Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Look to Jesus - Chapter One

by Michael C. Garrett

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Run With Endurance

We can’t begin to express to you our sense of appreciation for the wonderful Plan of God, which almost nobody on this earth understands. Isn’t that sad that more people don’t properly understand it!? Well here at the Owensboro Church of Jesus Christ and our affiliated churches, we do properly understand it! And we talk about it. And we appreciate it. And we take great hope and a sense of destiny from it. But it’s all because of JESUS CHRIST.

I’ve been thinking about a concept this summer. And I’ve shared some of this with our fellow servant, Minister Guy LaMar, down in Alabama. It revolves around something we read in the Book of Hebrews. Chapter 12.

Verse 1 – “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight [every problem, every issue], and the sin which so easily ensnares us, …”

And friends, as long as we’re flesh and blood, we at times will make mistakes. Now, if you can’t admit that, in my opinion, you have a problem. It’s very important that we have enough humility that we can go to God Almighty and Jesus Christ and say, “I screwed up!” I shouldn’t have done that. I shouldn’t have thought what I thought. I shouldn’t have said what I said. We need to be able to confess our sins before the throne of mercy and grace. And we’re told that if we do that, we will be forgiven. But, if you can’t do that you’ll never be forgiven. So, it behooves us to have enough humility to come before the LORD God and say, “Well, I screwed up, again!” Help me to overcome that issue, or help me to not go down that path again.

“ … and let us run with endurance [with perseverance ─ with dogged determination] the race that is set before us.”

The process of obtaining or attaining eternal life is not one emotional moment in time. You hear about a person who goes to a church meeting, the music is just right, the voice of the preacher is just right, and you hear about people who become “overwhelmed” with a sense of guilt, or a sense of need. And they walk down the aisle towards the “altar” to “give their heart to the Lord.” And in that one brief moment, they think they’ve solved all of their problems. They believe and announce – from this one brief moment – “I am saved!” Friends, it doesn’t work that way. The process of salvation is an enduring race. Just like what the Apostle Paul says here, “let us run with endurance [with perseverance ─ with dogged determination] the race that is set before us.” The process of being a child of God is a long process.

Now, maybe you come to a moment just before you die where you express your problems before the LORD God, your sins – you confess them. You ask for forgiveness. And I’m sure that has happened to some people. But for the majority of us, we go forth month after month, year after year, decade after decade, and we continue striving to get it right. But, just to be honest - as long as we’re flesh and blood, we at times will make mistakes. Now, we can get better. We can become more consistently honoring God and obeying Jesus. But we will not become perfect. And if you, the one listening or reading this message, think you’ve become perfect you are deceiving yourself – badly. And I’ve met people – I once knew a lady, and we were having a discussion after church services at a restaurant, and the general topic of the conversation – what is the most consistent problem which keeps plaguing you that you feel comfortable talking about!? And this lady couldn’t think of a single thing! And I thought, Oh my! She has deceived herself into thinking she has lived a perfect life. We’re told in the Book of Romans, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” ALL PEOPLE! And this is why the Apostle Paul wrote, “examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith.” Ever so often take a time out, in a quiet place – maybe a walk all by yourself – thinking about God, praying to God, saying, “God, I have trouble with this issue. Help me to overcome it. Grant me Your forgiveness.” And, if you do this sincerely, I believe the LORD God will hear your prayer and grant you that forgiveness. But for the people who think – I’ve never done anything wrong. They are in a really tough spot. Well, there’s an old saying in Spanish, “Tu mierda no apesta.” Well, friends, it does. And many times the actions, the attitude, the thoughts of your mind and your spirit, are very offensive to the LORD God. I ask that God Almighty and Jesus Christ forgive all of you! But I hope you understand what sin, or series of sins, that the LORD God is forgiving. If you don’t even know that you have a sin, forgiveness won’t last long. Because you will just turn around and sin again. I ask forgiveness for everyone – if you’re flesh and blood you make mistakes. Now, the LORD God already knows. You’re not keeping a secret from Them. We need to ask for forgiveness humbly and sincerely, and at the same time ask for the spiritual strength to overcome that situation when it presents itself to us in the future. We are like small children, we need to learn. And God Almighty and Jesus Christ are literally our spiritual Parents ─ family members. And we need to let Them help us.

Verse 2 – There is no verse more important than this verse. Now, there are verses that are just as important. But this verse is as important of a concept as your mind could ever dwell upon. It is the title of this message. “looking unto Jesus, …” LOOK TO JESUS! “ … the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, …” – most horrible torture and death. “ … despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Look to JESUS. The author and finisher of your faith.

A few years ago, when I knew that I could no longer walk down the path of a group with which I had been associated for quite a few years because the group was and is going down the wrong path – in my estimation, my understanding, my perception, my analysis. And I know a great many people in that group and I fear for their future. I mourn for their future. Because they are not looking unto Jesus. But rather they’re looking to the opinions and the thoughts of one man. Who believes that he has all the answers. Yet, he does not. If I could wish one thing for this one man, I wish that he could have poured out upon him a truckload of humility. Because he has no humility. And, every week he gets behind the lectern, and he shouts and yells and sarcastically pontificates on the political climate in this country. And his loath to even mention the name, Jesus. And, it appears as if he is even ashamed of the name Jesus. The only name “under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” You either have Jesus Christ a part of your life, and if so you will live for all eternity. Or you don’t have Jesus Christ as the forefront of your life. I can still picture the faces of the people that I got to know over the years and the decades – and I’m very sad. In fact, I weep for the sins of the people. And their greatest sin is that they have removed Jesus from their life. They’re ashamed of the name JESUS. How can you get so far off track!? That you say, “I am of God,” and you label yourself with the name God, and yet you are ashamed of Jesus the Messiah! The Son of God – the Savior!

Who Do You Worship?

And the concept that has been on my mind of late: I realize that multiple millions of people who walk this earth are confused about who they are supposed to worship. They worship the church they attend more than they worship God Almighty and Jesus Christ. They worship and follow the leaders of their church and of their organization more than they worship and follow Jesus Christ.

Whitney Houston sang a song entitled “I Have Nothing” with the lyrics, “I have nothing, nothing, nothing if I don’t have you.” It’s certainly a love song about a woman missing a man, but when you listen to it next time, allow yourself to hear that it can also be a song to Jesus Christ. I’ve listened to many songs over this summer, and I don’t hear them as love songs anymore – meaning a man or a woman professing their love – I now hear them as songs to God Almighty and Jesus Christ.

Now, there are a great many religions. But, they end up instead of worshiping God Almighty and Jesus Christ, they get caught up in this psychology. A “group think,” as Tucker Carlson uses that phrase, of worshiping their church organization. Or the leaders of that church organization.

And, this main concept I do want you to remember: It is entirely possible that you can take your concept of God and make it into a false idol. A false god. You can go to church every week, and you can tell yourself that you are really doing what God wants you to do. You can say to yourself – I’ve got myself totally fixed to this church organization. My family goes every week, and we never miss a service. Yet, you can be doing it all in vain. Our Lord Jesus, quoting Himself from the Book of Isaiah says, “’ In vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” In complete worthlessness. And, in the eyes of the LORD God, They don’t respect it one iota!

A great many of these people go to church on the wrong day of the week. They keep the wrong religious holidays or holy days. The concepts of this religion or this church are completely contrary to the principles put forth in the Holy Bible. Yet, they convince themselves – wrapping themselves up in self-proclaimed righteousness – that they are serving the LORD God. And God will say, “’ I never knew you.’” He would say, You weren’t worshiping Me – I don’t know – you were worshiping the vanity of your mind.

This concept of which I speak, the majority of people just simply don’t have the spiritual power to understand the validity of what I say. Because their whole life, from the time they were born, they’ve been saturated with their parent’s church. They went to their Sunday school classes. Maybe, as they got older they became Sunday school teachers. And, they think they have their spiritual mierda all well-formed and shaped. And, they basically are no closer to the LORD God than a heathen. In some heathen country filled with pagan religions.

Friends, if you want to serve the LORD our God, you need to find out just what you should be believing. And from what you need to distance yourself. And if you believe that your church is the epitome of what the LORD God wants you to be a part of, you are probably badly deceiving yourself.

Back in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, the Ten Commandments are listed. Our Lord Jesus says, “’ If you love Me, keep My commandments.’” And this great being was and is the One we now call Jesus Christ. The One who delivered that message to the Prophet Moses. Isn’t this an awesome concept!? The member of the family of God who is offering us eternal life, who allowed Himself to be tortured to death on our behalf, is the same God that thundered to the children of Israel from Mount Sinai all those centuries and centuries ago!

What is the very FIRST commandment!?

“’ You shall have no other gods before Me.’”

Is it possible to make your job or career more important to you than God!? Yes.

Is it possible to make your vehicle more important to you than God!? Yes.

Is it possible to make your husband or wife, your children, or even your country more important to you than God!? Yes.

Sadly, a large majority of people don’t think about this. But, our Lord Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:37 – “’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.’” Now, this whole chapter is chocked full of really delicious and beneficial nuggets. Here’s another important verse that caught my eye – Jesus says in verse 28 – “’ And do not fear those who kill the body but can not kill the soul.’” – or rather the psychē, life. “’ But rather fear Him [referring to God Almighty and Jesus Christ], who is able to destroy both [life] and body in [gehenna fire].’”

Now, do we go through our lives on a day-to-day basis with this concept!? And, we’re not just talking to you, but we’re also talking to ourselves. Because we are also flesh and blood. We are very prone to “falling down.”

Verse 32 – “’ Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.’” And, presently God the Father does reside in a place – His living word refers to as the third heaven. He will not always reside there. There will come a time, and we believe not that far in the future, where God Almighty and Jesus Christ will reside upon the Earth. And, if it’s God’s will, we – people like you and me – will be there with Them as eternal members of the family of God.

Verse 33 – “’ But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. 34) Do not think …’” – and sadly so many people do think. They say the little Lord Jesus came to bring peace upon the earth. Around Christmas time a lot of people say things like that and sing songs that have that theme. But here our Lord Jesus is saying, “’ Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.’” Now, certainly, this is a Jesus that most people have never heard of! Again, you hear many a worldly preacher say, “Give your heart to the Lard!” They pronounce Lord in such a way that it sounds like pig fat! I’m not sure why they say it like that – maybe they think they’re going to be a little more spiritual!?

Verse 35 – “’ For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36) and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’

And, if you have never experienced this, there’s a good chance your name isn’t written in the Book of Life.

So, if you were to go into a group of so-called Christians and ask – what is your number one duty, as a human being. They will likely announce most proudly – to love and to protect my family, to honor and protect my country, and to serve God. But, it should be number one duty – serve God. Look to Jesus. Follow Jesus. It’s not to take care of your family first. And if you have that attitude you’re falling far short. Let us recall the verse back in the Book of Hebrews – “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” In the context that God Almighty and especially Jesus is the number one priority of your life, there’s nothing wrong with having a wonderful family. But the priority is that the LORD God is number one. Let us recall the FIRST commandment: “’ You shall have no other gods before Me.’”

Is it truly possible to worship other things more than the LORD God!? Yes. Not only is it possible, but it is also happening all the time. And again, a great many people worship their church, their religion, or their church leaders.

A terribly sad part of history – November 18th, 1978 – a thing happened that is just about impossible for a normal human mind to conceive or fathom. A bunch of people followed a demonically possessed man down into the jungles of Guyana in South America, creating this “divine economic socialism” along with Jim Jones's personal communist worldview. What he referred to as “Apostolic Socialism.” A commune that would become known as Jonestown. The guy was nuts! In his very early years, Myrtle Kennedy, the wife of the Nazarene Church's pastor, gave Jones a Bible and encouraged him to study it, teaching him to follow the holiness code of the Nazarene Church. Jones developed a desire to become a preacher as a child and he began to practice preaching in private. Jones regularly visited a casket manufacturer in Lynn and held mock funerals for roadkill that he collected. 1 So, even in his early years he was exhibiting warning signs and common traits of a psychopath. He would come to convince about 600 of his followers, that if he gave the order to drink a mixture of Flavor Aid and cyanide they should do so. And they did! With Jones in the background saying, “Don’t be afraid to die,” adding that death is “just stepping over into another plane. Death is a friend.”

We cannot even fathom this! The LORD our God says, “’ It is better to trust in the LORD Than to put confidence in man.’” Also, “’ Do not put your trust in princes, Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help.’” If you put your trust in human beings, I guarantee – as Cajun chef Justin Wilson became known for the expression: “I gha-rawn-tee!'” you will be disappointed and in the end, you will die!

Now, we do not want you to place your trust in us. We want you to place your trust in the living word of God – the Holy Bible. The words of God Almighty and Jesus Christ – the words of the bonafide servants of God. And this is what our job is as we see it. One should place their complete trust, faith, and attention to the living words of the LORD God! And our job is to show you things in God’s living word that maybe you haven’t seen yet on your own. Or maybe you wouldn’t ever see on your own. To help you to LOOK TO JESUS.

There is an enigmatic phrase in the Book of Jeremiah chapter 7.

Here the Prophet Jeremiah was inspired to write, under the inspiration of God’s Spirit – in verse 4, “’ Do not trust in these lying words, saying, ‘The temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD are these.’”

The children of Israel, on two different installments, put their trust and their faith in a temple. Now, it was the LORD God who inspired them to build a temple – twice. But the LORD God wanted them, when they were in those temples, to worship Them. Worship God the Father and Jesus Christ. But with time, so many people stopped thinking about God Almighty and Jesus Christ, and they begin to think about this physical object – this building. Or this church, group, or religious leader. And they begin to allow their local preacher to do all of their thinking.

It is very possible to make an idol out of your church.

So, pick up a Holy Bible and read it at your own speed. And, we’re not talking about going to a church service, or to some building, and having somebody else attempt to tell you what God’s living word says. No. We are encouraging you to read God’s living word on your own and to learn from what it tells you. And if you do that it will help you tremendously.

Look to Jesus.

Don’t look to a church. Don’t look to a so-called preacher. Don’t look to a bishop, or a priest, or a pope.

Look to Jesus “the author and finisher of our faith.” □

To be continued.


1 Wikipedia contributors. (2023, May 17). Jim Jones. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 09:41, May 23, 2023, from htps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Jones

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