men who heard "Eloi Eloi," and said at once, "He is calling for Elias." It is wonderful, I grant you, what a single word--what a mere fragment will do for any soul. A few stray syllables, like a strand of rope, may save a sinner and bring him to the shore. But for you who are Christians that is not enough. You must study and strive to have a full rich Gospel. To take a part and think it is the whole is the sure way of misunderstanding Christ. Therefore reject not uncongenial truths. Embrace the whole: come like a child to it. Believe that wherever God Almighty works, there must be infinite compass and unfathomable depth. So slowly, and amid many things you cannot reconcile, you will draw nearer to the truth as it is in Jesus, until at last in the land where there are no misunderstandings any more, you will know even as also you are known.


 

 

     Behold the Place: an Easter Message

      
      Behold the place where they laid him--Mar 16:6
      
      The Angel Kindly Compelled Them to Come and See
      
      It was a kindly compulsion of the angel that bade the women come and see that place. They would bless him for it in the after-days. The story shows us that they were affrighted, a great dread fell upon their hearts. In hours when the unseen draws very near, such dread is natural to men and women. And these women, when they descried the angel, would be tempted to turn away and flee, in a kind of panic we can understand. It was to such affrighted souls the angel cried, "Come, behold the place where the Lord lay." They must know for a certainty the place was empty. They must see with their own eyes He was not there. And we can well imagine how in the after-days, when they had to stand the brunt of cross-examination, they would be grateful for that compulsion of the angel. He was not gratifying their curiosity. He was giving them solid ground to rest on. He was giving them something definite and positive wherewith to face the questionings of others. Had they fled affrighted they could have borne no testimony save that the stone was rolled away. Now they could proclaim that He was risen. That was the import of the command for them. Has it any significance for us? Let us meditate a little upon that.
      
      The Message of the Empty Grave: God Had Not Forsaken Jesus
      
      When we behold the place where the Lord lay we realize that God had not forsaken Him. We recognize the faithfulness of God in the mysterious darkness of the tomb. On the Cross our blessed Lord had cried, "My God, why hast thou forsaken Me?" There was a darkness on His Father's face as He endured the agonies of Calvary. And then the shadows deepened, and the night encompassed Him, and they removed His body from the Cross, and laid it in the house appointed for all living. Was this the end of all that perfect fellowship? Had God forgotten to be gracious? Was He suffering His Holy One to see corruption, even though the grave was in a garden? Come, says the angel to our questioning hearts, behold the place where they laid Him. Had it been tenanted we might have cried, "It was a beautiful dream, but it is over now." All that He lived for, all that He came to do, has been flouted by the irony of death. But if the place be empty, when men have done their worst, and carried Him from Calvary to the tomb, then God is present even in the darkness. He has not forsaken His beloved Son. He has justified His claims and sealed His testimony. He has crowned with His divine approval that life of beauty and that death of sacrifice. We hear God saying in that empty grave, as clearly as at the hour of baptism, "This is my beloved Son."
      
      Death Is Conquered
      
      Again, when we behold the place where the Lord lay we realize that death is conquered. The last great enemy is overcome, and the power of the grave is broken. Still death has a dark and awful shadow. Sooner or later it knocks at every door. It touches the fairest flowers and they wither. It robs us of dear ones who made life like music. But the empire of death is now a broken empire, one day to be finally destroyed, because Christ our representative is risen. He is the second Adam. He is the Son of Man. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. He wore a crown of thorns as we all do. He passed into the silence of the grave. And if death was powerless to hold Him, and had to give Him up and let Him go, there steals on the ear the distant triumph song. What a victory it would have been for death if he could have held in his grip that second Adam! How he must have summoned all his powers to keep watch and ward over that peerless Prisoner. And then the angel, sitting in calm confidence, says to our shadowed human hearts, "Come, behold the place where the Lord lay." He is not here; He is risen. The tyranny of death is broken. The Son of Man has proved too mighty for him, because the Son of Man is Son of God. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
      
      We Have a Living Friend
      
      Lastly, when we behold the place where the Lord lay we realize that we have a living friend. He meets us as He met Mary in the garden, and as He joined the two on the Emmaus road. Memories are exquisitely precious. They enrich and deepen every life. They touch with beauty the commonest of scenes and set their hallowing on homeliest places. But for the battle of life and for our daily guidance we need more than the most sacred memories: we need the presence of a living friend. We need somebody who understands us, who has been tempted in all points like as we are, who has traveled the rough road our feet must take, who is ready to sympathize and to forgive. And it is then that the angel shines on us, as he shone on the women in the garden, saying, "Come, behold the place where the Lord lay." Look at it. It is empty. Life is going to have more than memories. He who lay in the grave has left the grave, to be the very same Jesus to the end. Closer than breathing, nearer than hands or feet; with us, living, to share our very life. "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."

 


 

 

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