“So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.” Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.”      Matthew 17:16-17

Jesus gave His disciples the power to cast out demons and to perform miracles of healing (Matt. 10:8). He gave them His authority to minister to people, yet they became so self-centered that they lost the power to do the work of God. When God sent a father with his epileptic son to them for healing, they failed miserably. They were so concerned with position and status (Mark 9:32-35) that they lost their focus on what God wanted to do through them.

Jesus’ response to His disciples included some of the harshest words ever to come from His mouth. He called His own disciples “unbelieving” and “perverse” and questioned how much longer He had to endure them! Why? Because they were supposed to be on mission with Him to bring salvation to others, but they had become so disoriented to Him that they were spiritually powerless, lacking the faith to bring physical and spiritual comfort to those God had sent to them.

God ought to be able to send a hurting person to any child of His and expect that they will be helped. Like the disciples, we can become so preoccupied with our own ambitions and distracted by the busyness of our lives that we become ineffective in ministering to those whom God sends to us. It is even possible to become so involved in religious activity that we are of no help to anyone. Regularly take inventory of your life to see if you are being a faithful steward of every life God sends to you.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.      Matthew 5:16

There is no mistaking the effect of light upon a darkened place. Light boldly and unabashedly announces its presence and vigorously dispels darkness. God’s desire is to fill you with His light. He wants you to shine as a brilliant testimony of His presence and power in your life, so that the darkness in the lives of those around you will be displaced by the light of God’s glory.

If, however, you notice the world around you becoming darker and darker, don’t blame the darkness! It is simply doing what darkness does. The only remedy for darkness is light. If the world is becoming darker, the problem is not with the darkness. The problem is with the light. Jesus said His disciples should be the “light of the world” (Matt. 5:14). What an awesome responsibility–to be the ones through whom God would shine His divine light and dispel the darkness from around others! In announcing His own coming, Jesus said, “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,/ And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death. / Light has dawned” (Matt. 4:16).

There was no ignoring Jesus’ arrival upon earth! Darkness was dispelled! Everywhere Jesus went, God’s truth was boldly proclaimed, people were healed, hypocrisy was exposed, and sinners found forgiveness. The world was never the same once the Father introduced His light through His Son. Can that be said of you as well? Do your coworkers recognize the light that is within you? Does the presence of Christ radiate from your home into your community? When God’s light is allowed to shine unhindered through your life, the darkness around you will be dispelled.

In this episode we honor the legacy of Richard’s father, Henry Blackaby. The sermon played on today’s episode is called “Why Revival Tarries.” If you’d like to read a collection of Henry’s sermons check out The Solomon Promise. 

Henry Blackaby’s funeral will be at 3:00 Feb. 25 at First Baptist Church Jonesboro, GA. Viewing from 5-7 p.m. Feb. 24 at Ford-Stewart Funeral Home (2047 Highway 138 S.E. Jonesboro, GA), also at church before the service, from 1:30-3:00. In lieu of flowers, you may donate to Blackaby Ministries International as it carries on Henry’s work, or to the Blackaby Chair of Spiritual Leadership at the Canadian Baptist Theological Seminary and College. Donations can be made Online at https://gift.idonate.com/georgia-baptist-foundation/blackaby or by check to: P.O. Box 1035, Jonesboro, GA. 30237. Live stream can be viewed at: https://vimeo.com/event/4086348/6b6c7ab42b

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You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.       Matthew 5:13

God’s people are His preserving agents for a world that is corrupted and degenerating because of sin. Your life is designed and commissioned by God to enhance a community and to preserve what is good and right. There is deep significance today for a godly life that is involved in its community. The presence of Christ in you makes all that He is available to others. His salvation can free an addict, mend a broken home, heal the pain of the past, restore a wayward child, and comfort a grieving heart. All of this is available to those around you as Christ expresses His life through you.

If we are not in a right relationship with our Lord, however, Jesus said we are like salt that has lost its saltiness and is, therefore, good for nothing. None of God’s saving grace and power can be dispensed through us to others. How do we test the “saltiness” of our life? Look at our family. Are we preserving it from the destructive influences that surround it? Examine our workplace. Are the sinful influences in our work environment being halted because we are there? Observe our community. Is it a better place because we are involved in it? What about our church? The evidence that we have been used by God as a preserving agent is that things are becoming spiritually better around us instead of worse. If people around us are deteriorating spiritually, we need to go to our Lord and allow Him to adjust our lives so that we can be used to preserve others.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”     Matthew 16:24

We can take God’s presence for granted. We can assume that because Jesus said He would be with us always, He will follow us wherever we go (Matt. 28:20). Jesus does not follow us; we are to follow Him. You do not invite God to join you in your activity. He invites you to become involved in His activity. Jesus said: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). Following Jesus requires absolute obedience. He does not seek our counsel about which direction we think is suitable. God already knows what is best without ever having to consult with us.

Following Jesus will lead you into experiences you never dreamed of! You will be with Jesus as He weeps over those trapped in sin. You will feel the pain that Jesus feels. You will see those who were spiritually blind experience the joy of coming to see God for the first time. You will see lives that were broken, made whole. You will see marriages restored; those in bondage, released; and those who mourn, comforted. At times it will be easy to follow Jesus. At other times, you will be tempted to abandon Him. Following Jesus can mean going through a storm or standing on a mountaintop.

You may have stopped following Jesus, but now you want to follow again. When you stopped following Jesus, you did so on your terms. But the returning to Jesus is strictly under His conditions. He is God, and you are not. Are you willing to follow Jesus anywhere, at any time, under any condition? That is the only way you can follow Him.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”      Matthew 16:24

Your “cross” is God’s will for you, regardless of the cost. Taking up your cross is a choice; it is not beyond your control. You may have health problems or a rebellious child or financial pressures, but do not mistake these as your “cross to bear.” Neither circumstances you face nor consequences of your own actions are your cross. Your cross will be to voluntarily participate in Christ’s sufferings as He carries out His redemptive purposes (Phil. 3:10). Paul said he rejoiced in his sufferings because he knew that by them he was able to participate in the suffering required to bring others into Christian maturity (Col. 1:24).

We tend to want to go immediately from “denying ourselves” to “following Jesus.” But you can never follow Jesus unless you have first taken up your cross. There are aspects of God’s redemptive work that can be accomplished only through suffering. Just as Christ had to suffer in order to bring salvation, there will be hardships you may have to endure in order for God to bring salvation to those around you. Jesus did not talk with His disciples about the cross until they had come to know He was the Christ (Matt. 16:21). You will never be able to endure the suffering of the cross unless you have first been convinced that Jesus is the Christ. Once you have settled your relationship with Christ, He will introduce you to your cross.

There is no Christianity without a cross. If you are waiting for a relationship with God that never requires suffering or inconvenience, then you cannot use Christ as your model. God’s will for you involves a cross. First, take up your cross, then you can follow Him.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”      Matthew 16:24

Sin causes us to be self-centered, shifting our hearts from God to self. The essence of salvation is an about-face from self-centeredness to God-centeredness. The Christian must spend a lifetime denying self. Our great temptation will be to affirm ourselves while we follow Jesus. James and John did this when they chose to follow Jesus but asked for the two most prominent positions in Jesus’ kingdom (Mark 10:35-37). James and John wanted a discipleship that would not impede their personal desires and aspirations. Like them, we say, “Lord, I want to be pleasing to you, but I want to stay where I am.”

Self-centered people try to keep their lives unruffled and undisturbed, safe and secure. Our temptation is to give our time and effort to the goals of this world. Then, when we are successful in the world’s eyes, we seek to bring God into our world by honoring Him with our success. We may say, “Now that I have succeeded in business [or sports, or politics, or with my family, or even Christian ministry], I want to give God the glory for it!” God is not interested in receiving secondhand glory from our activity. God receives glory from His activity through our lives.

The world will entice you to adopt its goals and to invest in temporal things. Resist the temptation to pursue your own goals, asking God to bless them. Rather, deny yourself and join the activity of God as He reveals it to you.

And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.      Matthew 6:12

Few things are more precious to receive than forgiveness. After carrying the burden of our sin, it is wonderfully freeing to know that the one we have wronged has completely forgiven us. Jesus told His disciples to ask God for forgiveness every time they prayed. Jesus knew that we would daily incur debts against God, as we inevitably fall short of God’s standard. A day does not go by that we do not need to ask God to remove our debt against Him.

Jesus warned that we should expect forgiveness from God as we forgive those who sin against us, for God will forgive us in the same way we forgive others (Matt. 6:15). God’s nature is forgiveness (Exod. 34:6-7). If we are to be His disciples, we must follow His example. If God will forgive our most relentless enemy, we can do nothing less. Jesus did not say that certain offenses are unworthy of our forgiveness. We have no biblical excuse for allowing unforgiveness in our hearts.

If you choose to withhold forgiveness from someone, your worship and prayers are futile (Matt. 5:23-24). Ask God to make you aware of those dark corners in your life where you are harboring resentment. A keen awareness of your own need for forgiveness will put the offenses of others in their proper light. Ask God to make you like Christ so that, even when you are being persecuted, you can pray “Father, forgive them.”

And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you. . .But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.      1 Thessalonians 3:12; 4:9

God is love (1 John 4:16). His very nature is perfect love, but because of sin love does not always come freely and naturally to His children. You may have been raised in a home where love was not expressed. Perhaps you were hurt by someone you loved, and your heart became hardened as a defense against further pain. You may love others but not know how to express your love in words or actions. You may feel frustrated because you have been called by God to love, yet you do not understand how to love others.

Paul wrote to the Christians in Thessalonica to encourage them not to become disheartened as they learned to love each other (1 Thess. 3:7). They did not need Paul to explain to them how to love, for God Himself would teach them how to love one another. God would give them His love, and as they followed Him, He would cause that love to multiply. If they found someone who was difficult to love, God would enable them to love through His Holy Spirit.

God in His grace has made provision for our human weakness, and He is prepared to teach us how to love one another. There are no exceptions. God can teach us to love even that especially difficult person.

Are you struggling to love someone? God will help you. He will enable you to love your parents, your spouse, your children, your friends, or your enemy in a deeper way than you could ever love them on your own. If you do not know how to express your love in a meaningful way, God will teach you how to do this. God is the authority on love. As you relate to others, ask God to make His love overflow to them through your life.

Then the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery, just like the love of the LORD for the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans.”      Hosea 3:1

No human can comprehend God’s love for His children! Our limited experience of human love hinders us from understanding God’s unconditional love for us. We can see a picture of this love in the life of Hosea.

Hosea was a righteous man, but God told him to marry a sinful woman. Hosea obeyed and took Gomer as his wife. He cherished her and treated her with dignity and respect. Never before had Gomer experienced this kind of love, but she soon grew dissatisfied. She began giving her affections to other men. She became so involved in adulterous pursuits that finally she abandoned Hosea altogether. Other men used her until she had nothing left to give. Then they sold her into slavery. After this, God gave Hosea an amazing command: “Go and buy her back.” Despite the intense pain and hurt that Gomer had inflicted on him, God told Hosea to forgive her and to pay any price to bring her back into his home.

God’s message is clear: When we reject Him and turn our devotion elsewhere, our rejection carries the same pain as an adulterous betrayal. After all God has done for us, it is incomprehensible that we should reject Him. It is even harder to fathom that God could love us even after we have rejected, ignored, and disobeyed Him. Yet God’s love is completely different from ours. His love follows us to the depths of our sinfulness until He has reclaimed us. His love is undaunted when we run from Him, and He continues to pursue us. What incredible love He has demonstrated to us!

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