It’s Christmas morning. Your children are ripping open their gifts. Suddenly a box is shoved at you, and while looking into excited little eyes you hear, “Put it together!” In the box you gaze at 300 small plastic parts in various colors, along with instructions in small print that detail 75 steps to transform this jumble into that awesome toy your child has been dreaming about. And now you know what you will be doing for the next three hours - wishing at that moment you had a degree in engineering because you have seen this before. It’s not pretty.
Yes, I am one of those people who read the instructions as a last resort. Give me the picture on the front of the box, and I will first attempt a “big picture” assembly. Of course after that fails, I begin the tedious task of reading the instructions, usually several times because of the need to reassemble some misassembled gizmo critical to the next step.
The church comes with instructions. Not too many people take the time to read them. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Paul said, “Follow the pattern of the sound words” (2 Tim. 1:13). Love follows the pattern.
Love does not argue about the pattern. Love does not alter the pattern. Love certainly does not ignore the pattern. Love simply follows the pattern. We cannot improve upon the pattern given to us by Christ and his apostles.
If you are have not been the kind of person who reads the instructions, it’s time to change.
In Matthew 25, Jesus told a parable about ten bridesmaids. Each had a lamp, and their job was to light the way through the streets as the wedding party proceeded to the couple’s new home. It was late at night and the groom had not yet arrived. So they fell asleep, and their lamps kept burning.
When the groom arrived, they awoke and attempted to trim their lamps. Only five could, because only five brought extra oil for just such an emergency. The other five found their lamps fading out. The unprepared five asked if they could borrow some oil. They were told there is “not enough for us and for you.” So the unprepared five started searching for someone to sell them oil. In the meantime, the wedding party goes to the couple’s home and the celebration begins. When the unprepared finally get to the party, the door is shut and they are not allowed in. Jesus’ point? “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” When Jesus comes in the clouds or you go to him in death, are you prepared?
If you are not in the right relationship with Jesus, you can’t borrow one. You can’t borrow your parents’ or your children’s relationship with God. You can’t borrow the relationship you used to have years ago. Your relationship has to be right, right now. You can’t ask God for a “time out” while you try to come up with a relationship that doesn’t exist. If you do, you will hear these words of Jesus, “I do not know you.”
The five unprepared bridesmaids found out it was too late to buy oil. Do you know when it is too late to buy oil? The bridegroom is coming. Are you ready? How is your relationship?
Jesus said his disciples were not of this world but sent into this world (John 17). Christians are like a boat in the water, and you want to keep the water out of the boat. Some church assemblies look like rock concerts; worship has become entertainment. Water has swamped the boat. When that happens you are just as wet in the boat as in the water.
The same can be said of individuals. Some who claim to be Christians look no different than those who claim to be the good people of this world. They don’t assemble with the saints. They are concerned with their own comfort and convenience. They do nothing to expand the Kingdom of God. They assume they are going to heaven because they have “faith.”
James said there are two kinds of faith - live faith and dead faith. Dead faith won’t get you salvation: “Faith without deeds is dead” (2:26). The world has swamped their lives. They are of the world. They are just as absent from the assembly as any atheist.
Start bailing today. Grab a bucket and get the water out of your boat. Your conscience is telling you that you are sinking. A sinking boat will not get you to that distant shore.
Every one of us needs to check our boats for leaks. Satan will probe for any weak spot to begin to trickle this fallen world into your life, and the trickle will become a flood if you are complacent.
If you see a brother or sister’s boat riding low in the water, help them. Throw them a rope. Toss them a bucket. Don’t let them drown.
Ever been to an auction? It is a real test of how bad you want something. The bids go higher, and you weigh the value vs. the price. Should you continue bidding or drop out?
Imagine Jesus has a place in heaven up for auction. This is a beautiful retirement place, with excellent health benefits, fantastic weather, and no crime. You start the bidding with “I am nice to others.” Someone else bids “I give money to help the poor.” You counter and bid “I attend church assemblies 2 times a month.” And so it goes.
Now this imaginary auction has a reserve, a minimum bid that must be met. So you keep bidding and bidding but the auctioneer says the reserve has not yet been met. Most of the people have stopped bidding—the price has gotten too high. But you hang in there, and you have bid your job, your family, your house, and your hobby. Still the reserve has not been met. So you bid your retirement and your personal TV time. But still the reserve has not been met.
You really want that place in heaven, and so in desperation you bid “My whole life.” The auctioneer shouts, “The reserve has been met! This beautiful spot in heaven goes to that person there, who bid his whole life!”
Jesus said, “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25). Jesus said risk your whole life. Make the sacrifice. Follow Jesus. If you abandon faith for safety, you lose it all. Today, what’s your bid?
“I urge that ...intercessions...be made for all people” (1 Tim.2:1). That was Paul’s instruction for the church. How do we go about that? Where do we start? What is intercessory prayer? Let’s go to the beginning to find out.
Why did Jesus come? “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). What is the work the devil does? Hebrews 2:15 states the devil keeps people in “slavery.” Once in bondage, Satan “has blinded the minds of the unbelievers” (2 Cor. 4:4). So Satan is in the business of binding and blinding. That explains why in spite of phone calls, invitations, sermons, etc., some people do not respond. Satan has a strong hold on them.
We are in Jesus’ business of destroying the works of the devil. “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against...the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). So, in praying for others, where do we start? We pray for people to be delivered from the evil one.
At times we think a clever soul-winning program is what we need to win those wayward souls. Now, there is nothing wrong with soul-winning programs, materials, etc. They are a great second step. But the first step is praying for satanic power to be restrained in the lives of those we are trying to bring to Christ. What we need to do is ask God to drive the enemy off the battlefield to free people to see the light of the Gospel in the glory of Christ.
Have you prayed that God would free your loved ones from the power of Satan? Remember these words: “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).