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Good and Faithful or Wicked and Lazy By Brian S. Holmes Matthew 25:14-30 is Jesus’s Parable of the Talents. In it Jesus compares three servants each responsible for managing what their master left them in charge of when he went away. The two who received the greater responsibility did a good job but the one who received the least did a bad job. The first two servants each invested their master’s money and doubled the amount he gave to them. After returning the master says to each of them, “‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” However, the last servant just hid his master’s money and then later returned it to him. But lest you think he just did less good than the first two it says that he acted this way because he thought badly about the master. That he was a hard man, reaping where he hadn’t sown, gathering where he hadn’t scattered seed. His own heart wasn’t right with the master and it affected his behavior. The master’s response is shocking: “‘You wicked and slothful servant! Take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” Those are references to Heaven and Hell—eternal paradise with God (where we have an abundance) and eternal separation from God! This parable is about the consequences of what each of us do in this life. God and/or Jesus is the Master here. Humanity, especially those who claim to know and follow Jesus, are the servants. We’ve each been given talents that belong to God. A “talent” in this parable refers to a measure of money in the Roman world at this time, but this isn’t only talking about what we do with our money. It’s talking about what we do with our everything. All of our life and existence and breath and money and possessions and natural talents and relationships and blessings and spiritual gifts and opportunities to serve God and others—everything that has been given to you in this life. Everything exists for God’s glory. And everything given to you was given so that you would steward it well for His glory. If we love our Master, want to please Him, and use what He has given us to the best of our ability, even more will be given to us in the life to come. If we hate our Master, neglect the responsibilities He’s entrusted to us, and are more concerned with our own interests above His, even what we have now will be taken away later. I like the acronym shape (S.H.A.P.E.) which stands for Spiritual Gifts, Heart Desires, Natural Abilities, Personality Strengths, and Life Experiences He’s given you. These are your “talents.” How well are you using each of yours for His glory? Decide today to dedicate time to continue to improve at this. Here’s a few questions to help you determine which servant you’re acting like. 1. Do you feel Entrusted—or Fearful? The things you have are not yours - they’re God’s. The first two servants felt entrusted. They were proud to have the trust of their master, to watch over His things. They were eager to please him, to run to the bankers and accomplish good for His pleasure. They joyfully accepted their responsibility. It wasn’t a burden or hassle. They loved their master, and they felt loved back. They doubled the master’s return as a result. By contrast, it says the last servant felt fearful. He didn’t want and actually rejected and neglected his responsibility. He didn’t manage it, he buried it. He wasn’t proud. He wasn’t eager to please. He didn’t love. No, he was thinking of himself. He had an EXCUSE. Rather than accepting responsibility for what he had been given, he blamed and insulted his master. Are you grateful for what what He’s given you? And are you eager to steward it for His glory? 2. Are you Good—or Wicked? Remember Jesus said the last servant was wicked! Who we ARE reflects what we DO. Matthew 7 teaches that if you truly belong to Jesus then you will be a good tree, and if you’re a good tree you’ll bear good fruit with your life. Are you bearing good fruit? 3. Are you Faithful—or Lazy? Our faithfulness, to God, is our proper response to the undeserved grace of God we’ve received. We demonstrate our faithfulness to Christ now, who first demonstrated His love for us. We can be faithful, reliable, trustworthy, and loyal because His Spirit sanctifies, preserves, and empowers us to do so. The laziness described in this parable is not the occasional lack of energy or enthusiasm. We all have those days. It is the natural persistent response of the unsaved person. The natural response of the persistently wicked who sees God as “hard” and has no relationship with Him. This person will be lazy (i.e. unwilling) to use the talents entrusted to them—for God’s glory. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Your faithfulness, stewarding your life for God’s glory, out of gratitude for the salvation that Jesus has purchased for you, is evidence of your trust in Jesus. In John 15:8 Jesus said, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” Ask yourself today: How can I use my “talents” and SHAPE for His glory? Pray with me. Heavenly Father, thank You for everything You’ve given me. Help me feel proud to be entrusted with such responsibility. Help me to act every day with a single goal in mind: Hearing one day: “Well done! Good and Faithful servant! Enter into the JOY of your master!” In Jesus’ name. Amen. Copyright © 2021. Brian S. Holmes. MPowered Christian Ministries. All rights reserved. https://MPoweredChristian.org Permission for reuse by ABNSat, Trinity Channel, and their affiliates for use when provided free of charge. Made available through a partnership with Missionary Church, Inc. https://MCUSA.org Scripture quotations taken from Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
THE HOLY TRINITY (Understanding and Appreciating God’s Multi-personal Nature) By Brian S. Holmes There’s only One True God. But is God as the Jews and Muslims claim, or as the Christians claim? And does it matter? The Bible reveals God is trinitarian. In this lesson we’ll examine: 1) what the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity is and where it came from, 2) a few ways the Bible teaches this truth, and 3) how this impacts our relationship with God. 1. What is the Holy Trinity? God’s triune nature is revealed in three distinct persons: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The many false religions Satan has inspired in the world have tried to distort the truth of this doctrine by making up lies about it. The Qur’an claims repeatedly that Christians believed Jesus’ mother Mary was part of it. Which was never true and another example of how we know the Qur’an didn’t come from God. Another lie told is that Christians believe in three different gods, which is false. Some polytheistic religions borrow our word trinity and use it for three of their gods. However, this unique doctrine and term “the Holy Trinity” was created by Christians in 325 AD to help explain the profound reality of God’s nature revealed in the Bible. That there’s only one, singular, eternal God, in all of existence. There were no gods before Him, there will be no gods after Him, and He alone is to be worshipped and receive all glory. Yet, He is also multi-personal and has revealed Himself with three distinctions: 1) God our Heavenly Father; 2) the eternal Logos or Word of God that is the very image and expression of God that became the man Jesus of Nazareth (the Christ, the Son of God); and 3) the Spirit of God also called the Holy Spirit, who is God’s tangible spiritual presence. I said three distinctions, not separations. They’re distinct. We can identify and relate to them separately but they’re not separate, divided, or capable of disagreement. They’re in absolute unified agreement, eternally. It’s always been that way and will always be that way. To say God becomes three separate “modes” is also wrong, because all three exist at the same exact time. The three are coequal, coeternal, and work together with a single divine will. The three are all the One God and everything else is their creation. 2. Where is the Holy Trinity in the Bible? Jesus said in Matthew 28:19 to baptize all of His disciples “in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” All followers of Jesus need to know, believe, and submit to this truth. The Father is called God in 1 Peter 1:3, 2 John 1:3, 1 Thessalonians 1:1, Ephesians 1:3 and 1:17, John 20:17, and 2 Corinthians 11:31. The Son (Jesus the Christ) is only called God a few places including Titus 2:13, Romans 9:5, Isaiah 9:6, and John 20:28. But Jesus is described numerously as being the only one to actually know the Father, having come from Him, and having the same divine and eternal attributes as God. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning… the Word was with God, and the Word was God” and in verse 14 it says, “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” In verses 3 and 10 it says through Him (Jesus) all things that exist were made. Hebrews 1:2 says the Son is through whom God made the universe. Verse 3 says, “the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” Likewise, Colossians 1:15-16 says that “the Son is the image of the invisible God” and “all things have been created through him and for him.” In the Bible Jesus is called eternal, gets credit for creation, receives worship, forgives sins, defies the laws of physics, is called the judge of humanity, hears and answers prayers, and shares the throne of God with the Father. This wasn’t missed by Jesus’s contemporaries either who attempted to stone Him for claiming to be God in John 10:33. And He was accused of blasphemy by the high priest in Matthew 26:65 for claiming to be the man in the prophet Daniel’s vision in Daniel 7:13-14 who would receive the worship of the entire world, and this to the glory of God! The Holy Spirit is also called God in Ephesians 4:30, Acts 5:4-5, and 1 Corinthians 6:11. 2 Peter 1:21 says it was the Holy Spirit speaking through every one of God’s prophets. He is personal and knowable like the Father and the Son. In John 16:13-15 Jesus said “he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears” (from Jesus). The Holy Spirit only speaks what He hears from the Son, who only speaks what He hears from the Father (see John 8:28). They are inseparable as One, yet are also distinct. 3. Our multi-personal God invites us to become family through Jesus. In Ezekiel 36:26-27 God prophesied of a future time when He would give the people a new heart and put His very own spirit in them. This was also prophesied in Joel 2:28-32. The apostle Peter said this prophecy was fulfilled through the new covenant through Jesus in Acts 2:1-39. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 describes how we’re now the temples of God because His Spirit (the Holy Spirit) lives in us. Romans 8:9-11 describes this too, saying that the spirit in us is also both the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead. Furthermore, we’re now children of God, adopted to sonship. This is also repeated in John 1:12-13, Ephesians 1:5, and Galatians 4:5. Romans 8:14 says since through Christ we are now children of God then, “we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may share in his glory.” Ephesians 2:19 says, “you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.” Romans chapter 8 concludes saying NOTHING “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Let’s pray. Thank You Heavenly Father for loving and adopting us! Thank You Lord Jesus for saving us and shepherding us! Thank You Holy Spirit for indwelling, preserving, and guiding us! We worship You alone LORD God and You alone deserve all the glory and honor and praise. We desire to know You intimately and to live with You in Your house forever. Help us to know You more and more. Amen. Copyright © 2021. Brian S. Holmes. MPowered Christian Ministries. All rights reserved. https://MPoweredChristian.org Permission for reuse by ABNSat, Trinity Channel, and their affiliates for use when provided free of charge. Made available through a partnership with Missionary Church, Inc. https://MCUSA.org Scripture quotations taken from Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT The Natural and Inevitable Outworking of God’s Presence By Brian S. Holmes Were you born again, made a new creation by the Spirit of the Living God now in you? How does His presence affect how we Think? Feel? Live? Act? We’re forgiven of our sins through faith in Jesus and His death on the cross on our behalf. We’re saved by who He is and what He did, not by who we are and what we do. But that doesn’t mean we won’t change - we will!But we’re changed as a result of having already been saved by God’s grace and receiving His Spirit—not by our obedience to God’s law. In Galatians 5 apostle Paul talks about the fruitless and enslaving pursuit of trying to be saved by our own good works. Verse 1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” We aren’t to be enslaved by the law anymore. However, while we do have a new spirit inside we’re still living in bodies of sinful flesh. Our body and our soul (our mind, will, emotions, desires) still has sinful desires and selfish passions that are contrary to the will of God. Sinful desires must be put to death, and selfish passions of the flesh must be forced into submission. The Holy Spirit desires to lead you and He transforms from the inside-out. Live according to the Spirit. Galatians 5:16-18 says, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” The law of God served as a schoolmaster to know what was wrong from right. It was good but limited. First, because they were always guilty of sin needing continuous atonement for, and second, because they just had to obey the law to the best of their ability in their weak, natural human strength. But now we have the freedom of the Gospel that has set us free from sin, death, and Hell. And authority over Satan. And the guidance and power of the indwelling Spirit in us. All these things ensure victory over sin, not as our goal to attain, but as our foundation to rest and live from. Romans 8:5 says, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” Know, identify, and crucify the works of the flesh. Galatians 5:19-21 says, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Other examples are listed in Matthew 15:19, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Colossians 3:5-6, and Revelation 21:8. These are evidences of being still unsaved, or of having false beliefs that need to be corrected, a part of you still broken you need to bring to the Lord to heal, or something you’re doing in disobedience to the Lord instead of submitting to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Verse 24 says, “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Commit yourself today to crucify it! Know, embrace, and cultivate the fruit of the Spirit. Verses 22-23 say, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” In future lessons we’ll examine each fruit separately but here’s a brief overview. Love is the sacrificial giving of yourself to others, putting their needs above your own. This is foremost love of God followed by love of neighbor. (see Matthew 22:36-39, 1 Corin. 13:13, John 15:12-13, 13:34-35, Galatians 5:13). Joy is deep, internal gladness that first comes from God within and then it culminates in external expression. It could be reserved or energetic, quiet contentment or noisy shouting and dancing - all fueled by delight and appreciation for God. Peace refers to both the inner wholeness, well-being, and rest of the soul that’s now in right relationship with God, as well as the pursuit to forgive and reconcile with others. Patience and Faithfulness are about trusting in the Gospel, and in God, in His sovereignty, His trustworthiness, and in His perfect character, will, and timing. Selflessness is again evident and manifested in the fruits of Kindness and Gentleness, wherein our perspective of others, and our personal character and disposition, are changed in such a way that it affects how we treat others. Goodness (called righteousness in Romans 14:17) is about divine justness, about being godly and morally upright and like God. Lastly, Self-control is now available to us and makes it possible to overcome every sin and obstacle by the indwelling presence, guidance, and power of the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 3:16, Philippians 4:13). The fruit of the Spirit is the natural and inevitable result of God’s presence. In other words, these things are the natural outworking of God’s attributes. Wherever God’s Spirit is, He is, and His attributes will manifest outwardly as a result. Whoever has God’s Spirit in them these attributes will naturally and inevitably flow. For example, 1 John 4:8 teaches that “God is love” and “anyone who does not love does not know God.” If we know God we will know love and become loving because He is. It’s essential that we know who God is through Jesus and the Bible and then cultivate our relationship with Him by spending intimate time with Him through prayer and worship. If these fruits aren’t greatly evident in your life you need to inspect yourself. Humble yourself, repent of your sin and/or your waywardness, and draw near to God in desperate hunger for more of Him. Stoke the flames of your desire to glorify Him with all of your life, to give Jesus all of your trust as your Savior, and all of your life as your Lord. Continually invite the Holy Spirit to consume and change your innermost being and to operate in and through you. As Galatians 5:25 says, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, we want more of You. Fill us with Your Spirit that we may overflow. Help us identify and crucify every sinful desire of the flesh, and abundantly bear the fruit of Your Spirit. Copyright © 2021. Brian S. Holmes. MPowered Christian Ministries. All rights reserved. https://MPoweredChristian.org Permission for reuse by ABNSat, Trinity Channel, and their affiliates for use when provided free of charge. Made available through a partnership with Missionary Church, Inc. https://MCUSA.org Scripture quotations taken from Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP What Does It Mean to be a Disciple of Jesus… According to Jesus? By Brian S. Holmes What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? Does it merely mean “to follow the teachings of?” Or is there more to it than that? If you were to ask Jesus, “How can I become your disciple?” how would He respond? Jesus’s disciple needs to trust in Him as their Lord and Savior, the eternal Son of God who paid for their sins on the cross and then rose from the dead. But it’s more than just one’s beliefs, it’s also a wholehearted, lifelong pursuit to follow and become more like Him. In Mark 8:34 and Matthew 16:24 (NIV) Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” The heart of being a disciple of Jesus is trusting in the Gospel so much so that you: 1) deny yourself, 2) take up your cross, and 3) follow Him. 1. Deny Yourself. To be a disciple of Jesus and become like Him we need to deny ourselves. We need to stop being selfish, self-centered, and idolatrous. From the moment we’re born these are the kinds of thoughts we have: Do I like this? What do I want? How do I get what I want? How can doing this benefit me? Why isn’t that person giving me what I want? Everyone else is so selfish, I guess I’ll be, too. The sad truth is we love our sinful selves and the things of this sinful world. James 4:4 says, “anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” We were created by God for HIS glory. We selfishly love the things that satisfy our desires, and the people who love and benefit us. We must stop trying to get what we want in life and be more concerned with God getting what He wants from our lives. In Matthew 10:37 Jesus said, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Denying yourself means being willing to forsake all the things important to you to live entirely for Jesus. In Luke 14:26 Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, even their own life--such a person cannot be my disciple.” He doesn’t actually want us to hate ourselves or the important people in our lives. He wants us to love Him and live for Him so much so that by comparison it’s like we hate them. See your present life as temporary and fleeting. Like a breath that comes and goes. Denying yourself means giving up this earthly life. The exact way you learn to deny yourself, and lead others to do the same, isn’t as important as just making sure you’re doing it! Are you denying yourself for Jesus? What’s the Lord reminding you of, right now, to deny? 2. Take Up Your Cross. To be a disciple of Jesus and become like Him we need to take up our cross. The cross was an execution device. A heavy wooden beam you’d carry all the way to the site where you’d be executed by being nailed to it and then left to die slowly and publicly. Does Jesus actually want us to die for Him? Well, sort of. Our physical death, for His name and glory, is a possibility. In John 21:19 Jesus told Peter he would glorify God by dying for Him. In Matthew 24:9 Jesus warned His followers, “you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.” So determine and prepare your heart to be willing to die for Jesus. While physical death is always a possibility, it isn’t necessary to be a disciple. Jesus’s words aren’t meant to be taken literally, as though He was asking every single disciple to just go die for Him. This same statement in Luke 9:23 includes the preposition daily: “Whoever wants to be my disciple… must take up their cross DAILY and follow me.” It’s our death to other things that is necessary. We do need to die to our old lives. We need to die to our love of self and the sinful things of the world. We need to die to our old sinful nature, be spiritually born again, and crucify the sinful desires of the flesh. When we die to these things, to live for Jesus, it will create hostility with the dark and sinful forces of the world. Jesus said in John 15:19, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own… you do not belong to the world… That is why the world hates you.” And in Matthew 10:22, “You will be hated by everyone because of me.” Jesus is really asking for our daily commitment, and to die for HIS sake. Jesus assures His disciples in Luke 9:24, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” Our willingness to die for Jesus, and our evidence of a lifetime of doing this daily in these various ways IS our testimony. The entire global Church of all the resurrected saints is described in Revelation 12:11 this way: “They triumphed over him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” Are you willing to be killed for Jesus? How has He been calling you to die to yourself daily? Have you obeyed Him? 3. Follow Jesus. To be a disciple of Jesus and become like Him we need to follow Him. Jesus said the phrase “Follow Me” to many people. We must all actively and persistently follow Him. This means walking with Him, talking with Him, learning from Him, and being led by Him. Are you following Him to wherever you go and whatever you do? His invitation to follow isn’t just religious, it’s spiritual. What He’ll teach you along the journey isn’t just intellectual, it’s emotional. He will change your heart’s desires. He’s not just Savior, Lord, and King; He’s also Friend and Advocate. Following Him isn’t only about submission and obeying His commandments. His invitation includes a personal, intimate, loving relationship with Him. In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus said He will carry the heavy part of the load and His followers will receive rest for their souls. These wonderful blessings are not without sacrifice. We must count the cost of following Jesus. In Luke 9:57-62 He gave three examples of sacrifice. One man said, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus says, “the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Translation: would you be homeless for Me? Another said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God. Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Let’s pray. Father, help me every single day to deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Your Son. Holy Spirit, empower me daily to do this. Jesus, be the Lord and King of my life. In Your name. Amen. Copyright © 2021. Brian S. Holmes. MPowered Christian Ministries. All rights reserved. https://MPoweredChristian.org Permission for reuse by ABNSat, Trinity Channel, and their affiliates for use when provided free of charge. Made available through a partnership with Missionary Church, Inc. https://MCUSA.org Scripture quotations taken from Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.