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Christmas: On Jesus’ Terms

Christmas Message from December 20, 2022 - Pastor Lincoln Vellacott

Are there things you will do, or accept, only on certain conditions? Mary “was the first person to accept Jesus on His own terms, regardless of the personal cost.”

The Angel arrives announcing that she would give birth to the promised King. She responds, “I am the Lord’s servant,” – “May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38) Why is that so remarkable?

Giving birth to Jesus was a highly favored & privileged role. One person in the world got to do what she would do. But there were some “issues” - things that troubled her, even caused her to fear and were complicated.

Mary was an unmarried virgin. What would her fiancée, family and community say about all this? No fury like that of a slighted fiancée. Jewish law would regard her as an adulteress - subject to death by stoning.

Joseph considered the more gentle route of quietly breaking off the proposed marriage. He didn’t want to expose Mary to public disgrace and shame. As if that would have taken away Mary’s public humiliation. How would Mary explain this to everyone? Mary hadn’t been sexually immoral, but that is sure what it would seem like to others. There could be scandal or the appearance of being mentally unstable with that story about being a pregnant virgin, and an angel speaking to her about giving birth to the Son of God.

Mary received Jesus on His terms, no matter what it would cost. Even if it meant stoning, separation from her fiancée, shame, single parenthood, scandal, skeptics, shunning, stories, questions about her sanity, and loss of security.

Mary trusted that receiving Jesus into her body would result in more blessing, favor, joy and purpose than all the potential problems. She understood the eternal good that could come, and far outweigh the temporary trials that troubled her. Because of her faith and obedience, and because of the Christ child that she would give birth to, all nations would be blessed. Salvation would be made possible thru the one she would agree to carry in her womb.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? Will you receive Jesus on His terms? Many want to accept a God of their own making, or on their conditions, and don’t want Jesus to “get in the way” of their life. We may go to church once in awhile, ask for prayer when we are in trouble – be okay with a little baby in a manger, but not ready to accept that Christ came to die on the cross for our sins. Don’t forget the Lord knows what is best. He wants to give what is really best. He will help those who are His. Will you take Jesus into your life and trust Him with all of your life?

There is a cost to faith in Jesus and following Him, but the cost of not receiving Jesus on His terms, is way higher and far more detrimental to your life and your eternity.

Jesus promised, to all who would receive Him - that He would be with them always – that He would give them full and abundant life (better than anything else this life has to offer) – and that He would give them the blessings of eternity in Heaven.

Receiving Jesus on His terms is what makes life good, and also brings favor with God, real joy, real peace, and purpose to all of our days.  

 

A Smart Criminal and His Dumb Friend

April 12, 2022 - Pastor Lincoln Vellacott

      A man in Pennsylvania was given 24 years imprisonment for armed robbery. He and an accomplice had not worn masks when they held up a bank. Instead, they had rubbed lemon juice on their faces in the belief it would blur their images on the security camera.

      A hopeful criminal in Swansea, Massachusetts, fainted when the bank teller told him she had no money. He was still unconscious when the police arrived. His getaway car, parked nearby, had the keys locked inside.

      Henry Smith was arrested moments after returning home with a stolen stereo. His error was having tattooed on his forehead in large capital letters the words "Henry Smith".

      We sometimes hear stories about dumb criminals and the things they have done, and that often makes us chuckle. In the Easter Account, we hear about a smart criminal, and his dumb friend. What the smart criminal did made a Huge difference. He did the brightest and best thing that he could do, not only for this life, but also for the life to come.

      You can read about that in Luke 23:32-43.

      Even as Jesus cried out words of forgiveness from the cross, people were laughing, mocking, gambling, and acting as though nothing of any importance was taking place. Two other gospels tell us that two criminals, crucified on either side of Jesus, heaped insults on the Lord along with many that were gathered in the crowd.

      What was their Reality? These two guys were not petty thieves. These robbers were rotten guys. There was a reason that these two guys were on crosses. There was an admission that they were punished justly and getting what their deeds deserved, but Jesus had done nothing wrong.

      What was their Response? They both had equal access to the Savior. One of the criminals, up until the time of his death, continued to ridicule & reject the Lord. The other criminal had a change of heart.

      One robber wanted rescue from the cross. Save yourself and us. Get me down from here. Someone might say that it was the pain speaking. He was carrying on in selfishness. He cared nothing for the Savior. He was like many people today, who may only want Jesus to take away life’s suffering or sin’s consequences.

      The smart criminal was repentant. He wanted help with his greatest need and a future with Jesus. He acknowledged his sin. He put his faith in the Lord Jesus and believed that there is life after death. He boldly professed his faith even in the face of a hostile crowd, taunts and jeers. He exercised astounding faith. To most people Christ on the cross wouldn’t have looked like He would be able to save anybody.

      What was the Result? For the robber that railed at Jesus and rejected Him, it was but a start to an eternity apart from Christ. His suffering was but a start to the suffering that would be his forever. Christ’s shed blood did him no good. He refused to turn to the One who could save him from more than the consequence of his sin.

      The robber who asked to be remembered by Jesus when He came into His Kingdom was granted reconciliation with God, and life in heaven. The thief who asked Christ for salvation received it. All he had to do was cry out to Jesus and he was snatched from the brink of hell. It was almost too late, but he made the right call. He was almost lumped in as a dumb criminal, but near his last seconds, the Spirit of God made him smart towards salvation. What might have looked and sounded like foolishness, proved to be his pardon, and a promotion to paradise.

      What does the smart criminal teach us? Salvation is independent of good works. He was saved without formal sacraments, and apart from deserving deeds. They aren’t enough to make us right with God. For the one who has put their trust in Jesus Christ to save them, to depart from this life, is to be present with the Lord. He wasn’t saved because of his suffering in this life. Only the sufferings of Christ are an adequate payment for our sins.

      Salvation is not universal – not everyone will be saved. Jesus told only one of the two men that hung on the crosses with Him, that he would be with Him. The other man sadly would not – he would have an altogether different fate for eternity.

      Even “great” sinners can have their sins forgiven, and can receive eternal life with God in heaven. Each of us needs to do as the smart criminal did, and place our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. The eternally wise thing is in faith, to call out to Jesus, and to help others do the same.

      Let me encourage you to celebrate with us, the Resurrected and Living Savior, on Easter Sunday morning.  

I Forgive You - Jesus

March 24, 2022 - Pastor Lincoln Vellacott

What was one word that Jesus was all about? What did Jesus pray about from the cross?

 

When you are suffering lots of pain what do you do? What word, or words, comes to your mind? If someone is being extremely mean to you, what do you do? What do you say? What about when someone makes you feel rejected or if they mock you? How do you feel? What might come out of your mouth? What if they were trying to kill you?

 

Thankfully most of those extreme things are rare in our lives. But Jesus was being mocked, rejected, caused to suffer greatly, and killed on the cross. It wasn’t because of anything wrong that He had done. It was because of our sin that He died on the cross, and even for the sin of those who crucified Him on the cross.

 

What were some of Jesus first words from the cross, as they pound the spikes into His hands and feet, and as they dropped the cross into its place? “Father, forgive them.” (Luke 23:34) Jesus life and death was all about forgiveness.

 

Someone might say, why do preachers and churches always talk about sin? It was Jesus who was most concerned about our sin. He was born to save people from their sin. (Matthew 1:21) While He lived and taught, Jesus told various people who came to Him that their sins were forgiven. (Luke 5:20, 7:48) In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to ask God for forgiveness, and to forgive those who wrong or offend us. (Matthew 6:12-15) He not only taught forgiveness, Jesus modeled forgiveness when He prayed forgiveness from the cross, for his persecutors. He allowed His blood to be poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:28, Ephesians 1:7) Christ’s desire is that repentance and forgiveness of sins be preached in His name to all nations. (Luke 24:46-47)

 

While the Lord wants everyone to come to repentance, (2nd Peter 3:9) not everyone will be saved. Acts 10:43 says, “that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” Whoever hears the Word of the Lord and believes in Him will have eternal life and not be condemned. (John 5:24) If we confess our sins, the Lord is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins (1st John 1:9) - based on His sacrifice on the cross.

 

Nothing could be offered to us as wonderful as the forgiveness of God. Jesus desired everlasting salvation even for His murderers. For that He willingly gave up His life. Jesus died for sinners – even “great sinners” – and wants us to be forgiven thru Him – thru confession of sin and trusting Him as our Savior.

 

As I conclude, let me encourage you to take in a church worship service this weekend. And as you do, may God use it in a special way in your life. Thanks for reading & have a great day!

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