SERVE OTHERS

https://anchor.fm/pastor-john-van-gorkom/episodes/SERVE-OTHERS-e1cqeuqLifeLink Devotions

Thursday, January 6, 2022

So far this week we have been digging a little deeper into five marks of a spiritually mature person. On Monday we discovered the truth of knowing Jesus intimately; on Tuesday we talked about sacrificing the immediate for the eternal; and yesterday we grew in our decision-making by considering moral discernment. Today we find the teaching of Scripture in Hebrews that defines maturity as loving service to other people.

Hebrews 6:1, 10  “Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity…God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.

Coming up on Monday night the college football national championship game will be held. I enjoy watching college football. I remember one specific game championship game sixteen years ago. We had church that night, so after getting home I sat down to watch what was left of the game. There were 5 minutes left in the second quarter, and Texas, the team for which I was cheering, had the ball and scored a quick touchdown to take the lead. At that moment the phone rang. It was a young man that I had been assisting with his adjustment to society after getting out of jail. He had fallen and sprained his ankle and was on his way to the hospital emergency room. He asked me if I would be able to pick him up later and take him home. I agreed.

Little did I know that he would call back at 10:15 PM to have me come and pick him up. Those of you that know me well know that I am usually in bed by that time, but the game had kept me up. I jumped in the car, hoping to get this all done and return home to see the end of the game. When I arrived at the hospital they were not yet ready to release him, so I watched the game with him in his room. As we were transferring him into the wheel chair to go to my car USC scored a touchdown and went ahead by the score of 38-26 with 6 minutes to play. “Well, it’s over now!“ I said as we walked out of the hospital, forcing myself to feel better about missing the end of the game.

After a 40 minute wait at the pharmacy for his pain medication, I finally returned home at 11:45 PM just in time to see the final moments of the post game show and heard the news that Texas had come back and scored 15 points in the final four minutes and won the game. I couldn’t believe it. I missed it. The greatest college football game ever and I didn’t get to see the best part of it. 

Now for many of us, the temptation might be to think, “If it weren’t for other people’s problems my life would be so simple.” That is NOT what I thought! I was sad that I missed the game, but my heart was blessed to know that I was able to help someone who had nowhere else to turn. God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. 

Spiritually mature people sacrifice the immediate for the eternal and serve others with the love of God. Try it today!

Pastor John

DISCERNMENT

LifeLink Devotions

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Another of the marks of spiritual maturity found in the New Testament is that we are able to distinguish good from evil. There is much more to this than just knowing right from wrong. A two-year-old child is able to understand yes and no, but in their heart they are not yet able to discern good from evil. The child responds to benefits and consequences, but does not have the ability to comprehend the nature of the action that brings the reward or punishment. It is in the understanding of the nature of good and evil that maturity occurs.

Hebrews 5:14  But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” 

The author of Hebrews says that this kind of maturity and understanding can only come through constant practice. The mature believer in Christ will evaluate the nature of every activity before participating. Never will a mature Christian simply respond on the basis of benefit or consequence, but will always look deeper at the nature of every choice to determine its intrinsic good or evil.

Look carefully at two key words for us to understand: one is trained and the other is constant practice. The word trained is an athletic term used to describe the intense physical preparations an athlete makes for an event. It literally means to exercise naked. So intense was the exercise that the body heated to the point of removing all clothing. The second word translated constant practice is the noun form of the verb used to describe marriage when we say to have and to hold. It means that we value something so dearly that we are not only glad to have it but we will cherish it and use it to its fullest extent.

Let me illustrate. Many of you were tempted about 2/3’s of the way through the last paragraph to quit reading because it was either boring or too deep or didn’t tell a cute story that was easy to read. Yet every one of you has been given the power of the Holy Spirit to know and understand the deeper things of God. You have been given an incredible gift of spiritual insight but maybe you have not chosen to train yourself through constant practice and exercise of the mind to use the gift to its fullest extent.

The same principle applies to our everyday lifestyle choices – we look only at the benefit or consequence of the choice and respond on that basis alone, rather than training ourselves through the constant practice of spiritual discernment to see the moral nature of the choice or activity.

When that two-year-old child begins to reach the age of understanding, we as mature parents move them from the reward and consequence stage of training to the stage of asking them to know why they made the choice they did. We begin to train the child to make moral decisions, not self-centered decisions. We want our children to know the moral difference between good and evil rather than simply choosing based on personal gratification.

That is what mature people do, and that is what mature Christians do. Is it easy? If it were then we wouldn’t be told to exercise naked. It’s hard work to move from the routine of going along with the flow to swimming upstream against the current of popular opinion. So strip down to the bare essence of who you are and train yourself to identify anything that will harm you. Set your mind firmly on the goal of righteousness in Christ, and start exercising your right and privilege to know the moral nature of all things. Constant practice will perfect the skill of distinguishing good from evil.

Pastor John

GROW EMOTIONALLY

LifeLink Devotions 

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Yesterday I had to stop at the gas station and fill my car’s tank. If I had not done that I would have run out of gas. I wanted to avoid that scenario because it could lead to a period of insecurity and depression. Here’s how: I would have had to call someone on the phone and ask for help, which puts me at risk of appearing like a fool for not planning better. This inconvenience would cause stress to me and to the person helping me, and could possibly stress our relationship. Valuable time has been spent correcting an avoidable situation and there is the possibility that I will have to listen to a speech by someone about how to manage my life better, which in turn will make me feel inadequate and devalued as a person. That will feed my insecurities and cause me to feel depressed about who I am and to question the true value of my life. That would have caused me to go to a sporting goods store and look for something to purchase, because if I am capable of buying a new item to enhance my life then I must be ok as a person. To avoid all of that, I filled my car’s gas tank.

Now that’s a little over-stated, but there is a truth I want to draw out of it – every one of us has an emotional filling station we use to make us feel good about who we are and to avoid the devaluation of our lives. When our emotional gas tanks start to get empty we head for the activity that has always brought us comfort in the past so we can feel good about ourselves again. One of mine is shopping. When I get down on myself I buy things. 

What do you use as a filling station for your self-worth? It could be that you escape into books or movies because fantasy is far better than reality. Maybe it’s drugs or alcohol to relieve pain. It might be sex so you can prove your manhood or womanhood. Maybe it’s a hobby you use to gain a sense of accomplishment. It could be gossip or criticism to build yourself up at the expense of others.  Maybe you dive deeper into work to prove your worth through performance. Whatever it is, it needs to be addressed. It is immature to use the world and its values as a basis for determining our value. It is childish to put all of our energy into the immediate rather than to press on toward the eternal.

Philippians 3:7-9, 15 “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith…Let those of us who are mature think this way…”

In the Apostle Paul’s past he took pride in all of the things he accomplished as a Pharisee because it earned him a place in society and a sense of security and worth. When he got down on himself he just obeyed a few more laws or persecuted a few more Christians. He filled his emotional tank with activities that earned him acceptance with his peers. But when he met Jesus, he sacrificed all of that immediate gratification for the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ. Whatever profited his pride he now considered garbage so that he could find his true worth and value in Jesus Christ. He wanted nothing to do with a self-imposed or socially acceptable value system, but rather wanted only the righteousness of God through an intimate relationship with Jesus. He gave up visiting the world’s filling stations and replaced them all with the filling station of God’s grace. The prize he pursued in life was no longer one of immediate gratification, but one of eternal fulfillment.

Isn’t it time for us to put all of the world’s pursuits on the Wonderful Counselor’s couch and let Him evaluate the real reason why we focus on those activities? And isn’t it time for us to honestly admit that many, if not all of them, are done for personal gain and emotional gratification? If that is true, then this is the start of maturity for us, because we will, like Paul, consider those things to be rubbish compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ intimately and having Him fill our tanks with His grace.

So the next time you see me shopping, ask me why I’m there. I hope I never have to answer that it’s because I need to replenish my worth. 

Pastor John

GROW IN KNOWLEDGE

LifeLink Devotions

Monday, January 3, 2022

Happy New Year! At this traditional time of resolutions designed to improve the quality of one’s life, I choose to resolve one thing that will bring the quality of life to its fulfillment – to know Jesus. I don’t mean know in the secular sense that I will just know about Him, but in the spiritual sense of knowing intimately, deeply, and completely. I want far more than just knowing what Jesus would do so that I can act appropriately; I want to know the wonder of Him living His life in me.

To illustrate the difference, look closely at this passage of Scripture from First John.

1 John 5:19-20 “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”

The word “know” is used three times in these two verses. The first two times John uses the Greek word eido, which is translated as “to see, to perceive, to know the facts of something.” But when John speaks of knowing Jesus he uses the word ginosko, which means “to come to know intimately with feeling and understanding.” It is the same word that is used in the Jewish culture to describe the sexual union between a husband and wife.

I came to understand the difference in these two concepts in my early adult years when I was in business. When I was hired as an assistant manager at a retail clothing store, my goal was to become a manager. I quickly learned to learn from and then imitate the manager of the store. I knew that my best chance for advancement was to learn the policies of the company and to apply those policies in a way that was obviously working for someone else. It worked. Within 6 months I was promoted to manager of my own store. But I was not very successful at first, because I was trying to manage simply by applying what I knew about policies and procedures. I had lots of knowledge, but I had not yet gotten intimate with the company so that I could act out of love and respect. When I became more familiar with the philosophies and principles of the company, the policies and procedures ceased to be my motivation and I began to be successful because I was living out those same principles from my heart.

To some degree that is what we all want in our relationship with Jesus. For too long many have simply tried to learn the policies and procedures of Christianity and then work out their salvation based on that knowledge. Jesus has offered us an incomparable intimacy that motivates action based on attachment not attainment. It makes all the difference in the world. We can either know the rules or we can know the Ruler. We can be motivated to obedience by intimidation or by intimacy. The choice is totally ours. As for me, I choose to continue to grow by moving beyond knowing about Jesus to knowing Jesus intimately, with feeling and understanding. I want to experience the fullness of union with Him, and know the power of His resurrection life in me.

What is your choice? 

Pastor John

GROW UP!

LifeLink Devotions

Friday, December 31, 2021

There are two little words that have been spoken to me far more than I can count or care to admit. I’m sure these words have been thought multiplied times more than they have been spoken. If I would just heed the advice in the words then maybe they would stop. It would be nice to not hear them quite so frequently, or even not at all. Maybe the day will come when I have earned the right to not be told, “grow up!“

Yesterday in our devotions we introduced four goals of a Godly life: Grow, Be Strong, Be Wise, and Be Filled With Grace. Let’s dig deeper into what those all mean. Here’s a thought to get you started: immaturity never produces quality fruit. 

Luke 8:11-15 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God.  Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.  Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.  The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”

Look at the meaning of the parable of the seed that Jesus told in Luke 8. The purpose of seed is to produce a plant that will grow to maturity and multiply itself, producing a harvest of seed after its own kind. The point of the parable is that we are the seed, and we will only produce a harvest if certain things are true of us:

  1. We will produce a harvest when we do not allow Satan to destroy the work of God in our hearts. We are productive when we continue to believe that Jesus is the only way of salvation.
  2. We will produce a harvest when we do not fall away from God when the going gets tough. We become fruitful when we trust the faithful and powerful and loving hand of God even when the circumstances of life are beating us down.
  3. We will produce a harvest when we do not let our focus become one of self-sufficiency and self-preservation. We become mature by keeping an eternal perspective. The real enemy to maturity is pride – pride in solving life’s worries, pride in gaining life’s riches, and pride in experiencing life’s pleasures.
  4. We will produce a harvest when we make sure we have a noble and a good heart that is determined to obey the Word of truth we have heard and not let anything keep us from our God-appointed task.

At least one of the four statements above defines your current condition. It would be wise for you to consider where you are on the road to maturity and set some goals for the new year that produce more fruit for the King. Every one of us is producing some kind of fruit after our own kind – it is the law of reproduction created in all of nature by God. One aspect of seed planting we mist consider is this – the seeds we plant in the lives of others will produce fruit, and will be an indicator of the nature of our seed. The fruit being produced in the lives of others may be the result of seeds we planted there. If the product of the seed being planted is not Godly righteousness, then we’d better evaluate the seed. Maybe we need to mature in our faith so our seed bears better fruit.

There are eight references to maturity in the New Testament. Each one says something specific about what our lives should be like as fruit-bearers for the King. This will be a great way to start the new year on Monday.  Let’s study maturity, and how we can be used by the Holy Spirit to plant seeds of righteousness in the lives of others and watch the Kingdom of Jesus Christ grow. 

Pastor John

RESOLUTIONS

LifeLink Devotions

Thursday, December 30, 2021

How will our lives be described when we are gone from this earth? What kind of a heritage are we leaving? Here is a description I hope will be true of my life – he grew, he was strong, he was wise, and he was filled with grace.

Those are the same characteristics that describe the first twelve years of the life of Jesus. 

Luke 2:40  “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.”

As we prepare to enter a new year, with all of the possible resolutions for change we may make, let the following verses from the Bible be your guide. They contain the same words that were used to describe Jesus. I think it’s clear that they are to describe us as well. Let the Word of God dwell richly in you.

GROW 

1 Peter 2:2-3 “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

Ephesians 4:15-16. “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

BE STRONG

Ephesians 3:16  “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.”

1 Corinthians 16:13-14  Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.”

BE WISE – 

James 1:5-6. “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

1 Corinthians 2:13  “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.”

Ephesians 1:17  I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.”

James 3:17 – 18 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” 

BE FILLED WITH GRACE 

2 Peter 1:2  “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”

Hebrews 4:16   “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” 

2 Timothy 2:1  “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

Ephesians 4:7  “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” 

Now, write your New Year’s resolution from those spiritual principles.

Pastor John

BE AN ENCOURAGER

LifeLink Devotions

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

In yesterday’s devotional we discussed how to navigate the stormy waters of rejection and emotional distress by having an eternal perspective on life. Mary had such a perspective through her constant meditation on the things of God and His divine purpose. Her perspective was also enriched and solidified through the ministry of people who encouraged her. The ministry of encouragement is incredibly significant to each one of us.

At the very moment that Mary is being told by Simeon that the life of her Son Jesus would result in the piercing of her soul, a prophetess named Anna comes to her side and gives thanks to God. 

Luke 2:36 – 38  “There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Anna saw the eternal perspective that Jesus would be the Redeemer, and she encouraged Mary to look at everything from the same vantage point.

We all need encouragers like that every now and then; probably more often than we experience them. There is nothing quite so comforting in times of emotional distress than to have a shoulder to cry on and an ear that will listen. We need people who can step back from the negative and pour on the positive – not in a sappy and insincere way, but with words that reflect God’s perspective on things. Anna did that for Mary simply by giving thanks to God.

Not only do we need people like that, we need to be people like that. The world is a depressing place to live for those who have no hope, and there are billions of those people trying to make sense of life. We who have God’s eternal perspective need to come along side of them at the very moment of their distress and give them a reason to be thankful. We need to be like Anna, constantly living in the presence of God, walking through life in an attitude of prayer and relationship with Jesus Christ, so that at any moment we will be prepared to give thanks to God, showing others the hope of redemption. We do not live for this world, but we are looking forward to the total redemption of this world when Jesus returns. Paul says in First Thessalonians that we are to encourage one another with this hope. 

Be on the lookout today for people who need hope, and then come along side them and be thankful. They need an encourager, and you are just the one to do it.

Pastor John

DO WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU

LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

One of the most enjoyable experiences of my life is to purchase a car. It’s been a long time since I bought a brand new one (1976 to be exact), but getting a nice used car is still a thrill. I used to do it fairly often, and got quite a reputation as a negotiator. If I were to go looking for a different vehicle right now I would go to a couple of places that I trust and start to check over their used car selection. I would find the one that I wanted in the price range I could afford, and after bargaining for the best possible price I would sign the papers and drive it home. One thing I would not expect from the car dealer is to have the salesman pull me aside as I head for my “new” vehicle and tell me that I can expect it to cause me all kinds of problems and cost me a lot of money to maintain. Why would he wait until after the sale to tell me this, and why would he sell a car like that in the first place?

I wonder if Mary felt a little bit like that when Simeon told her that Jesus would cause a lot of heartache for her?

Luke 2:34-35  Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against,  so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

I know how I felt when the doctor told me that my daughter would need heart surgery when she was 2 years old. I’m sure you have experienced similar emotions in response to difficult and sometimes tragic news in your family. Here was Mary, just eight days after the birth of the Son of God, being told that there was a time coming when the tide of public opinion would be against Him and her heart would be broken by that. The very people that Jesus had come to save would reject Him and she would not be able to do anything about it.

She got her first taste of that rejection when Jesus was about 2 years old. The reigning king of Israel tried to have Jesus killed, and the family had to flee to Egypt. Imagine what it must have been like for Mary to know and understand the truth about her Son and yet have everyone else reject that truth. Imagine the nights of loneliness and hopelessness that must have come upon her. Maybe you don’t have to imagine them because you are experiencing them. You find yourself asking the question, “What can be done?”

It is our human nature to want to fix what’s wrong and fulfill what’s right. Jump ahead in the life of Christ to a wedding Jesus was attending when He was 30 years old. The host of the wedding did not plan for enough wine and has run out. Mary seizes this opportunity to introduce the truth about her Son to the world and suggests to Him that He can fix the problem. It was not the responsibility of Jesus to get more wine, but mom was looking for a way to show off her Son. For 30 years she has remained faithful to the truth about who He was and His purpose in coming to the earth. Whether she was right or wrong to suggest His involvement in this wine problem is not the issue: the real issue is that the things she treasured in her heart about Jesus had not only sustained her for all of those years but had equipped her to take a step that would result in the piercing of her soul and the breaking of her heart. She told the servants to do whatever Jesus said, not what she wanted. She had learned the wisdom of living by an eternal perspective and not an earthly one.

My friends, the world will reject us when we live holy lives in gratitude to a redeeming God. Our hearts will be broken by the  rejection of our spouses and children and those we love. But remember the words of Simeon – there will be those who will rise because of Jesus just as there will be those who will fall. That was obviously Mary’s focus. That is to be our focus as well. Our defense against the sword of the world piercing our hearts with rejection and tragedy is the Sword of the Word of Truth that gives us an eternal perspective. Then we can say with Mary, “Do whatever He tells you.”

Pastor John

TREASURE HUNTING

LifeLink Devotions

Monday, December 27, 2021

For many people, like my wife, the thrill of Christmas continues this because the After Christmas Sales have begun. Stores have opened early in an attempt to close out all of their seasonal merchandise. People are getting up early to head to the stores and get a head start on what they will need for next Christmas. They will find their treasures at greatly reduced prices and store them up in their closets and basements so when the time comes for the next holiday they will be prepared. Just knowing what they bought and how great a bargain they got will sustain them through the shopping lulls caused by regular prices in the days ahead.

For me, the lull of being regular has already started. I awoke early this morning thinking “Now what?” Now that Christmas has come and gone for another year, it’s time to get back to normal. But routine sounds so boring. What treasures do I have to sustain me through the long winter months still ahead?

Then I thought of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Her Baby has been born, the trip home has been completed, and routine has been established. People have stopped coming over to visit and to see the Baby. Relatives are finally settled down and are acting like they accept this “miraculous” birth. Joseph is back in his carpentry shop, and Mary struggles to fight off the depressing prospect of life in the regular lane.

But she is prepared to fight that battle, and how she fights it is a lesson for all of us. You see, she went After Christmas Shopping also; only she did it in her heart.

Luke 2:19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 

She found lots of treasures, filling the shopping cart of her heart with eternally enduring truths and memories. There were treasures like Gabriel’s announcement to her that she was highly favored by God; his explanation of the power of the Holy Spirit that would come upon her; the visit with Elizabeth and the sharing of a miraculous birth experience with her; the statement of the angel that “nothing is impossible with God;” the description by the shepherds of the glory of God in the sky and the announcement of good news for all the people; and the first time she held the Son of God in her arms and experienced the fullness of God’s grace and truth. Mary filled her heart with all of these things and more, and they were able to sustain her for the next 12 years of regular life until another “holiday” occurred. Jesus was teaching in the temple, and once again Mary found some more treasures to store up in the closet of her heart.

She would need all of these treasures because life would be regular for thirty years. But when life stopped being routine when Jesus was presented by His heavenly Father to the world as the people’s Savior, she was ready. She was ready because she had done more than just put the treasures in a closet: she put them in a prominent place in the house of her heart where she could look at them every day and be reminded that life with Jesus is not regular. She was sustained because she had polished the art of meditation on God’s truth. The truths she experienced and treasured became her weapons with which she fought the battle of routine.

 We have the same opportunity. We too must polish up the art of meditation: not meditation like the world teaches for the purpose of escaping life; but rather meditation on the truths of God for the purpose of fulfilling life. When Joshua was preparing to lead the people of Israel into the battle for the Promised Land, God gave him these instructions – Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. King David says it this way in Psalm 1 – Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. 

It’s time to go spiritual shopping for treasures which are found in God’s Word – and they’re FREE! What a bargain – life-sustaining truth at no cost.

Fill your cart today.

Pastor John

SHARE THE GOOD NEWS

LifeLink Devotions

Friday, December 24, 2021

As I was leaving one of our larger department stores in Eau Claire I passed by a couple of teenage girls who were ringing the bell for the Salvation Army. I dropped some money in their collection bucket and one of the girls said, “Thank you, and happy holidays.” I responded with a loud and emphatic, “Merry Christmas to you.” As I turned to walk away I heard her say to her friend, “Oh man! That’s another one I could have said ‘Merry Christmas’ to.”

My heart is gripped with sadness when I stop to realize that the sharing of the Good News of great joy is no longer for all people, but only for those who will not be offended by it. We have caved to the public notion of political correctness. We pre-qualify our audience and pre-determine our words, and the consequence is that the world doesn’t know in whom to believe. They do not call on Jesus because they have not heard of Jesus – at least not in the way they should hear about Him. They have not heard of Jesus as Savior because those who know Him have stopped preaching to those who don’t. Maybe we have stopped preaching the good news because we don’t believe we have been sent.

I know that we know that Jesus sent us when He gave us the great commission, but do we truly understand the authority behind the sending? Not authority as in the power to enforce a command, but rather the authority to be involved in the eternal purpose of God. God did not use His authority to issue a decree and then demand obedience: He used His authority to completely satisfy our need so that we need nothing from the world. He did not leave us to fend for ourselves and suffer the consequences alone. He did not under-equip us for the task. He did not demand our obedience but rather inspired our cooperation.

Luke 2:10 – 12  10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.  12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Romans 10:14 – 15 14How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  15And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

We need to understand that when God sent us to preach the good news of great joy He did not intend for that to be a joyless experience for us. How convincing is our message of joy when delivered with voices of fear coming from faces of obligation? Yet that is how many of us respond to the opportunities to share the good news: we fear the consequences of people’s responses more than we rejoice in the promises of God’s authority. The telling of the good news is an outpouring of the love and joy we have personally experienced from God through our Savior Jesus Christ. His authority has fully equipped us with security and strength so that the people of the world can have no affect on our status before God. His authority has already conquered the enemy, so we need not fear. Death has been conquered. Fear has been destroyed. We have been set free by the authority of Jesus so that we need not fear the responses and reactions of the world.

The angels announced good news of great joy, and they did it with authority. The shepherds spread the word about what they had seen and heard, and they did it with enthusiasm and authority. Anna, the prophetess, told everyone she could about the arrival of the Messiah. Everyone who has a personal encounter with Jesus receives the joy, power, and authority of the Holy Spirit to share the good news.

Start sharing.

Pastor John