A Messenger From the King
All four Gospels of the New Testament, in their first few chapters, testify of one whom the prophets had spoken of, saying, “Behold, I will send My messenger, and he shall prepare the way before Me” (Malachi 3:1, KJV). This messenger was known as John the Baptist, He was “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God’” (Isaiah 40:3, NKJV).
John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2). Clothed in camel hair, with a belt of leather about his waist, John preached a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, preparing the hearts of the people to understand that they were in desperate need of a Saviour. All this took place before the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross, when their redemption would be made complete! John then baptized in the Jordan River, all those who came to him.
“John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey”.(Mark 1:4-6)
- John’s baptism of repentance came before the atoning sacrifice of Christ.
- But though many were baptized, not all were producing living fruit!
When many of the Pharisees and Sadducees came to John to be baptized, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of (or in keeping with) repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our Father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:7-10).
We Need to Produce Living Fruit
Jesus also, when warning of false prophets, said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:15-20).
There is a great need for all who come to repentance in Christ — to keep producing living fruit!
When those who had come to be baptized by John heard his words, they enquired of him, saying, “’What shall we do then?’ He answered and said to them, ‘He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.’ Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, ‘Teacher, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Collect no more than what is appointed for you.’ Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, ‘And what shall we do?’ So he said to them, ‘Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages’” (Luke 3:10-14).
John was instructing in all three cases: – Stop doing the wrong things that you have been doing and choose to do what is right! Therefore, those who had been ignoring the needs of others, were now required to meet those needs. In plain language, John was telling them, if you become aware of someone in need and you have the ability to help them, then do something about it! Those who had stepped outside of the boundaries of their authority, were now required to do only what their positional authority allowed them to do, and no more. In all three scenarios, they were being instructed, to no longer seek their own gain, but to meet the needs of others and be content with what they had!
John’s instruction to each of these, went straight to the heart of the issue. Each one was shown an area of their hearts that needed to be addressed. Some had shown a disregard for the needs of others. For others, there had been both an abuse and a misuse of power and trust. In the latter two cases, those that had been given a position of authority to serve the people, had used that authority for their own purposes and their own illegitimate means. The tax collectors, though entrusted with the authority to collect taxes, had at times taken more than the authority that had been given to them. The soldiers, perhaps lacking contentment with what they already had, had at times used false accusations and intimidation to extort (which means, to obtain by force, threats, or unfair means) what they wanted or needed from others.
And all this took place before the redemptive purposes of Christ!
The Apostle Paul said to Timothy, “But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).
That is a wonderful situation in Christ for every believer in Christ to be in!
God’s Peace in the Healing Process
There are times in our lives when we just have to keep speaking “grace, grace” (also translated ‘favour, favour’) to the ‘mountain’ or the situation that we are facing, until the work that God has promised has been made complete. Just like the word of the Lord that came to the Prophet Zechariah during the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, we can say, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel (but insert your own name here): ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the Lord of hosts. ‘Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel (your name here) you shall become a plain! And he (I) shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!”’”(Zechariah 4: 6 & 7).
The capstone, being the final stone placed on top of the building of a wall, was an indication that the work had now been made complete. The name ‘Zechariah’ means ‘Yahweh remembers’ or ‘Yahweh has remembered.’ Therefore, the Prophet Zechariah brought much comfort and hope to the people of Israel at a time when their future seemed uncertain. The name Zechariah, was a strong reminder that Yahweh remembered the Covenant He had made with them and that they were not to give up on the rebuilding process, because the Lord’s Covenant would one day be fulfilled. For the Apostle Paul said, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
Many, many years ago, I had become painfully aware of some areas in my life that drastically needed to change, yet I was still in the healing, or in the rebuilding process. There were others also, who were aware of those needs, and who were believing and praying for those changes to come. Yet because I knew that others were aware, and because I was still in that process of healing (being changed from glory to glory), I would at times worry that they would abandon hope in me and cease to pray on my behalf. Often, I would sing a song over to myself from the Album ‘Never Alone’ by Amy Grant, because at that time, it expressed so well the needs of my own heart. The words to the chorus began:
“Don’t give up on me, I’m going to make it. I know it’s hard for you to see. Don’t give up on me, (I couldn’t take it). If a part of me should keep you from seeing the part of me that should start you believing, I’m changing so please don’t give up on me.” I knew, that at that time I was doing all that I knew how to do, to work with God in helping myself – I just wasn’t a complete vessel for His glory……yet! At that time, there was still an outworking of God’s grace on my behalf that needed to occur that had not yet occurred, so I was stuck in transition between the two; but the word of the Lord came to pass just the same, just as He said that it would, and all of His promises came to fruition.
God’s Grace at Work in Us Who Believe
Grace is something that has to outwork its purpose, in both our lives, and in the lives of others. Because our lives are so often inter-twined with the lives of others, for God’s glory, we cannot short-cut the process, but must continue to obey what the Lord has asked us to do. Grace is not a ‘one off’ event. Just like the yeast that works itself through a batch of dough, grace is something that is always active and always at work, both in our midst and in our hearts.
- God’s grace has a work to do – it is a powerful work!
- God’s grace increases the capacity of our hearts to walk in love.
- God’s grace increases the capacity of our hearts to heal!
“With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all”.(Acts 4:33, NIV)
The apostles persevered in their call! Despite what opposition we may face, we must continue to testify in His name, to the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ! Christ has commissioned grace on our behalf to do a mighty work in our hearts and lives! If we are not a whole people yet, it simply means that grace has not yet completed the work that it has been commissioned to do. God Himself gives us the grace that we need, both to complete the work He has begun in us, and to complete the work He requires us to do. But it takes humility to receive God’s grace.
“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble”.(James 4:6)
HIS GRACE LEADS US TO THE CROSS
The wonderful thing about His grace is, that where the knowledge of sin increases, (whether yours or mine, which comes through the knowledge of the law), His grace (at work in us) increases even more, until we are brought to a place of completion or ‘right standing’ with God through Jesus Christ.
- His grace brings us to the cross!
- When we have knowledge of sin we run to the cross – for His power is made perfect in weakness!
- The blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross on our behalf gives us immediate access to his grace!
Sin and death were defeated at the cross – they could not hold Him (Jesus) and they cannot hold the ones He loves!
- Where sin and death are bound, so is the enemy!
- Because of this, we live in his presence on a daily basis!
“The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”.(Romans 5: 20 & 21, NIV)
Prophesying of the coming Christ Who would be resurrected on the third day, the Prophet Hosea said, “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but He will heal us; He has injured us but He will bind up our wounds. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will restore us, that we may live in His presence. Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge Him. As surely as the sun rises, He will appear; He will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth (‘like the latter and former rain’ NKJV)” (Hosea 6:1-3, NIV).
The Apostle Paul, when speaking of one of the missionary journeys that he and Barnabas undertook, stated, that “they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed” (Acts 14:26).
In the same way, let us be committed to the workings of His grace, in and through our lives for the purposes of His Kingdom until our work is made complete or our Lord Jesus comes again!
- We can do nothing without the grace of God at work in our hearts and in our midst!
- And if we are to complete the work we have been sent to do, we must continue to rely on His grace on a daily basis!
Choosing the Best not the Worst
When waiting for resolution to come, it is so easy to look at the ‘speck’ in someone else’s eye; wanting to ‘Lord’ it over them (meaning, ‘to control,’ ‘subjugate’ or ‘exercise dominion’ over them — See Matthew 20:25-28, 1 Peter 5:3, and Strong’s Concordance); or, to try to be ‘better’ than someone else, by picking out what we perceive to be their faults; yet at the same time, miss the great ‘plank’ in our own eye by ignoring our own. None of us are like Jesus yet. Jesus said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master” (Matthew 10:24 & 25, NKJV).
And we are warned, not to make judgments over doubtful or disputable things. The word ‘disputable’ is translated ‘discussion,’ ‘debate,’ ‘dispute,’ ‘imagination,’ or ‘reasoning’ (Strong’s Concordance). Paul said, “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Master is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:4, RSV).
Again, using this parable, Jesus said, “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye” (Luke 6:39-42, NKJV).
God wants all men to live in peace. “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). One of the ways we can choose to live at peace with others, is by actively looking for, speaking about, and focusing on the good that is in others, whilst asking God to continue to remove the dross (that which needs to be redeemed) from our own lives.
- Look for the best in others, not the worst.
- We do not need to be right all the time!
When warning of the dangers of trusting in our own righteousness and despising others, Jesus spoke this parable. “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man (the tax collector) went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:10-14).
PRAYER: “Dear Lord, help me to be consistent in all that I say and all that I do. Help my words and my actions to be an accurate representation of Who You are and of all that You have called me to be. Help me to remember that Your grace is freely available on a daily basis and that You are faithful to complete the work that You have started. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray, Amen”.