Category Archives: Light in the Darkness

Light in the Darkness

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

This may be one of the best know verses in all of scripture and probably the most quoted.

It speaks of the wonderful gift the Father has given to mankind. It is the gift that makes the difference between eternal life with God and eternal separation from Him.

Jesus bore our sin and its penalty, opening the way for forgiveness and restored relationship with our loving Creator. As such, it is an incomparable gift.

There never has been nor can there ever be another like it.

However, dearly beloved, have you ever considered the meaning of Jesus’ words in John 17 where He says, ““Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am.” (v. 24).

Though I  touched on this in my last column, I would like to take time to consider more carefully what it means to those of us who believe.

Think of this for a moment, especially during this season of gift giving and receiving.

Even as the Son was a gift from the Father to mankind, you, beloved believer, are a gift from the Father to the Son.

Jesus proclaimed this in another place, also, as He prayed something remarkable.  As He speaks to the Father, He says of us,  “They were always yours. You gave them to me.” ( John 17:6).

I don’t know if you ever thought of yourself as a gift given by the Father to the Son, but you are. Can any thought be more wonderful?

Now there are some who think that God redeemed us because He was lonely or simply wanted a big family, but I don’t think that this is true. God did not do this because of some need He had, but because of the need we have.

Dr. John Piper writes,  “It expresses his concern for the satisfaction of our longing, not his loneliness. Jesus is not lonely. He and the Father and the Spirit are profoundly satisfied in the fellowship of the Trinity. We, not he, are starving for something.”

God has done all that He has because we, not He, had a need we could never do anything about. We were in a dilemma and He loved us enough to meet that need. First by giving His Son for us and then by giving us to His Son.

Pastor David M. Grey      

Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church      

Light In The Darkness — The Blessed Virgin Mary

“Gabriel appeared to Mary and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”

Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 

“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”  

Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” 

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God”

I cannot think of anyone who was more blessed by God than this young virgin. To be chosen by God to be the mother of His only begotten Son is unparalleled.

Such a blessing could occur only once in all of history and Mary was the appointed one.

During this season, it is right for us to remember and honor her. She suffered much for this honor, of course. As I pointed out last week, the blessings of God bring the curses of the world, but His Blessings are always worth the price.

So, we should honor her memory and exalt her as the one chosen for this unique role.

At the same time, we must be careful not to exalt her to a position higher than is proper. Mary, though righteous and blessed as no other, was born of a man and she would need the savior who would be born to her every bit as much as any other human being.

Being chosen to be the mother of the Messiah, the Son of Man, did not change her status as a human being. She would not become as God any more than the Prophets who were appointed by the Lord to their special calling.

Mary was not sinless as  Pope Pius IX proclaimed in his doctrine of  Immaculate Conception on Dec. 8, 1854. There is no scriptural basis for The Assumption of Mary into heaven after the manner of Enoch and Elijah nor did she become, “exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things”  as Pope Pius XII proclaimed Nov. 1, 1950. And there is no basis for believing that Mary remained perpetually a virgin.

Let us rejoice with the one God chose to be the mother of the Messiah; respect and honor her and hold her is highest esteem, but do not worship her, or pray to her, or in any other way exalt her to a position equal with her blessed Son.

Pastor David M. Grey

Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church

Light In The Darkness

“All men will hate you because of me.”

Luke 21:17-185

 

This will undoubtedly seem a strange verse to highlight in a column focusing on the virgin Mary.

She was, after all, the blessed one chosen to be the mother of the Messiah. However, today I would like to write about something I have never seen nor heard anyone write about.

Perhaps the reason I have not is simply the product of the circles I associate with, I do not know. But the bottom line is that I cannot recall ever having heard anyone address the down side of being blessed by God in this life as it must have related to Mary.

I can understand why many might be reluctant to talk about it because it is not mentioned in the Bible (except indirectly in the action Joseph was planning to take). They might be reluctant also for the reason Paul gave when he said, “Present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”  (Romans 8:18-19).

However, it does not place much strain on our sanctified imagination to realize some of what Mary must have had to suffer when those around her discovered that this unmarried woman was pregnant.

And then her statement that God, Himself had impregnated her must have sounded like the ultimate blasphemy.

It is probably difficult for many today to understand just how she would have been persecuted. In a society that generally accepts the pregnancy of unwed mothers as normal and publishes the births of their children in the local paper, the way Mary’s contemporaries would have treated her would seem “puritanical” to many today.

(I use the word “puritanical” in the generally accepted definition of the term and not the truth about who they were.)

Mary would have suffered greatly from the scorn and ridicule of those who would not believe her story. She would have suffered at the hands of her intended, Joseph, had not the Lord, Himself appeared to him in a most convincing dream.

In truth, from a human perspective, it would have been a difficult story to believe, even though it was promised that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. I cannot help but wonder how many other young pregnant women might have tried that explanation before Mary.

I remember well the time that a man told me his daughter was pregnant and that she swore she had never been with a boy. She claimed that she must be pregnant by the Holy Spirit.

He asked me what I thought. I was on more solid ground than those in Mary’s day and could assure him that she was not, because the promise that a virgin would give birth had already been fulfilled.

Mary was blessed, as are all who trust fully in Christ. What we must realize today is that with the blessing of the Lord comes persecution in this life.

Jesus clearly warned us that relationship with Him would bring the hatred of the world down like a flood. He said, “All men will hate you because of me.” (Luke 21:17-18).

He prepared his followers for the persecution that would come because of His name. It was true of the Prophets in Israel and it is still true today.

We need to be aware and prepare our hearts so that we do not compromise or back away from the truth out of fear of such treatment at the hands of worldly men and women, outside or inside the church.

Pastor David M. Grey

Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church

Light in the Darkness

 “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”         Galatians 4:4-5

“When the fullness of the time was come – The time which God in his infinite wisdom counted best; in which all his counsels were filled up; the time which his Spirit, by the prophets, had specified; the time to which he intended the Mosaic institutions should extend, and beyond which they should be of no avail.” (Adam Clarke)

The time when the law would be fulfilled by the Second Adam, the Son of God, Himself, had come. In him all its designs and purpose would be fulfilled by His holy life and with his death the whole law might be abolished; the law dying when the Son of God expired upon the cross.

The promise made long ago in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15), would begin its fulfillment. The one who would “crush the head” of the serpent was born of the Holy Spirit to a virgin woman who had found favor in the eyes of God.

She would bear a son without ever having intimately known a man. She would be blessed as no woman before or since, but with that blessing came the doubts and accusations of those who would never believe her story.

The fullness of time, referring to that time when our adoption as sons and daughters would be accomplished. It is an adoption we could no more accomplish on our own than can the natural child adopt him or herself into a family.

We could not obtain such adoption by keeping the law, for the law was given that we might understand our unworthiness and need for a savior. It is an adoption purchased by the sacrifice of Christ and our God-given trust in that sacrifice gives us a place in the heavenly family.

And now, because we are sons and daughters by faith we cry Abba, Father from thankful and joyous hearts! We are joint heirs with Jesus in all that is His.

How amazing is that to contemplate? How awesome is it that because of Him and Him alone, we stand to share in everything that belongs to the perfect Son of God? We are not servants, but sons and daughters of the Most High. What a celebration is ours this Advent Season!

Pastor David M. Grey

Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church

Light in the Darkness

“The forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”               

 Ephesians 1:7

Many there are who are unaware of or unwilling to admit their guilt before a Holy God.

But one who has felt the convicting power of the Holy Spirit (who came to ‘convict the world of sin…’) it is doubtful that there is a sweeter word than the word “forgiveness.”

When one understands there is nothing he or she can do to earn or be worthy of forgiveness, but experiences it at the hands of the living God, there is no more wonderful blessing in life.

“Blessed,” as Charles Spurgeon wrote,  “forever blessed be that dear star of pardon which shines into the condemned cell, and gives the perishing a gleam of hope amid the midnight of despair!”

True conviction and awareness of the depths of one’s guilt stands in awe and amazement that that sin, such sin as mine, can be forgiven, altogether and forever.

Hell is the rightful portion of every sinner and there is no possibility of escape while that sin remains upon me. There is only one way that this sin can be lifted from me; only one means of escape.

It is not through good works; never through  a sincere life devoted to serving ones fellow man or even God, Himself.  Yet Jesus tells us that we may have that burden, that guilt of sin removed forever.

Once again to quote Spurgeon, “Forever blessed be the revelation of atoning love which not only tells me that pardon is possible, but that it is (already) secured for all who rest in Jesus.”

Jesus offered Himself as the perfect lamb of God, was crucified, and therefore my sins are at this moment, and forever forgiven by virtue of His substitutionary pains and death. He died in my place.

My sins were laid upon Him. What joy is this! What bliss to be a perfectly pardoned soul!

We love Him and long for His return because He first loved us. We serve Him because He served us and our greatest need by sacrificing His all that we might be reconciled to the Father, made children of the most High God and joint heirs with His own Son, Jesus, the Christ.

To experience true forgiveness is to understand there is nothing we could have done or can do but allow our hearts to overflow with gratitude to the one who forgave. A life of worshipful service is the only thing we have to offer the One who paid the price of that forgiveness.

Once again the words of Spurgeon, “I bow before the throne which absolves me, I clasp the cross which delivers me, I serve henceforth all my days the Incarnate God, through whom I am this night a pardoned soul”.

 

Pastor David M. Grey

Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church

Light in the Darkness, the Rev. David Grey

“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.  And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him;  but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.  When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village.” Luke 9:51-54

These are the same James and John that Jesus had nicknamed  “Sons of Thunder” and here we find them asking if they should call down lightening from heaven to destroy these people for refusing to welcome the Savior.

Whatever possessed these two men to think that Jesus would want that? After all, he had long ago taught them what to do when they entered a town that refused their message.

“Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave.  As you enter the home, give it your greeting.  If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you.  If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.” (Matthew 10).

Indeed, that is precisely what Jesus did in this Samaritan village. So why might they think Jesus would want to destroy them?

The answer probably lies in the manner that rabbis taught their disciples in that day and in something else Jesus had said in the very next verse in Matthew 10.  The disciples were expected to anticipate the deeper meaning of words spoken by their rabbi. They were expected to think, question and endeavor to draw intelligent conclusions from the various teachings.

In the next verse in Matthew, after telling them to shake the dust from their feet and leave town, Jesus had said, “I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.”

I can almost hear these two Sons of Thunder trying to extrapolate what Jesus intended and saying, “By Jove, I think we’ve got it!”

We think he wants us to be instruments of judgment on this town, and so they ask the question, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”

But instead of praise, or even a mild correction, they receive a rebuke. Ouch!  They had either  missed or completely forgotten that the Son of Man did not come to destroy but to, “to seek and to save what was lost.”   (Luke 19:10)

Pastor David M. Grey

Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church

“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.  And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him;  but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.  When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village.” Luke 9:51-54

These are the same James and John that Jesus had nicknamed  “Sons of Thunder” and here we find them asking if they should call down lightening from heaven to destroy these people for refusing to welcome the Savior.

Whatever possessed these two men to think that Jesus would want that? After all, he had long ago taught them what to do when they entered a town that refused their message.

“Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave.  As you enter the home, give it your greeting.  If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you.  If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.” (Matthew 10).

Indeed, that is precisely what Jesus did in this Samaritan village. So why might they think Jesus would want to destroy them?

The answer probably lies in the manner that rabbis taught their disciples in that day and in something else Jesus had said in the very next verse in Matthew 10.  The disciples were expected to anticipate the deeper meaning of words spoken by their rabbi. They were expected to think, question and endeavor to draw intelligent conclusions from the various teachings.

In the next verse in Matthew, after telling them to shake the dust from their feet and leave town, Jesus had said, “I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.”

I can almost hear these two Sons of Thunder trying to extrapolate what Jesus intended and saying, “By Jove, I think we’ve got it!”

We think he wants us to be instruments of judgment on this town, and so they ask the question, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”

But instead of praise, or even a mild correction, they receive a rebuke. Ouch!  They had either  missed or completely forgotten that the Son of Man did not come to destroy but to, “to seek and to save what was lost.”   (Luke 19:10)

Pastor David M. Grey

Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church

Light in the Darkness — Doubting Thomas

“One of the disciples, Thomas, was not with the others when Jesus came.  They told him, “We have seen the Lord!”   But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.” John 20:24-25

Doubting Thomas. That is what the church calls him today and, as far back as I could find, it has been so.

Perhaps Adam Clarke, one of the commentators I most respect and often refer to, explains best why Thomas might have responded in this manner and so I share what he said.

He writes, “by absenting himself from the company of the disciples, he lost this precious opportunity of seeing and hearing Christ; and of receiving (at this time) the inestimable blessing of the Holy Ghost. 

Where two or three are assembled in the name of Christ, he is in the midst of them. Christ had said this before: Thomas should have remembered it, and not have forsaken the company of the disciples. (or if he had not forsaken but was absent of necessity, he should have remembered what Jesus said… my words). 

What is the consequence? – His unbelief becomes first of all, utterly unreasonable. Ten of his brethren witnessed that they had seen Christ, but he rejected their testimony. Secondly, his unbelief became obstinate: he was determined not to believe on any evidence that it might please God to give him: he would believe according to his own prejudices, (or sight) or not at all.  

Third. His unbelief became presumptuous and insolent: a view of the person of Christ will not suffice: he will not believe that it is he, unless he can put his finger into the holes made by the nails in his Lord‘s hand, and thrust his hand into the wound made by the spear in his side.

Thomas had lost much good, and gained much evil, and yet was insensible of his state. Behold the consequences of forsaking the assemblies of God‘s people! Jesus comes to the meeting – a disciple is found out of his place, who might have been there; and he is not only not blessed, but his heart becomes hardened and darkened through the deceitfulness of sin. It was through God‘s mere mercy that ever Thomas had another opportunity of being convinced of his error.”

Sound a little harsh? Maybe, but Mr. Clarke makes a serious point.

Thomas did, for some reason, after all, reject the testimony of 10 trusted co-workers in favor of his own uninformed opinion. He did for some reason insist that nothing could make him believe except the criteria he himself established.

I believe this is the lesson we are to gain from this account in the gospel. At the same time, I wonder how many of us would want to be remembered for all time only for a moment of failure?

We should also remember that Thomas was one of the 12 chosen Apostles. History tells us that he was a fearless evangelist, carrying the gospel both to India and China faithfully until his death, which historians also tell us was in India, where he was put to death for preaching the gospel by four soldiers armed with spears

Pastor David M. Grey

Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church

Light in the Darkness — Judas Iscariot

“Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. 

They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.”

Mark 14:10-11

Judas Iscariot is a prime example of a man who followed Jesus but never surrendered completely surrendered his life to Him. He serves as a warning to us that to follow Jesus means to accept not only the God Man but his will and agenda for our lives as well.

Judas was appointed by Jesus to be an Apostle, and as such traveled with Jesus and the other eleven chosen men for three years. He was both a witness to the teaching and miracles of Jesus … and, in a way not easily understood … a participant in the power of the Holy Spirit ministering to others.

He was there at the wedding feast in Cana when Jesus turned water into wine. He was present with Jesus outside the tomb of Lazarus and witnessed his rising from the dead when Jesus called, “Lazarus, come out!”

Judas himself would have cast out demons, seen the sick healed when he laid hands on them, and helped to feed 5,000 with one little boys lunch.

We sometimes have a picture of Judas sitting in a black cloak deep in the background, somehow separated from the other Apostles, but this is not the image scripture paints. He was trusted by the other disciples. As their treasurer he was entrusted with their money bag.

But Judas had his own agenda. Judas, his name appears eight times in scripture as “Ish-Kerioth”.

Iscariot is not his last name. “Ish-Kerioth” labels him as a man from Kerioth, a small town in Judea known for its insurgency. It was a hot bed for Zealots, who would resort to any means in their attempt to rid Israel of the hated Romans.

Historians are in agreement that Judas was a Zealot. Furthermore, based upon some other words used in scripture to describe Judas, it is probable that hewas a member of the Sicarri, an elite group of assassins who carried out the darkest ops of the Zealots.

They believed that any means were justified if the end was desirable. And the ‘desirable’ end the Zealots sought was the expulsion of Rome from Israel.

This goes far in explaining Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. He never left his own goals or agenda for Christ’s but sought to use means of his own choosing in an attempt to force the issue, to bring about the conclusion he and his compatriots longed for.

The Rev. David Grey

Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church