Not My Time Yet

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

What motivates you to make the decisions you make? What drives you to choose what to say and do and when to say it or do it?

There are two possible answers to those questions. Either we are motivated by our love for the world, or we are driven by our love for Jesus Christ.

Here’s what Jesus said to His brothers.

John 7:6-7 Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.”

Here’s the context. Jesus has been asked by His brothers to go public with His ministry and show everyone who He really is. Jesus says the time for Him to declare who He is and His mission has not yet arrived. Based on what Jesus says next, we can determine that Jesus was operating under different guiding principles than were His brothers. Jesus said, we can determine that Jesus was operating under different guiding principles than were His brothers. Jesus said, “Your time is always here.”  

Jesus made a clear distinction between Himself and His brothers. Jesus was guided by God’s timeline to accomplish God’s agenda. His brothers could chose to say and do whatever they wanted whenever they wanted because they were being guided by the world. The world could not hate them, because everything they did was motivated by the world’s philosophy and principles.

Under God’s control, Jesus chose to surrender to God’s timeline. Under the world’s control, His brothers chose to seek acceptance by the world.  We have those same two choices. We will be motivated by either God’s principles or by the world’s principles.

All of our choices, decisions, activities, and words reflect which Kingdom we have chosen to fit into and please.  We will do the works of whichever Kingdom we love.

If we love the approval of the world, we will do the works of the world, and we can do them whenever we choose.

But if we love Jesus, we will not love the world, or the things that are in the world, and we will not conform to the ways of the world. We will instead be transformed so that our minds can comprehend and act upon the will of God. His Spirit in us guides our decisions and the timing of everything we do so it accomplishes His redemptive purpose in the world.

Does the world hate you? GOOD! Keep being guided by your love for Jesus.

Pastor John

Show Yourself

LIFELINK DEVOTIONAL

Monday, October 5,2020

I remember a Seinfeld show on TV that aired on September 29, 1994. In this episode, George becomes irritated when he doesn’t receive thanks for buying Elaine a salad. At Elaine’s request, George purchases a “big salad” to go for her from Monk’s. George’s girlfriend Julie hands Elaine the salad in Jerry’s apartment, and Elaine thanks her. George is displeased that Julie took the credit for the salad, and tells Elaine that he bought it. Elaine is irritated at George for making a point of such a trivial matter, and briefly vents to Julie about this. Julie is so irate that George told Elaine she didn’t buy the salad that she breaks up with him.

We have a basic need for recognition. We want to be affirmed for what we have done. It is hard to not get credit for doing something meaningful for another person.

The brothers of Jesus must have understood this human need for attention when they attempted to push Jesus into going public with His works. As the Feast of Booths arrived, the brothers told Jesus to go up to Jerusalem for the celebration. That way more and more people would get to see for themselves whether or not Jesus was the real deal. Their request was born in unbelief, but it was based on what they thought was a shared human condition. They believed Jesus wanted to show Himself.

John 7:4 “For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.”

The brothers’ premise was that Jesus wanted to be known openly. They believed that Jesus wanted recognition and acclaim. They believed that the motive of our Lord’s heart was to make Himself look good in people’s eyes.

They were wrong. Jesus Christ, the eternal Holy One of God, did nothing for self-advancement. Jesus came to serve, not to be served, and to give His life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)

What about us? How many expressions of kindness are motivated by the need for recognition? Do we use niceness to gratify the need for affirmation? Do we determine the size of the gift based on the size of the thank-you we hope to receive?

Carefully consider the words of Jesus when He said, “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:2-4

Pastor John

Are You Leaving, Too?

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, October 2, 2020

I want to clarify something from yesterday’s devotional in case someone got the wrong idea that I believe we have to make ourselves worthy of being called a Christian. That was not the point. Yesterday’s devotional was about claiming to be something for which there is no evidence, with committed obedience being the evidence.

But just to be sure you understand where I stand, I firmly believe that salvation is by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ. Grace alone secures us forever as God’s children and joint heirs with Christ. I also believe that the church today has been weak in teaching the ongoing grace that brings us into the obedience of discipleship. I do nothing to get saved…it is by grace alone, but saving grace demands my participation in growing in grace. The evidence of growing in grace is obedience to the commands of God.

1 John 5:3  “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.”

Now, for today, I am struck deeply my three truths that come out of the conversation Jesus has with His disciples at the end of John chapter six.

John 6:67-71 “So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.”

Truth #1 – There is only one way to eternal life, and that is by believing that Jesus is God, and that made a holy sacrifice on the cross for our sin. This requires courageously resisting the consensus of people.

Truth #2 – As God, Jesus is sovereign in His choices, all of which conform to the eternal purpose of God to reveal His glory. Even choices that make no sense to us are a part of God’s redemptive purpose. This requires trust.

Truth #3 – It is possible to follow Jesus for all the wrong reasons and be lost for all eternity. Judas was committed, not because of faith in Jesus but rather to achieve personal benefit. This requires contemplation of our motives.

It would be wise for us today to consider all three of these truths. One of them probably applies to your life right now.

Pastor John

Christian or Disciple?

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, October 1, 2020

I am a golfer. I declared that about myself for the first time in 1968. I had loved the idea of being a golfer for 4 years prior to my declaration. Even as a middle school student I knew the difference between saying you were something, and proving you were by your commitment to it.

In 1963 I had discovered an old golf club called a Mashie in a horse barn at a friend’s house. I swung it a few times, and knew it was something I wanted to do. I went home, took my parents wooden croquet set, and hand cut all the mallets off at different angles. It was my first set of clubs. Crude, but they effectively sealed my desire to become a golfer.

My desire sat dormant until 1968, when after a move to a new city, my neighborhood friends urged me to go golfing with them. I said I had to learn the game first. So I went and bought a set of golf clubs for $17, and bought the paperback book “How To Play Golf” by Jack Nicklaus. I hung my dad’s old army canvas tarp over the clothesline in the back yard, and opened the book. Page by page I went, doing my best to imitate everything Jack Nicklaus illustrated in his book.

Every day my friends would stop by on their way to the course and invite me to join them. My response was always the same. “I’m not done with the book yet.”

Finally the day came when I joined my friends on Phalen Golf Course in St. Paul, Minnesota. After completing the round, I declared, “Now I am a golfer.”

My score did not make me a golfer, even though on that day I beat all of my friends. My declaration didn’t make me a golfer, as words are cheap. What made me a golfer was my commitment to invest my whole being into learning to follow the master of the game at that time.

The words “Christian” and “Disciple” have been cheapened by a lack of commitment. People of all ages claim to be Christians and may even claim to be disciples of Jesus Christ, but are living without a whole-being investment in following the Master. Carefully read these words of Francis Chan in his book “Crazy Love.”

“Some people claim that we can be Christians without necessarily becoming disciples. I wonder, then, why the last thing Jesus told us was to go into the world, making disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey all that He commanded? You’ll notice that He didn’t add, ‘But hey, if that’s too much to ask, tell them just to become Christians – you know, the people who get to go to heaven without having to commit to anything.’”

My golf game today is the product of the commitment I made to learning the game from golf’s master.

My daily life is to be the product of the commitment I make to learning how to live from the Master Jesus Christ. We must not declare ourselves to be Christian unless we can demonstrate a commitment to Christ – to learn from Him and obey what we learn. I’m not a golfer because I only believe in golf, I’m a golfer because am committed to playing golf. In the same way, I am not a Christian because I believe there’s a God; I’m a Christian because I am committed to being a disciple of Jesus Christ. There is no participation in eternal life without a commitment to follow Jesus in this life.

Pastor John

Fake or Real?

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Yesterday I told you that on Sunday we would resume our study of the Gospel of John in chapter seven. I WAS WRONG! I put that in all caps so it is easier for you to cut and paste it into whatever format you will use to send me a reminder that I admitted it. Part of the issue was that my sermon schedule for October was not available to me due to a Microsoft security issue. I could not access my files in the cloud. You can check out the validity of that on any tech news site. So I guessed. That’s dangerous at my age, when I can’t even remember to turn off the oven after making supper last night.

Anyway, this week we are going to back up to John 6, verses 66 through 71, and talk about another significant question – “What is real faith?”

We live in a world of fakes. At times we are all one. But there is nothing productive about fake faith. Fake faith is based on fake truth. Fake truth is the product of the sin nature in each one of us that demands personal benefit for every investment. Fake faith offers the fake security of immediate gratification while providing no security for the future, especially not for eternity.

One aspect of fake faith is that it requires no commitment. The commitment level of fake faith is based solely on immediate benefits. When benefits are removed, faith is renounced. To paraphrase John Piper, “Far too many people would be willing to accept heaven without the presence of Jesus if they could be assured that all their needs were being met and prosperity was the rule of life.”

That’s what happened at the end of the sixth chapter of John.

John 6:66  After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.

Fake faith demands more miracles. Fake faith wants more food. Fake faith wants easy teachings that stroke our hurting egos. Fake faith is exposed when Jesus says, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”

Fake faith walks away from Jesus. Fake faith wants the flesh gratified. Fake faith wants life in the flesh, and isn’t satisfied with life from the Spirit. Fake faith forces us to walk away when we don’t get what we want.

How do you know if you have real faith or fake faith? Check your commitment level. Is Christ enough, or do you need material blessing along with Jesus? Saving faith can only be placed in Christ, not in benefits. The blessing of grace is the basis of real faith. Understanding grace is the foundation of commitment. Fake faith is based on a belief that we deserve more. Real faith is grateful for grace that gives us life when we don’t deserve it.

So check your commitment level. Are you only faithful to follow Jesus when things go your way and benefit you? That’s not real faith. Real faith is satisfied with Jesus, and nothing more is needed.

Pastor John

Where Is He?

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

This Sunday at Calvary we will return to our study of the Gospel of John. We will pick up where we left off in the 7th chapter. For the next two weeks we will be looking at some tough questions that are asked about Jesus. His answers will help us to better understand Him and cause our faith in Him to grow.

The first question asked in John 7 is this – “Where is He?”

John 7:11 The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?”

John explains to us in the following verses that there were two reasons for people wanting to find Jesus. Some people wanted to meet Him to learn from Him because they thought He was a good man. Others were opposed to Him and wanted to eliminate Him as a threat to their traditions.

Both groups had one thing in common. They were afraid of the Jewish religious leaders. To avoid getting in trouble with those leaders, they whispered to one another about Jesus but dared not speak about Him publicly.

Here are some points for us to ponder today.

  1. Why do you want to know where Jesus is? Is it because you think He is a good man and might be able to help you, or is it because you think He is hurting your way of life and you want to prove it so you can walk away from Him with a clear conscience? Both are wrong. Jesus is not a good man; He is the God-man. He is to be sought because He is God, apart from any perceived benefit He will bring to your life. As God, He can only do good for you. He will give you a new and fulfilled life. He is not trying to harm you. Seek Him.
  2. Be bold and courageous to let the world know that you have found Him…or more accurately He has found you. Do not be afraid of what man can do to you. Jesus told His brothers, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.” John 7:7 You can choose to be loved by the world or be loved by Jesus. You can’t have both. Stand up and be counted as one who has found Jesus.

Pastor John

Significance

LIFELINK DEVOTIONAL

Monday, September 28, 2020

Have you ever tried to disguise your true feelings toward someone by making it appear you are working for their good when in reality you hope they get hurt? That’s exactly what the brothers of Jesus tried to do in John 7.

After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” For not even his brothers believed in Him. John 7:1-5

The brothers of Jesus were motivated by unbelief. They may have wanted to expose Jesus as a fake. They tried to convince Jesus to go public with His miracles. Either the public would turn against him as a fraud, or the Jewish leaders would kill Him. Either way, they would be rid of the one person who made them feel so insignificant.

If only they would believe and discover the eternal significance Jesus would give them. Then they could be men of integrity, and be honest with their feelings instead of trying to manipulate outcomes to their advantage.

We all desire those kinds of honest relationships.

They all start with a sense of significance.

Jesus offers significance to everyone who believes.

Pastor John

 

Are You Ready?

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, September 25, 2020

I found this story to be convicting. Author Doug Mendenhall shares a brief parable that should cause all of us to pause and reflect:

Jesus called the other day to say he was passing through and [wondered if] he could spend a day or two with us.

I said, “Sure. Love to see you. When will you hit town?”

I mean, it’s Jesus, you know, and it’s not every day you get the chance to visit with him. It’s not like it’s your in-laws and you have to stop and decide whether the advantages outweigh your having to move to the sleeper sofa.

That’s when Jesus told me he was actually at a convenience store out by the interstate.

I must have gotten that Bambi-in-headlights look, because my wife hissed, “What is it? What’s wrong? Who is that?”

So I covered the receiver and told her Jesus was going to arrive in eight minutes, and she ran out of the room and started giving guidance to the kids—in that effective way that Marine drill instructors give guidance to recruits. …

My mind was already racing with what needed to be done in the next eight—no seven—minutes so Jesus wouldn’t think we were reprobate loser slobs.

I turned off the TV in the den, which was blaring some weird scary movie I’d been half watching. But I could still hear screams from our bedroom, so I turned off the reality show it was tuned to. Plus, I turned off the kids’ set out on the sun porch, because I didn’t want to have to explain Jon & Kate Plus Eight to Jesus, either, six minutes from now.

My wife had already thinned out the magazines that had been accumulating on the coffee table. She put Christianity Today on top for a good first impression. Five minutes to go.

I looked out the front window, but the yard actually looked great thanks to my long, hard work, so I let it go. What could I improve in four minutes anyway?

I did notice the mail had come, so I ran out to grab it. Mostly it was Netflix envelopes and a bunch of catalogs tied into recent purchases, so I stuffed it back in the box. Jesus doesn’t need to get the wrong idea—three minutes from now—about how much on-line shopping we do.

I ran back in and picked up a bunch of shoes left by the door. Tried to stuff them in the front closet, but it was overflowing with heavy coats and work coats and snow coats and pretty coats and raincoats and extra coats. We live in the South; why’d we buy so many coats? I squeezed the shoes in with two minutes to go.

I plumped up sofa pillows, my wife tossed dishes into the sink, I scolded the kids, and she shooed the dog. With one minute left I realized something important: Getting ready for a visit from Jesus is not an eight-minute job.

Then the doorbell rang.

Are You a Sheep or a Goat?

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, September 24, 2020

If you had a choice, would you be a sheep or a goat? If behavior was the only criteria, I would be a goat. I love activity and adventure, and goats seem to personify both. Independence, enthusiasm, exploring, and conquering heights with a proud pose – these are the things that motivate me.

Sheep, on the other hand, are mostly docile and easily spooked. They like the comfort of the crowd. They take their time doing anything, resist change, and have a strong stubborn streak.

According to Matthew 25:31-46, when Jesus comes back to sit on the throne of His kingdom, He will separate all the people of the world into two groups – sheep and goats. The sheep will be on His right hand, and the goats on His left. The sheep will enter the Kingdom. The goats will be sent to eternal punishment.

Okay, now I want to be a sheep.

I do not want to be guilty of stretching any comparisons beyond what Jesus intended, so the simple truth is this – the people of God have always been called sheep, not goats. Jesus Himself is called the Lamb of God, not the Kid of God. Psalm 79 says, “But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever.” And Psalm 23 identifies the Lord as our Shepherd. Those who are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ are members of the eternal flock of Jesus. We are His sheep.

Yet I do want to make one comparison to what Jesus says when He separates the sheep from the goats. Sheep and goats, as with any other creature or human being, consistently act according to our nature. Sometimes that nature can be trained or tamed, like lions in a circus, but given the opportunity for freedom, nature takes over.

It is the nature of a goat to be independent, which gets them in a lot of trouble. Meanwhile, the nature of a sheep is to be “sheepish.” They flock together. They respond to each other.

When Jesus judges the people of the earth who are still present when He arrives to rule His earthly kingdom, He separates people based on their nature. Those who are goats have an independent, selfish nature. Those who are sheep have a serving nature. Goats get for themselves. Sheep give for the greater good of others.

Jesus says to the goats, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’” The goats are judged based on their nature, which was reflected in their actions.

Jesus says to the sheep, Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ The sheep are rewarded because their actions were the proof of the nature of Christ in them.

Which are you? A greedy goat getting everything you can for yourself, or a servant sheep, selflessly representing the life of Christ in you by helping others in their time of need?

Pastor John

Keep Investing

LifeLink Devotional
Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The second story Jesus told in his conversation with His disciples in Matthew twenty-five is convicting. You can read the whole story in verses fourteen through thirty. Here’s a summary.

Three guys are called in by a business owner who is leaving on a trip, and he puts them in charge of his resources. He divides them up as he chooses, then he leaves. Two of the men immediately do their best to build the business and produce a profit for the owner. The third man is scared of what he might lose so he chooses to eliminate any risk of loss by not using anything he had been given. When the owner returns he calls for an accounting. He commends the men who served his interests. He condemns the man who served his own interests.

Do you see why this is so convicting? Jesus will condemn those who serve their own
interests. He will commend those who are found serving Christ’s interest in redeeming the world.

What interests are you serving with the resources, time, gifts, skills, and energy Jesus has given you?

Pastor John