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.

What is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ?

Sharing today from Got Questions?

Question:
“What is the Second Coming
of Jesus Christ?”

Answer: The second coming of Jesus Christ is the hope of believers that God is in control of all things, and is faithful to the promises and prophecies in His Word. In His first coming, Jesus Christ came to earth as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem, just as prophesied. Jesus fulfilled many of the prophecies of the Messiah during His birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection. However, there are some prophecies regarding the Messiah that Jesus has not yet fulfilled. The second coming of Christ will be the return of Christ to fulfill these remaining prophecies. In His first coming, Jesus was the suffering Servant. In His second coming, Jesus will be the conquering King. In His first coming, Jesus arrived in the most humble of circumstances. In His second coming, Jesus will arrive with the armies of heaven at His side.

The Old Testament prophets did not make clearly this distinction between the two comings. This can be seen in Isaiah 7:14, 9:6-7 and Zechariah 14:4. As a result of the prophecies seeming to speak of two individuals, many Jewish scholars believed there would be both a suffering Messiah and a conquering Messiah. What they failed to understand is that there is only one Messiah and He would fulfill both roles. Jesus fulfilled the role of the suffering servant (Isaiah chapter 53) in His first coming. Jesus will fulfill the role of Israel’s deliverer and King in His second coming. Zechariah 12:10 and Revelation 1:7, describing the second coming, look back to Jesus being pierced. Israel, and the whole world, will mourn for not having accepted the Messiah the first time He came.

Read the rest here.

They Sang a New Song

Sharing today from Randy Alcorn’s Eternal Perspectives Ministries (EPM) blog.

They Sang a New Song: Charles Spurgeon’s Reflections on the Heavenly Hymn in Revelation 5

By Randy Alcorn

In a sermon on “The Heavenly Singers and Their Song,” Charles Spurgeon wrote this:

“They sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth’” (Revelation 5:9-10). I must take away the poetry for a moment and just deal with the doctrines of this heavenly hymn.

The first doctrine is that Christ is put in the front; His deity is affirmed. They sing, “Worthy are you.” A strong-winged angel speeds his way over Earth and Heaven and down the deep places of the universe, crying with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll?” (Revelation 5:2). But no answer comes, for no creature is worthy. Then came One of whom the church cries in its song, “Worthy are you.”

Yes, beloved, He is worthy of all the praise and honor we can bring to Him. He is worthy to be called equal with God; He Himself is God, very God of very God. And no man can sing this song, or ever will sing it, unless he believes Christ to be true deity and accepts Him as his Lord and God.

Next, the doctrine of this hymn is that the whole church delights in the mediation of Christ. Notice that it was when He had taken the scroll that they said, “Worthy are you to take the scroll” (Revelation 5:9). To have Christ standing between God and man is the joy of every believing heart. We could never reach up to God except that Christ has come to bridge the distance between us. He places one hand on man and the other upon God. He is the mediator who can lay His hand upon both, and the church greatly rejoices in this.

Remember that even the working of providence is not apart from the mediation of Christ. I rejoice in this, that if the thunders be let loose, if plagues and deaths around us fly, the child of God is still under the mediator’s protection. No harm shall happen to the chosen, for Jesus always guards us. All power is given unto Him in Heaven and in Earth, and the church rejoices in His role as mediator.

But now notice: in the church’s song, what is her reason for believing that Christ is worthy to be a mediator? The church says, “Worthy are you . . . for you were slain” (Revelation 5:9). Ah, beloved, when Christ undertook to be her mediator, this was the extreme point to which His pledge to be her substitute could carry Him—to be slain! Jesus is never more glorious than in His death. His substitutionary atonement is the culmination of His glory, as it was the very utmost depth of His shame. Beloved, we rejoice in our mediator because He died.

A thing that is redeemed belonged originally to the person who redeems it, and the redeemed of the Lord were always His. “Yours they were,” said Christ, “and you gave them to me” (John 17:6). They always were God’s. You cannot go and redeem a thing that does not belong to you. You may buy it, but you cannot redeem it. Now that which belonged originally to God became indebted through sin. We, having sinned, came under the curse of the law. And though God still held to it that we were His, we were yet under this embargo: sin had a claim upon us.

Christ came and saw His own, and He knew that they were His own. He asked what there was to pay to redeem them, to restore His ownership. It was His heart’s blood, His life, Himself that was required. He paid the price and redeemed them, and we tonight sing, “By your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10).

He has, by redeeming us, separated us to Himself and made us a holy people, bought with blood in a special sense out of all the rest of mankind.

This redemption is the grounds for the distinction of God’s holy people: “By your blood you ransomed people for God” (Revelation 5:9).

God never wearies of the precious blood, nor will His ­people who know where their salvation lies. They do not, even in Heaven, say that it is a dreadful word to mention. I heard a man the other day say of a certain minister, “Oh! We want another minister; we are tired of this man. He is always talking so much about the blood.” In the last great day, God will be tired of the man who made that speech.

Read the rest here.

The Faithfulness of Christ in the Little Things

Sharing today from Tabletalk Magazine.

The Faithfulness of Christ
in the Little Things

by Sinclair B. Ferguson

It is a principle in Christ’s kingdom that “one who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much” (Luke 16:10). But in that kingdom, the Lord Jesus also practiced what He preached. His whole life illustrated “little-things faithfulness.” The theme merits book-length treatment, and this brief essay is intended simply to encourage us all to notice some of the little things we may have tended to overlook in the life of the Savior. Here are five of them.

1. Jesus was an Exodus 20:12 boy: He observed the command to “honor your father and your mother.” We know this was already true of Him when He was only twelve, as we see in Luke 2:41–52. When Joseph and Mary took Him to the Jerusalem Passover feast that year, they actually “lost” Him. “And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it . . . but then they began to search for him” (vv. 43–45). When they eventually found Him in the temple, Mary’s frayed nerves snapped a little: “Why have you treated us so? . . . Your father and I . . .” (a phrase most boys recognize as a hefty rebuke). She blamed Jesus even though He was their responsibility (v. 48). But watch Jesus: He gently explained that He had gone to the one place in the city they should have known where to find Him (“Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”). And then notice what Luke adds: “He went down with them . . . and was submissive to them” (vv. 49–51). Yes, although they had wrongly blamed Him, Jesus honored His Father’s fifth commandment in obeying His earthly parents. Indeed, He paid detailed attention to all His Father’s commandments.

Our Lord’s faithfulness in little things was simply the reflection of the perfect beauty He saw in the face of His Father.

2. Jesus was also a Deuteronomy 8:3 man: He lived “not . . . by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (see Matt. 4:4). Every word. Jesus believed not only in “verbal plenary inspiration” but in obedient “verbal plenary feeding.” Each word of His Bible was vital to Him. He took a delight in detailed faithfulness—He wanted to know, love, and obey every single word God had breathed out.

Read the rest here.

Outrageous Grace

Outrageous Grace

By Lee Strobel

“This is embarrassing,” my friend said to me over the phone.

“That’s okay,” I assured him. “Go ahead. You can tell me.”

He sighed. “Well, we found out our little girl shoplifted a book from the church bookstore. We were really surprised because she’s a good kid. Anyway, I was wondering whether you would help us out with something.”

Frankly, I was relieved the news wasn’t more serious. “Sure,” I said. “What can I do?”

“We’d like you to represent the church so she can come in and apologize,” he replied. “Maybe you could figure out some sort of restitution. We want to use this as a teaching moment.”

I agreed to help, but I have to admit I had an even bigger lesson in mind.

The next day, the parents and their eight-year-old daughter walked hesitantly into my office and sat down. The girl was so small, she was almost swallowed up by the chair. Her eyes were downcast; her mood was somber.

After I exchanged some pleasantries with her parents, I sat down on the edge of my desk so I was facing the girl. As gently as I could, I said to her, “Tell me what happened.”

She hesitated, her lower lip quivering. “Well,” she said as she started to sniffle, “I was in the bookstore after a service and I saw a book that I really wanted, but I didn’t have any money.” Now tears pooled in her eyes and spilled down her cheeks. I handed her a tissue, which she used to dab her eyes before continuing.

“So I put the book under my coat and took it,” she blurted out, almost as if she wanted to expel the words as fast as she could so they wouldn’t linger. “I knew it was wrong. I knew I shouldn’t do it, but I did it. And I’m sorry. I’ll never do it again. Honest.”

She was so contrite that it broke my heart. “I’m glad you’re willing to admit what you did and say you’re sorry,” I told her. “That’s very brave, and it’s the right thing to do.”

She nodded slightly.

“But,” I continued, “what do you think an appropriate punishment would be?”

She shrugged her shoulders. I knew from her parents that she had already thrown out the book to hide the evidence. I paused for a moment, then said, “I understand the book cost five dollars. I think it would be fair if you paid the bookstore five dollars, plus three times that amount, which would make the total twenty dollars. Do you think that would be fair?”

“Yes,” she murmured, though I could see fear — almost panic — in her eyes. Her mind was whirring. Where was she going to come up with twenty dollars? That’s a mountain of money for a little kid. She didn’t have the five dollars to buy the book in the first place, and suddenly her debt had spiraled completely out of sight.

At that moment, I got up and walked behind my desk. Sitting down, I pulled open the top drawer. The little girl’s eyes narrowed. She couldn’t figure out what I was doing. I pulled out my checkbook, picked up a pen, and wrote a check from my personal account for the full amount that she owed. I tore off the check and held it in my hand. Her mouth dropped open.

“I know there’s no way you can pay the penalty that you deserve,” I told her. “So I’m going to pay it for you. Do you know why I’d do that?”

Bewildered, she shook her head.

“Because I love you,” I told her. “Because I care about you. Because you’re important to me. And please remember this: that’s how Jesus feels about you too. Except even more.”

With that, I handed her the check, which she grabbed and clutched to her heart. She simply blossomed with a look of absolute relief and joy and wonder. She was almost giddy with gratitude. The same little girl who had slinked into the office under the weight of shame now left lighthearted and skipping.

I don’t know how God ultimately used that teaching moment in her life. But I do know this: once a person, even at a young age, experiences a taste of the kind of grace offered by Christ, it leaves an indelible mark on the soul. Who could resist being attracted by the forgiveness and unmerited favor extended by Jesus?

This is one of the greatest dimensions of the unexpected adventure. The message we convey isn’t based on condemnation or shame. We’re not offering people a life sentence of hard labor to try to somehow make themselves worthy of heaven. Instead, we have the privilege of telling people how they can find complete forgiveness as a free gift that was purchased when Jesus died as our substitute to pay for all of our wrongdoing — past, present, and future.

“Grace means there’s nothing we can do to make God love us more,” writes Philip Yancey in his classic book What’s So Amazing About Grace? “And grace means there’s nothing we can do to make God love us less. . . . Grace means that God already loves us as much as an infinite God can possibly love.”

Wow! When I try to let that sink in, I’m just as overcome with gratitude as that little girl. At the same time I feel a renewed desire to let others know about this incredible message of redemption and reconciliation. After all, with good news like that, how could we possibly keep it to ourselves?


From Investigating Faith by Lee Strobel

Seven Encouraging Reasons to Pray

Sharing today from Unlocking the Bible.

Seven Encouraging Reasons to Pray

By Colin Smith

It may be in a hospital or at some other moment of crisis, but at some time most people feel that they want to pray. That is true of thousands and millions of people who would never darken the door of a church.

Here is something that the church has to offer. Christian people have something that at some point, most people in our community and in our country will feel that they need—to pray. Christians know how to pray, or at least we should.

But do we know why we pray? Here are seven reasons we pray which are meant to encourage you in your pursuit of Jesus Christ.

1. Pray, because Jesus is our great high priest.

We have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God… (Hebrews 4:14)

If I have to engage in an important conversation, I am often grateful to have someone else with me. Is there someone who can come with me who knows the person I will be meeting better than I do?

Remember this is how Moses felt when God sent him to speak to Pharaoh. God sent Aaron with him. Aaron was the High Priest. Who will go with us when we go into the throne room, not of Pharaoh, but of Almighty God?

Hebrews says “we have a great high priest…” Think about this: Jesus Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he is there for us. When you pray, you ascend by faith into heavenly places, where Christ is.

Christ is next to the Father, and when you pray, you are next to Christ. He is there for you, and when you speak, he is there with you! He is there, endorsing what you’re saying, placing his name under what you’re asking.

You can come to the Father with Jesus beside you. He is there to support you in your prayer, to back you up in what you are saying, to agree with your prayer because it has already been his own.

2. Pray, because Jesus knows what life is like. 

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15) 

You can’t bring anything to Jesus that will shock him. Nothing that you face is surprising to Jesus. You don’t need to hide anything from him. Think about the humanity of Jesus: He worked in a shop. He grieved. He saw darkness unleashed like no one else ever has. 

3. Pray, because God invites us to his throne of grace. 

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace. . . (Hebrews 4:16) 

Bunyan says, “God has more than one throne…” The throne of grace is very different from the throne of judgment. God invites you to come to the throne of grace! How often would you want to pray, if you knew you were coming before the throne of judgment? 

Read the rest here.

The Power of Prayer

Prayer is very powerful. God loves to hear us pray, and in fact, we are instructed to pray. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 

For the next few weeks, I will be talking and sharing articles about the importance of prayer. The quote in the image above is from Pat Knight, who shared it with me in an email a few years ago when we were talking about prayer. 

Simply put, prayer is an ongoing conversation with God.

There are many things we can pray about. We can praise God in our prayers. We can thank Him for who He is, for His provision, and for His love, mercy, grace, and other attributes. We can just simply talk to Him about our day and tell Him how much we love Him, and we can ask Him for help with anything in our lives because nothing is to small for Him to handle.

Hebrews 4:14-16 tells us that Jesus, our great high priest, completely understands what we go through because He experienced the same things when He lived on earth as a human being:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,
Jesus the Son of God,
let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.
 
For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses,
but we have one who has been tempted in every way,
just as we are—yet he did not sin.

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence,

so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please help us understand the importance of prayer because it is what You tell us to do. We long to be closer to You in every way, and we know that will happen as we learn the mighty power of prayer. Guide us through Your Spirit as we study this important part of being Your children. We trust in You in all things, and so we thank You in advance for what You will reveal to us in the coming weeks. We pray these things in the beautiful name of Jesus Christ, Your Son and our Savior. Amen.