Sunday – May 24, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 12:1-25 “Death and Deliverance”

Sunday – May 24, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – May 24, 2020

Acts 12:1-2
It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3 When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also.

There are times when evil seems to be winning the day. Wicked men get away with murder and their popularity goes up, not down. Throughout the world, the saints of God are persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ and the righteous suffer terribly. Their loved ones are bereaved. It’s easy at such times to wonder, “Where is God in all of this? Why did He allow this to happen? How can any good come out of such awful wickedness?”

Peter, James and John had been close. James and John had asked to be given privileged positions, above the other disciples, by allowing them to sit at the right and left hand of the Lord in His kingdom. Instead of talking about these honored positions, Jesus turned the subject to His “baptism,” His suffering and death. He asked Peter and John if they were able to drink the cup which He was to drink. Ignorantly, they assured Jesus that they were able. Jesus responded by telling them that they would indeed drink of that cup, the cup of death. Little did either James or John realize how soon it would be before James would drink of that cup. They had spent three years in close contact with Jesus. But now, James was suddenly gone and Peter was awaiting execution. John was left wondering, “Why?”

What a commentary Acts 12 provides us on the words of John, recorded in the last chapter of his gospel. Peter, James, and John were all present when Jesus appeared to them. Peter was asked the three-fold question (“Do you love Me …”), and was given a three-fold command (“Feed My sheep.”). He was also given the command to follow Christ, with a specific reference to his death. And yet Peter wanted to know about John’s death, about what God had purposed for John. Here were Peter and John, thinking of their deaths, and now we see that in God’s plan and purpose it was neither of them who would be honored by the privilege of dying first. That privilege was saved for James.

There is nothing mechanical about the Christian life. God is not obliged to treat all Christians alike, and the record of the Bible is that God deals differently with each individual. Summed up in one word, God is sovereign. He works all things according to His own good pleasure. Men cannot and do not manipulate God; God manipulates men, for His glory and for their glory and good. How evident this is in the lives of these three men, all of whom experienced such different fates, all of whom served God in such different ways.

Sunday – May 17, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 11:20-33 “One Step Back to Move Forward” Pt 2

Sunday – May 17, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – May 17, 2020

Acts 11:22-24
News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

Most people in the world would say, “The way to get into heaven is to be a good person.” Again, the definition of “good” in the minds of those who say this is so vague and broad that almost everyone qualifies. If you’ve ever done a good deed for someone, even if it was to earn your Boy Scout badge, you’re in! But the Bible teaches that no amount of human goodness can qualify a person for heaven, because God is absolutely good and He cannot and will not allow even a single sin into His perfect heaven. Thus the apostle Paul builds his argument that “there is none who does good, there is not even one” (Rom. 3:12), because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

In light of this, when the Bible calls a man “a good man,” we should sit up and take notice. Although it is speaking relatively, not perfectly, here is a man whose life we should study and learn from. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Luke says that Barnabas “was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Acts 11:24). The description starts on the surface and works inward. He was a good man—how so? He was full of the Holy Spirit. How so? By being a man of faith. By studying Barnabas’ life, we will look at what a good person is, namely, a person who loves God and others (the two great commandments).

When we first meet Barnabas, he is selling his property to lay the proceeds at the apostles’ feet to meet the needs of the early church in Jerusalem (4:36-37). Years later, the apostle Paul referred to Barnabas as one, like him, who labored with his own hands to support himself in the ministry of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:6). Barnabas’ generosity toward those in need took precedence over his thinking about his own future. Later, when the famine threatened not only Judea, but also Antioch, the church in Antioch gave to help the needy saints in Judea. Although the text does not say, I’m sure that Barnabas contributed to that gift, and he gave his time to deliver it to Jerusalem. The church could trust him with the money, because he was a generous man, free from greed and obedient to God.

Having considered Barnabas, can it be said of you, as it is said of Barnabas, that you are a good man or woman, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith? Is your love for God vital and growing? Is your love for people becoming more tender and compassionate? Do you seek to help others grow in their faith? Do you ask God to use you to reach the lost for Christ? Are you aware daily of your need to depend on the Holy Spirit to produce His fruit of goodness in your life? When you do stumble, do you turn from it and go on with the Lord? That is how you can become a truly good person before God.

Sunday – April 26, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 10:34-48 “What a Difference a New Menu Makes”

Sunday – April 26, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – April 26, 2020

Acts 10:42-43
And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”

Since life is short and uncertain and eternity is forever, the most important question anyone can answer is, “How can I be saved?” How can I know for certain that I am right with God? Sadly, even among Christians there are myriads of answers to that crucial question.  Many think that if a person is sincere, it really doesn’t matter what he believes. Another common belief is we must be good people to be saved. If we try to do our best, if we don’t hurt anyone, if we help others, then we will get into heaven. Often faith in Christ is combined with good works. If we believe in Jesus and do the best we can, the combination will somehow get us into heaven.

Peter and the other apostles knew that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by our good works or efforts. But practically speaking, up till now they also believed that to be right with God, a pagan Gentile had to become a Jew in the sense of obeying the Jewish laws regarding circumcision and ceremonial issues. The thought of a Gentile getting saved without coming through the door of Judaism was foreign to them. But God has been breaking down Peter’s Jewish prejudices on this matter. Now they are all swept away in an instant, as the Gentiles in Cornelius’ house clearly get saved and receive the Holy Spirit in the same manner as the Jews had on the Day of Pentecost.

Even though Cornelius was a good man- even a God-fearing man, he still needed to hear about Jesus Christ and to put his trust in Him. As Peter proclaimed in Acts 4:12, “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” This means that there is no salvation for good people apart from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no salvation for good Americans who live in a supposedly “Christian” nation, apart from personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But there is salvation for everyone who believes in Him.

Believing in the name of Jesus does not refer to a general, vague sort of belief. Instead, it is specific and personal. To believe in Jesus means that I believe He is the Lord who gave Himself on the cross for my sins. I believe the promise of God, that whoever believes on Him receives eternal life as God’s gift, not based on any human merit, but only on God’s free grace. To believe in Jesus means I no longer rely on anything in myself to make me worthy in the eyes God. Rather, I trust only in what Jesus did on the cross as my hope for forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

Sunday – May 26, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 18: 31 to 19: 10 “Jesus Treed a Tax Collector”

Sunday – May 26, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – May 26, 2019

Luke 18:18-20
A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good — except God alone.

If Jesus had taken an evangelism training course, He would have dealt differently with the rich young ruler. From an evangelist’s point of view, this guy was a piece of cake. His eagerness is evident from the fact that (Mark 10:17 reports) he ran, not walked, up to Jesus. He even knelt down before Jesus, right in front of others, and asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus didn’t even have to figure out how to turn the conversation to spiritual things! What an opportunity! Shouldn’t be too hard to get a decision!

And the man was a choice prospect. Matthew tells us that he was young. He still had most of his adult life ahead of him. He was in a place of influence in spite of his youthfulness. He didn’t have any serious problems to overcome—no drugs or alcohol, no history of trouble with the law. From his youth, he had tried to keep the Ten Commandments, and he had done a pretty good job of it. He was a fine young man, the kind that any church would lift up as an example. And, he was extremely rich, with just a tithe, he could have bankrolled Jesus’ mission for years to come. What a key person! But Jesus let him walk away.

There’s another possibility, of course. If it seems to us that Jesus blew a choice opportunity and that He did not share the gospel clearly with this eager young man (if it had been anyone other than Jesus who had taken this approach, we all would say that he blew it), then perhaps Jesus has something to teach us about the gospel message and how to share it. In particular, He teaches us how to share the gospel with good people—those who believe in God and have lived decent lives.

Perhaps you are a good person today. You’ve assumed that your good deeds will get you into heaven. But you must see that your own goodness can never save you. You must see the awful sins of your heart as God sees them. Perhaps there is one sin that you refuse to let go. The Lord is saying, “Let it go! Sell all that you possess, and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Turn from your sin and trust in Christ alone who can save. Even though this rich young ruler went away sorrowful and unsaved, Jesus knew what He was doing as an evangelist. I pray your response will not be like that of this young man.

Sunday – April 7, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 16:19-31 “Lazarus and the Rich Man”

Sunday – April 7, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – April 7, 2019

Luke 16:30-31
But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.”

How can people be so careless about their eternal destiny? The great deceiver, Satan, gets them focused on the here and now. Every once in a while—when a friend dies or when a major catastrophe claims many lives—they think briefly about death. But they figure, “I’m a basically a good person. God is loving; He wouldn’t condemn a decent person like me.” And, they put it out of their minds and get on with pursuing the good life.

Jesus directed the parable of the rich man and Lazarus to the Pharisees, who thought that they would get into heaven because they were good men. They were the religious leaders, at the synagogue every time the doors opened. They studied the Law and the Prophets and participated in all of the annual feasts and holy days of the Jewish faith. They even called Abraham their father. But their religion was outward, designed to impress others. But God was not impressed because their hearts were full of pride and hypocrisy (16:15). They would have protested that they kept the Law, but they were not concerned about inner, heart righteousness before God. Like the rich man in the parable, they were living the good life, assuming that they would go to heaven. Their love of money had blinded them to God’s perspective.

As far as we know, the rich man in the parable was not guilty of any gross sin. His fault was in living for himself and for this life only, with no view to eternity. His sin was not in having money; Abraham was a wealthy man. His sin was that he did not use the mammon of unrighteousness to make friends for himself so that when it failed, they would receive him into eternal dwellings (16:9). He failed to lay up treasures in heaven, even though the opportunity to do so literally lay at his doorstep every day. Even having Abraham as his father (16:24, 27, 30) wouldn’t help him on judgment day, because he had neglected the true message of Moses and the Prophets.

The story of the rich man and Lazarus concludes in such a way as to indicate what really justifies a man. The rich man was not condemned because he was rich, any more than the poor man was justified for being poor. These outward conditions (riches and poverty) were fundamentally irrelevant to the eternal destiny of these men. A godly rich man would have used his wealth differently, but it was not his works that would have saved him. The real basis for justification or condemnation is to be found in the context of the rich man’s concern for his lost brothers. The issue was whether or not these men were rich or poor, but whether or not these men believed the Scriptures. It is not riches nor poverty which determines one’s destiny, but belief or unbelief.

Sunday –October 28, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 10:38-42 “Working Like the Devil Serving the Lord”

Sunday – October 28, 2018

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Word On Worship – Sunday – October 28, 2018

Luke 10:41-42
But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

In their book, First Things First, Stephen Covey and Roger and Rebecca Merrill ask this penetrating question: “What is the one activity that you know if you did superbly well and consistently would have significant positive results in your personal life?” They repeat the question with regard to your professional or work life and then ask, “If you know these things would make such a significant difference, why are you not doing them now?” They go on to discuss how we often wrongly let the urgent take priority over that which is truly important.

That is the main message of this little story that gives us a glimpse into an incident in the life of Jesus and two sisters who hosted Him for dinner. Luke seems to put it here both to contrast it with the preceding incident where a lawyer challenged Jesus by putting a test question to Him. In the first story, the lawyer cites the two great commandments, to love God and to love our neighbor, but the emphasis, through the parable of the Good Samaritan, is on love for our neighbor. In this story, we see an example of what it means to love God, as Mary sits at Jesus’ feet. If we only had the story of the Good Samaritan, we might allow service for God to take precedence over devotion to God.

Mary had chosen that which was “better” and “necessary” (v. 42); Martha was frazzled and frustrated by a whole host of things. What was that “better” thing, that which was “necessary,” that which Mary had chosen, and Martha had not? I think that the “better thing” was abiding in Christ, drawing strength and instruction from Him. It was being taught at the feet of the Master. Martha was preoccupied with ministering to Jesus; Mary with the ministry of Jesus. In the final analysis, He is not dependent upon our ministry to Him, but our life in Him is totally dependent upon His ministry to us. In seeking to serve Jesus, Martha was hindering the sustenance of Jesus in her life, and she even demanded that it be kept from her sister as well.

There is no better place to be, no place we are more welcome to be, than at the feet of our Lord. When we fall at His feet, we acknowledge His majesty, power, and goodness, and our need. When we fall at His feet, we rightly reflect the response of the creature to the Creator. No sinner in the New Testament ever hesitated to come to Jesus’ feet. The self-righteous would not be caught dead there, because of their pride and arrogance, but the sinner found the feet of Jesus a place of welcome. You are always welcome at His feet.

Sunday May 6, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 6:27-35 “Love, According to Jesus”

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Luke 6:35-36
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

“Tough Love,” is a popular topic in self-help circles, but I think you will soon recognize that I mean something very different from what this expression generally has been used to describe, even in Christian circles — especially in Christian circles. In our relationships with others, we often try to “under love” the other person, as opposed to outdoing the other in love. The reason is that love has obligations and so the one who loves most also owes most. Thus, to be free from the debts of love one must love less, making the other person more in debt to you than you are to them. A kind of “unbalance of payments” rationalization.

We often act out of unrealistic expectations. Many of our acts of love done toward others are very selfishly motivated. We love others in hopes of being loved in return. We give in hopes of receiving. We do good so that good will be done to us. We serve on the basis of expected reciprocity. Whether or not we continue to serve and love others is conditioned on how others respond and if they return equal value. Our Lord’s words are intended to show such thinking as utterly mistaken. We must serve others, expecting nothing in return but assured we will receive our reward from God. And the beauty of God’s grace is that He rewards us far beyond that which we deserve. He rewards in accordance with His grace and His riches.

Love, as defined here by Jesus, is vastly different from a meaning often propagated in the name of Christianity today. “Tough love,” as it is called, is love that is tough on others, love that looks out for one’s own interests. Biblical “tough love” is that that is tough on us, the lover, and merciful to others, even our enemies. You will not find our text in most books that deal with “tough love” because our Lord’s words condemn what is popularly taught.

God’s thoughts are not man’s thoughts, nor are His ways our ways. So, we should expect that much of what our Lord has to say will be challenging to accept. Our initial reaction to His Truth may well be difficult to embrace. Only after much thought and prayer can we see the hard things are exactly what our Lord meant, and what our fallen nature wants to reject. The corollary to this is the false teaching that makes things easy on us. What “sounds good” can be easily accepted without critical thought. Let us beware of teaching that “sounds good.” The renewing of our minds requires our thinking to conform with God’s Word. Hard to hear and accept or not, let us try to more fully grasp what our Lord has taught us in this passage.

Sunday March 4, 2018 Gospel of Luke – “Why Religious People Reject Christ” Luke 4:14-30

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Luke 4:28-30
And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, He went His way.”

As we study this portion of God’s Word, we need to take it to heart that most of us are religious people or we would not be in church this morning But being religious does not guarantee we will accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. If anything, it increases the likelihood we will reject Him. It was the religious crowd in Nazareth that not only reacted against the sermon by Jesus, but they went right from their “church” service to try to shove the speaker off a cliff. I trust that no one here would do that (I will keep my eyes open), but still, we must be careful to examine our own hearts, so that we do not imitate the religious people of Nazareth in their hostile rejection of Jesus.

Any qualified male could read the Scripture and expound on it, so Jesus stood up to do this. There is debate about whether He deliberately chose the passage from Isaiah 61:1-2, or whether it was the assigned portion for that day, but Luke seems to hint that He picked the passage Himself. The initial response to Jesus’ sermon at Nazareth was favorable, although rather superficial. They were speaking well of Him and were amazed at the smooth manner in which He communicated. As sermon critics, they were giving the “hometown kid” good marks on His delivery and style. “Not bad! I can see why we’ve been hearing good reports about the young man. He’s a polished speaker.”

But it wasn’t long until the nodding heads began to stop, and the approving smiles turned to frowns. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. “Who does He think He is, making these claims about fulfilling this Scripture? He’s implying that His message applies to us! We’re not poor or slaves! We’re not blind and downtrodden! How dare He imply that He can be our Savior, as if we even needed one. If He really is so great, then why doesn’t He do here some of the miracles we heard that He supposedly did in Capernaum? Then we might believe in Him!” They were initially impressed by His style, but they took offense at the substance of His sermon. Their offense soon turned to rage and rejection.

Let’s apply this point to ourselves: It’s easy to accept Jesus on a superficial level. We hear that God loves us and that Jesus cares for all our needs, and that’s true. So, we welcome Him into our lives. But at some point, we begin to get a bit uncomfortable as we realize Jesus is confronting our pride and self-righteousness with His teaching. Rather than building up our self-esteem, Jesus begins shining the light of His holiness into the dark, hidden closets of our soul. We begin to see that “nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (Rom. 7:18). At this point, you have a crucial decision to make. You can dodge the hard truths of the Bible, either by throwing out the whole thing or, as many people do, by finding a church where you hear more soothing, comfortable messages. Or respond to the leading of the Spirit. God’s way is that we face the hard truth about ourselves and submit to Jesus as Lord.

Sunday February 25, 2018 Gospel of Luke – “The Temptation of Jesus Pt 2” Luke 4:9-13

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Luke 4:13
“When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.”

You and I will undoubtedly never be tempted by Satan as our Lord was. We will probably never rate a personal appearance of Satan or his personal attention to us. Rarely does temptation come our way that is as apparent as a solicitation to do evil. Rather, temptation comes to us as a “golden opportunity,” or the “chance of a lifetime.” Temptation comes in many forms, some even appear religious. In order to know how to deal with temptation, we must be very careful to define it in order to be able to identify temptation.

Not knowing what you are looking for is dangerous when it comes to temptation. My first thought was to view temptation as a solicitation to do what we know to be evil. Adam and Eve were tempted to do something which God had clearly indicated was evil. The foolish young man in Proverbs (Chapter 7), who was seduced by “madam folly” was also enticed to do evil. But when you stop to think about it, Satan hardly needs to work at this kind of temptation because man is in rebellion against God through the lusts of the flesh and the fear of death. In Chapter 7 of Romans Paul tells us that when the law prohibits sin, our rebellious nature wants to do exactly what the law has forbidden. When the law commands certain things to be done, our flesh naturally desires to disobey.

That is why the most dangerous form of temptation is to entice us to do what is ultimately devastating and destructive, under the disguise of doing of what appears to be right. Satan sought to tempt our Lord to do what was represented as good – satisfy His physical need of food, fulfill His need for security and control, and to test God to prove His goodness towards Jesus. Satan’s messengers not only appear as the wretched instruments of evil that they are, but also as “angels of light” (2 Cor. 11:14-15), promoting evil in the name of good.

Hundreds of times a day we are bombarded with solicitations to buy something. The methods used are almost identical with Satan’s techniques of temptation. We have become numb to the existence of “tempting” mechanisms and approaches. In fact, we have become conditioned to expect to be tempted and sometimes feel let down if the temptation is not great enough. We are groomed to purchase the product whose manufacturers do the best job of tempting us to buy it. Just like the rat in the maze, we have been so anesthetized to temptation we do not even recognize it for what it is. We must always view the “offer” in terms of the offerer. Only good and perfect things come from God, the “Father of lights” (James 1:17). Only evil things come from Satan, the prince of darkness (Eph. 6:12; Col. 1:13).

Sunday – November 5, 2017 Series Week Eight: “Are Women Second Class Citizens?” Part 2

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SERIES: “The Church- Can We Have It Our Way?”
Week Seven: “Are Women Second Class Citizens?” Part 2

Word On Worship – Sunday – November 5, 2017 Download / Print

2 Corinthians 11:3-4
“But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

There are other goals that are essential for Christians, but the one I would like to deal with is that of sincere and simple devotion to God, or as the nearness of God (as Asaph expressed it in Psalm 73:28). In our series on how we serve church, we are faced with what we perceive as a very important question: Is public “egalitarian” ministry necessary for intimate fellowship with God? Put differently, are women hindered from intimacy with God by being denied certain church leadership roles designated for men?

The Corinthian saints were all too eager to follow new leaders and their teaching – teaching which turned them away from Christ to pursue so-called “wisdom.” Paul likens the situation to the fall of humanity in the Book of Genesis. There Satan deceived Eve, offering her wisdom (the knowledge of good and evil) that was to be achieved by disobedience to God’s command. While Satan promised Eve they would be “like God,” he did not inform her that this act of disobedience would disrupt their relationship with God. The intimacy with God known initially in the Garden of Eden would be lost. We knew that as soon as Eve and her husband ate of the forbidden fruit they sought to hide themselves from God and soon they would be cast out of the garden, never to return in their lifetime.

Satan’s scheme is to keep people from what is best by tempting them with some lesser thing which appears to be good and desirable, but which is a forbidden fruit. When we think of the Garden of Eden we tend to think of the one tree – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – and less of all the other trees, from which Adam and Eve could freely eat. But we should remember that there were two trees in the center of the garden: (1) the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; and (2) the tree of life. By focusing Adam and Eve’s attention on the forbidden tree and its fruit, Satan caused them to lose sight of the most important tree of all – the tree of life. Satan seeks to keep our eyes off what is best, what is most important – serving God and His purpose – and to distract us with something inferior, something forbidden.

Satan is still employing his same tactics, seeking to get us to desire what God forbids under the pretense that we are denied something God owes us. Satan goads us to be complainers and accusers focusing on ourselves. Then we neglect the truly good gift(s) God has provided. The “tree of life” is before us in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Many fear that close fellowship with Jesus will mean the end of our worldly pleasures. We fear that if we follow Him, God will deny us our personal desires. But God never takes from us what is truly good. Whatever perceived power or pleasure you give up to follow Jesus (and there will be things we all give up as men and women), you will gain that which is truly good: salvation through Christ and intimacy with God. Nearness to God belongs to those who serve Him with a willing heart and spirit, as stated in God’s First Commandment.