How Has Christ Changed You? :: By Nathele Graham

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).

David loved God. He was known as a man after God’s own heart, not because he was perfect but because his desire was to please God. When David sinned he didn’t make excuses but he repented and asked God to forgive him. Two lessons that every Christian can learn from David are repentance and the desire for God to show us where we need to change our thoughts and attitudes.

David didn’t wait until he saw a problem in his own ways, but he asked God to search him and lead him away from sin. Our desire to please God should be stronger than our desire to please the world. Jesus will help us all change and become more like Him. He met many people when He walked among men and He changed many lives. Today, He still changes lives.

Peter and Andrew were the first ones called to follow Jesus. These men made their living as fishermen and probably weren’t very refined. And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men (Matthew 4:18-19).

They left their nets and followed Jesus, and Jesus would drastically change their lives.

As they walked they came to a boat with two more brothers who were fishermen, and their father. James and John didn’t hesitate to follow Jesus when He called to them. Peter, Andrew, James, and John were young men who had a lot to learn about following Jesus, but our Lord would help them to grow strong in faith.

We might think that the disciples were unique men who were gentle and sat quietly at Jesus’ feet in order to learn all they could. This image is shattered when we learn the nickname that Jesus gave to James and John. And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder (Mark 3:17).

They earned this nickname. It was James and John who asked if Jesus wanted them to get revenge on the Samaritans who would not receive Him. …Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? (Luke 9:54b).

Jesus rebuked them for this, but it’s a little amusing that they were arrogant and presumptuous enough to think they could call down fire from heaven on behalf of Jesus.

When we first come to Jesus, we’re all a little rough around the edges. If we love Him and desire to please Him we will allow Him to search our hearts and help us to change into the Christian He wants us to be.

A person may take part in sin for many years. That sin may bring in much wealth, but the price of sin is steep. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul (Matthew 16:26).

When Jesus walked among men, tax collectors weren’t known for their honesty. They had lots of money but were outcasts among the Jewish people because they worked for Rome. They also were known to collect money over and above the tax, and that money went into their own pockets. Matthew was a tax collector. Was he tired of the way his life was going and the burden of sin it created? Jesus saw Matthew and called him to leave his worldly way of life. Matthew didn’t hesitate.

And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him (Matthew 9:9).

Just like that his life was changed. Matthew was a faithful follower of Jesus, and because he wrote the Gospel of Matthew, generations of Christians have been blessed.

Another tax collector who had his life changed was Zacchaeus. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich (Luke 19:2).

Zacchaeus knew that Jesus was going to pass by, so he climbed a tree in order to see Him. Was Zacchaeus just gawking at the celebrity who was passing, or was he hoping that Jesus would change him? Jesus called him down from the tree and said He would visit him at his house. This meeting with Jesus changed Zacchaeus’ life. His sin was made clear to him and he knew what he had to do.

And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation I restore him fourfold (Luke 19:8).

Being in the presence of Jesus turned Zacchaeus around. Instead of greed he felt the need to restore all he had stolen. Jesus didn’t point a finger and condemn him, but His very presence brought conviction to Zacchaeus, and he found salvation.

And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:9-10).

Jesus still wants to change sinful people. If you’re burdened by a heavy load of sin, turn to Jesus. Turn your life over to Him and He will change you.

Sometimes Jesus went out of His way to bring someone out of their sin. One example took place by a well in Samaria. Jesus needed to travel from Jerusalem to Galilee and decided to travel through Samaria. This was the shorter route but not the preferred one. The Jewish people and the Samaritans avoided contact with each other as much as possible.

They came to a well where Jesus rested but He sent His disciples into the town. It was there that He met a woman who was living a very sinful life. After some small talk, Jesus led the conversation to the sin in her life. He told her to go call her husband.

The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: for thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly (John 4:17-18).

If you think that God isn’t aware of the sin in your life or that your sinful lifestyle doesn’t matter, think again. Further conversation revealed that this woman knew the Messiah would come and reveal all things. It was then that Jesus told her who He was. The woman couldn’t control her joy and had to tell others. Right away she left her water pot and went into the town and told others that she had met the Messiah.

How many people have you shared the Good News of Jesus Christ with? Jesus didn’t condemn this woman, but made her aware of her sin.

Another time a woman was caught in the act of adultery, and the Scribes and Pharisees brought her to Jesus for Him to condemn her. These men knew the Law inside and out and they wanted Jesus to stone her as required by Law. Never mind that the Law also required the man who had been with her should have also been stoned. Jesus didn’t condemn her, but made those religious leaders aware of their own sin, and they left.

Jesus didn’t condemn this woman, but neither did He accept her sin and leave her in it. After her accusers left, He asked if any man had condemned her. She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more (John 8:11).

Most of us like the part where Jesus doesn’t condemn us for our sin, but we don’t like the part about turning away from that sin. Jesus’ love will change us if we allow it.

Many people go to religious leaders to seek forgiveness for sin. Only Jesus can forgive sin and change lives. A priest is just a human and has no authority over sin. Go to Jesus and let Him change you then “…go, and sin no more.

The hardest of hearts belonged to the religious leaders. They had head knowledge that the Messiah was prophesied to come, but they refused to let go of their religion and accept Him. A Pharisee named Nicodemus was an exception. Curiosity caused him to visit Jesus and ask questions. Jesus told him that he needed to be born of the spirit and not only of the flesh. This was something Nicodemus should have known from his study of Scripture, and he was willing to find the truth. This conversation led to one of the most beloved Scriptures.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

God’s love is perfect. We know that Nicodemus was a changed man because he went with Joseph of Arimathaea (another Pharisee) to care for Jesus’ body after the crucifixion.

While we live on this side of Heaven we will never fully understand God’s love. First we need to understand just how ugly sin is and that it separates us from God. We all sin and that sin condemns us to an eternity of separation from God. Only belief in Jesus Christ will allow you to spend eternity with God. Accept Him through faith, and then allow Him to change you.

The disciples left everything to follow Jesus. Most of the Pharisees had head knowledge of the coming Messiah, but Nicodemus allowed Him into his heart. The Samaritan woman also had head knowledge of the coming Messiah, but when she met Him at the well she was changed. The prostitute found forgiveness and mercy from Jesus. Many other people had demons cast out and others were healed of afflictions; their lives were changed forever.

God’s love is pure and perfect. He doesn’t want to condemn you, but to bring you to salvation and work change in you.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3:17-18).

We condemn ourselves.

How has Christ changed you? If you claim to be a Christian but your life hasn’t changed since you met Him, maybe you haven’t really met Him. Be like King David and ask Him to search your heart for wickedness. He will lead you “…in the way everlasting.

God bless you all,

Nathele Graham

twotug@embarqmail.com

www.straitandnarrowministry.com

ron@straitandnarrowministry.com

Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html

All original scripture is “theopneustos,” God breathed.

If you’d like to be on my mailing list to receive the commentaries, just drop me an email and let me know.

 

It’s Time to Equip the Saints :: By Nathele Graham

For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:27-28).

What did you learn last Sunday as you sat in that pew? Did you learn more about Jesus? Were you convicted of a sin you harbor and encouraged to repent? Did you learn how to use the spiritual weapons God provides to defend against enemy attack, or did you get a new joke to tell your friends at work? If Christ wasn’t preached from the pulpit, what was?

And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:1-2).

Paul’s mission was to win souls to Christ and He knew how to accomplish that. He didn’t tell jokes or soften the Truth in any way, but preached “… Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” That way of spreading God’s truth seems to be a lost skill today. In this day of the Laodicean church, where our Lord is on the outside knocking on the door, desiring for anyone to open it and invite Him in, we find that the Gospel has been diminished. Christians don’t turn from sin because Christ isn’t preached and sin isn’t confronted.

When Paul wrote to the congregation at Corinth he was writing to a very sin-filled congregation. Instead of preaching Christ crucified and confronting sin, the leaders were proud of their open-mindedness. The Apostle Paul was shocked, and so should we be shocked by the sin in our own lives and in the congregation we attend.

Many preachers today prefer to tell jokes and humorous stories rather than stand firmly upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead of quoting Scripture for authority, various books are cited in order to prove a point. Congregations grow and mega-churches are born, and nobody is made to feel uncomfortable. Yoga, contemplative prayer, and meditation are promoted rather than the fervent prayers of righteous men and women. Deep study of God’s word is minimized.

The Holy Spirit has given us examples as to how effective sermons are structured. The most beautiful, of course, is the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus began this sermon by stating attitudes we need to nurture.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you (Matthew 5:3-12).

Jesus told of the rewards of a godly attitude. From there He moved to sin and how God’s definition of sin is so much stricter than man’s definition. He talked about our attitude in prayer, urged people to forgive each other, and so much more we need to be aware of. This sermon is recorded in Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7 and there isn’t a single joke to be found. He cited Old Testament Scripture, but didn’t bring up the latest book by a popular author. His words were to the point, but full of love.

I have to wonder how long it took for Him to deliver this sermon. Our modern preachers allocate fifteen to twenty minutes for a sermon so everyone can hurry to their favorite restaurant before other congregations get there. So much is compromised when the pure word of God is secondary to appeasing the congregation.

Peter was an interesting man – a fisherman who chose to follow Christ and learn His ways. Peter was brash and made many blunders. He swore he would never deny Christ, but hid in fear during the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. Then came the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit danced like flames upon the heads of the apostles, and people thought they were drunk. It was Peter who stood up and preached a powerful sermon to the onlookers. This common fisherman began by explaining what was happening, by quoting the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28-32).

And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:

“And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: and it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Acts 2:17-21).

Peter went on to preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He spoke of the resurrection and that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God the Father. Peter cited Psalms 16 and 110 to authenticate his statements. He was very direct with his words, and the men who heard were convicted.

Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call (Acts 2:37-39).

The result of Peter’s direct approach was astounding. Three thousand people came to Christ that day. No jokes, no amusing little anecdotes, just Holy Spirit inspired words. Maybe this is why people today don’t understand they are sinners and need to turn to Jesus for salvation. Could it be that preachers aren’t preaching Holy Spirit inspired sermons, but are preaching a watered-down Gospel?

That wasn’t the last time Peter preached a Holy Spirit led sermon. One day he and John were headed to the temple to pray. A lame man was there who asked for money. Peter said he had no money but would give the man what he really needed…healing in Jesus’ name. The man was thrilled and the people who saw the miracle were amazed. Peter didn’t give a standup-comedy routine but got right to the point.

The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses (Acts 3:13-15).

Peter was honest and direct, but he wasn’t harsh. He said their actions had been through ignorance and that the things Christ endured had been prophesied.

Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began (Acts 3:19-21).

Jesus Christ must be preached and the truth of His death, burial, and resurrection cannot be a side note.

Jesus Christ was God in the flesh, and that fact is fundamental to the Christian faith. Every cult denies the deity of Christ, so preachers need to be sure the congregation understands this truth.

Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.

“Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted (Hebrews 2:14-18).

My husband and I attended Sunday services where an “ex”-Mormon also attended. This man didn’t believe in the deity of Christ and held to many erroneous beliefs. The pastor preached loud sermons but he never preached that Jesus was God in the flesh, in order not to offend the “ex”-Mormon. God’s word was compromised and the truth was hidden. That “ex”-Mormon has now died, and I often wonder if he ever truly came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

God became flesh and understands our troubles in life. He was tempted, but didn’t yield to temptation. He quoted Scripture, not the latest self-help book. He became human in order to bring salvation to humans. Because He was fully God His blood was pure and untainted by sin, so His sacrifice takes our sin away. If this truth is hidden behind jokes or loud words, then those who are being preached to are being deceived.

Does your life make a joke out of God’s word? What sermon do you preach? You say you’re not a preacher, but think again. Not all sermons are preached from the pulpit.

But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world (Galatians 6:14).

Follow Christ, not the world.

Language filled with anger, cussing, and gossip doesn’t preach Jesus Christ to anyone. Every word you speak reflects your heart. If you’re a Christian, then you need to reflect Christ. The way you dress shows the world who you imitate. Do you wear revealing clothes that are too tight? If you claim to be a Christian but cling to a sin, then you’re preaching a false doctrine to the people around you, and deny Christ.

Search the Scriptures daily and study for yourself, then make God’s word a part of you. Glory in the accomplishment of Christ at Calvary and tell others. Turn away from the ways of the world and live so others see Christ living in you.

Prophecy is rapidly being fulfilled, and now is not the time to preach jokes instead of Christ and Him crucified. It’s not a time for jokes but it’s time to equip the saints.

God bless you all,

Nathele Graham

twotug@embarqmail.com

www.straitandnarrowministry.com

ron@straitandnarrowministry.com

Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html

All original scripture is “theopneustos,” God breathed.

If you’d like to be on my mailing list to receive the commentaries, just drop me an email and let me know.