Billy Graham: Made for God’s Purpose, Not Your Own

Sharing today from the July-August 2019 issue of Decision Magazine. This sermon was originally preached in 1956.

Billy Graham:
Made for God’s Purpose,
Not Your Own

By Billy Graham

“Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. … Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand” (Jeremiah 18:3-4, 6).

What an accurate portrayal of men and women this is! The Prophet Jeremiah portrays God as the divine Potter and a man or woman as the clay that the Master Artist seeks to make into a vessel of usefulness. But in the process, the vessel becomes marred—a flaw appears in the work—and tenderly the skilled Craftsman of life refashions it to His own liking.

Three ideas stand out boldly in this parable of the potter: made, marred and made again.

We humans, in our vaunted pride and self-styled wisdom, would claim that we are self-created. We would wrest ourselves from the skillful hands of the Potter, and cry, “I evolved, and I am the product of natural law; I am self-created!”

But the only true record and the only true evidence indicates that it was otherwise.

The Bible states that God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. … So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him. … Then God blessed them” (Genesis 1:26-28).

Notice, He did not make men and women haphazardly, but with an infinite plan and purpose. He made us in His own image and likeness: creatures with whom He could commune, companion and fellowship. You were made for God’s fellowship, and to fulfill any other purpose is to fail to fulfill your destiny.

That heart of yours, despite its waywardness and evil, in its serious moments reaches out for the stars and cries out for fellowship with the infinite God. That mind of yours, so fraught with evil imaginations, sensual images and earthly aspirations, longs for communion and affinity with the divine Potter—God. That body of yours, tired of its labors and wanderings, aching with loneliness, hungers for companionship with the One for whom you were created.

Race, ethnic background and language make no difference—all hearts repeat the words of David: “My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Psalm 84:2).

There are thousands of people who admit that they are unhappy. Economic security, recreation, pleasure and a good community in which to live have not brought them the peace and happiness they expected. The reason is that we were created in the image of God, and we can find no complete rest, happiness, joy and peace until we come back to God.

You were not only made for a purpose, you were made with a will of your own. This will of yours is capable of obeying or disobeying, of choosing life or death, darkness or light, Heaven or hell, sin or the Savior.

If there is no will, there can be no true love. God wanted us to love Him willingly, with a free heart, by choice. This was a calculated risk on God’s part, but it was the only way true love and fellowship could be achieved.

Read the rest here.

Looking For Jesus

Sharing today from Bible Engager’s Blog

LOOKING FOR JESUS

How to find Christ in the Old Testament

By Liz Wann

When I was a kid, I looked for Waldo. That guy with the red hat, red-striped shirt, and hipster looking glasses. He was elusive, but I was Sherlock. I would scan the overcrowded picture from top to bottom, left to right, and look for anything that was red. Some pages in the Where’s Waldo? books were easy, but some were difficult. Yet every time I would come back after giving up, I’d find his eyes, with those large black glasses, staring back at me. Even when I couldn’t find him, he was always there and (creepy enough) he was always staring right at me.

In the same way that Waldo is not likely to be discovered without effort and focus, so too we must search for Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. Like Where’s Waldo?, there are techniques and strategies that can help us see Christ in the Old Testament. There are clues left behind like a trail of breadcrumbs for us to follow. We tend to think of Jesus only showing up in the New Testament. But he is there, like Waldo, in the Old as well.

The unfolding plan

The major story of the Old Testament is about God choosing and setting aside a people for himself (the Israelites) and continually preserving them. The story is told through a variety of literary genres, such as sweeping historical narratives, prophecies, poetry, and proverbs. In the New Testament, the focus narrows to historical accounts of Jesus’s life and the lives of his first followers, including their letters and reflections on who Jesus is and what that means.

Many people claim that the Old and New Testaments differ greatly in their depiction of God. They think of God as full of love and mercy in the New Testament, and full of wrath, anger, and punishment in the Old. But it’s not that clear cut. God is a God of wrath and mercy throughout the entire Bible, with the climax of his wrath and mercy being poured out at the cross. The common thread running through both sections of the Bible is God’s plan to save humanity from sin’s degradation. The stories, prophecies, and people in the Old Testament point us to a coming Savior who will cleanse us of our sins—Jesus, a better Adam, a better Moses, and a better David. If the New Testament is the part of the Bible where all of God’s promises are fulfilled in Jesus, then the Old Testament is getting us ready for his coming.

Read the rest here.

Key Terms of Salvation in the Bible

Today I’m sharing from The NIV Bible blog.

Key Terms of Salvation
in the Bible

The more one understands the key terms the apostle Paul chose to explain the gospel, the deeper one’s experience will be with the gospel. Paul uses these terms throughout the book of Romans to describe the free gift of salvation and eternal transformation that is available to all who will believe and trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sin.

Atonement (Romans 3:25)

“The satisfaction of God’s holy wrath against sin.” The consequence of our sin is the righteous judgment that God will exercise on sinners. By dying in our place and taking our sins on himself, Jesus makes “atonement” for our sin: he satisfies God’s righteous anger against all who believe.

Faith (Romans 1:17)

Meaning “belief” or “trust,” faith is the means by which sinful people come into right standing with God. It is a complete and active trust in Jesus alone for salvation.

Gospel (Romans 1:16)

Literally means “good news” and is the word Paul uses to refer to the message of forgiveness, eternal life and the lordship of Christ.

Grace (Romans 6:14)

“The unmerited favor of God.” This refers to God’s inexplicable and unwarranted giving of good things (especially salvation) to those who could never earn it. There is power for holy living in the grace of God.

Read the rest here.

Waiting for our Savior Jesus Christ

But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the LORD;
I will wait for the God of my salvation.
My God will hear me.
—Micah 7:7

What a wonderful example the prophet Micah is to us! As one of the minor prophets, the first few chapters of his short Old Testament book are messages of God’s judgment on Samaria and Jerusalem. But toward the end of this book, we see clear evidence of Micah’s faith and confidence that God would send a Savior.

We humans think we’ve got all the answers. And even when we don’t, we have the technology to find those answers in an instant by searching the internet for whatever may be baffling or confusing to us.

Because of the huge advancements in technology over the past few years, many people today believe that the Old Testament is irrelevant in this modern world. However, the Old Testament is filled with verses which talk about a Savior or foretell His coming. Here are only a few:

  • You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, O God our savior. You are the hope of everyone on earth, even those who sail on distant seas.
    —Psalm 65:5
  • It will become a sign and a witness to the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt; for they will cry to the LORD because of oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Champion, and He will deliver them. —Isaiah 19:20
  • Yet I have been the LORD your God since the land of Egypt; and you were not to know any god except Me, for there is no savior besides Me. —Hosea 13:4

 Read the longing in these and many other verses. These men yearned for the Savior of the world to come soon, and exhibited great faith that it would happen. They obviously loved God without restraint and absolutely believed that God would send a Savior, someone who would rescue them from themselves and their sins and provide a way for them to live with and worship God forever.

So many people say they believe in God but when it comes to eternal issues, they are floundering in a huge sea of doubt and frustration. It is understandably difficult to believe in a being we cannot see. On top of that uncertainty, we are asked to trust that believing in Jesus Christ as our Savior is the only way to heaven.

I love what J. Vernon McGee has to say about this:

You may think you have your way of salvation, but God is the only Savior, and He is the only one who can offer you a plan of salvation.

God’s plan for our salvation was always in the works but was truly fulfilled with the birth of Jesus Christ, His Son. Jesus was born a human and lived an earthly life so that He could experience and relate to every single thing we go through.

The birth of Jesus Christ paved the way for His death on the cross, where He took our sins upon Himself and died on our behalf. That death paved the way for Him to be resurrected from the dead on the third day, proving that death and sin have no more eternal hold on us. All this to show how much God loves us and longs for us to live in heaven with Him forever.

This is where faith and trust come into the picture. We must believe that our only chance for eternal redemption comes from Jesus Christ and has nothing to do with ourselves or what we do or don’t do:

Jesus said to him,
“I am the way
and the truth, and the life;
no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

—John 14:6

Sadly, though, too many of us seem unable to take that giant leap of faith and trust:

He was in the world,
and the world was made through Him,
and the world did not know Him.
He came to His own,
and those who were His own did not receive Him.

But as many as received Him,
to them He gave the right to become children of God,
even to those who believe in His name, who were born,
not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man,
but of God.
—John 1:10-13

Beloved, Christmas is definitely a time of celebration. If you take away all the glitter, packages, decorations, baked goodies and music, we still have the greatest thing for which to be thankful. We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the One whom God sent to free us from the bondage of sin.

So if all you have to celebrate Christmas with is that certain knowledge of the saving grace of Jesus Christ, then you have it all and more!

Let’s try to remember that Christmas is more about the Reason and less about the Season.

A very Merry and Blessed Christmas to all of you!

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us,
and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father,
full of grace and truth.
John testified about Him and cried out, saying,
“This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me
has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’
For of His fullness we have all received,
and grace upon grace.”
—John 1:14-16

 … for today in the city of David
there has been born for you a Savior,
who is Christ the Lord.
—Luke 2:11

The Light of the World

The Light of the World

Then Jesus cried out, “When a man believes in me,
he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me.
When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me.
I have come into the world as a light,
so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
John 12:44-46

The western portion of the U.S. was the scene of many massive wildfires this summer, and as I write this there is still some wildfire activity in certain areas. Hundreds of thousands of acres of land, buildings and personal property were wiped out and many firefighters exhausted themselves in fighting these fires. Many discussions and debates went on about the merits of tree thinning to remove trees and vegetation that were too dense or dead. In other words, these wildfires could well have been averted or at the very least, diminished in size. Some people might call this preventive maintenance. I like to this of it as a risk management plan.

So it is with the state of our souls. God offers us the free gift of His salvation through the death of Jesus Christ, His Son. Jesus willingly took on the burden of our sins so that we would not have to suffer for eternity. In my humble opinion, this free gift of salvation can also be considered as a risk management plan for God’s people.

I’m sure you’ve seen the signs displayed at professional sports games that read John 3:16. You may have asked yourself, what does that mean? These people are joyfully telling the world that there is a way for us to spend eternity in heaven! According to John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Verses 17-18 go on to explain:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but to save the world through him.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned,
but whoever does not believe stands condemned already
because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
 

I have highlighted the words believe and not believe in the previous verses and in the ones in the opening of this article. To “believe” means more than agreeing that Jesus is God; it means trusting that Jesus Christ alone can save us from paying the price for our sins. Believing is to agree that what He says is trustworthy and that relying on Him gives us the power to change.

If you have never trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, let the promises in these verses be yours. All you have to do is pray these verses to Jesus, believing them to be true. He’ll take care of the rest.

You can have everlasting life in heaven if you believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord!

I used to think at times that when I finally come face-to-face with God, I would have a list of questions to ask Him. However, I’ve come to realize that when I go home to be with Jesus, I won’t care about any of the “stuff” I have experienced here on earth. None of it will matter any longer because of the utter joy I will have in His presence.

Maybe if we thin out the debris and clutter in our lives, we’ll make more room for God to reside with us and within us. The more we rely on Him to guide our lives, the more we’ll be able to know His will for us. That’s when we might stop wondering what eternity holds for us and start believing in the only One who matters.

Now that’s a risk management plan I can live with forever!


To find out more about how to ask Jesus to be the Savior and Lord of your life, please go here to read more about it.

You are also welcome to email me at faithlhj777 at gmail dot com with any questions you might have.

What is the blessed HOPE?

#HOPE for Every Day – February 17, 2017

hope-collage-amp

Today’s message about HOPE is from Got Questions?

Question: “What is the blessed HOPE?”

Answer: Titus 2:12–13 says that the grace of God teaches us “to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed HOPE—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” This passage identifies the “blessed HOPE” as the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ, our great God and Savior.

The word blessed can mean “happy” or “beneficial”; our HOPE is “blessed” in that Jesus’ return will be an amazing, joyful experience for the believer in Christ. We will be blessed beyond measure when we see Christ. The trials of this life will be over, and we will see that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). The word HOPE does not communicate uncertainty, as in “I HOPE that something might occur”; rather, it is the glad assurance that something will take place. Jesus is our HOPE, and no one can take that HOPE away. “HOPE does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).

The “blessed HOPE,” then, is the joyful assurance that God will extend His benefits to us and that Jesus Christ will return. We are waiting for this event now.

Read the rest here.

Emphasis on HOPE is mine.

Change Always Begins with HOPE

HOPE for Every Day – February 9, 2017

hope-change-colin_smith-quote-amp

Today’s message about HOPE is from Unlocking the Bible.

“No one turns from their sins unless they have HOPE of something better. So Jesus begins by laying out the better that lies ahead. The prodigal son said, “I will return to my father; perhaps he will make me one of his hired servants” (Luke 15:18, 19, author’s paraphrase).”

Read the rest here.

Emphasis on HOPE is mine.