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Lesson for the Lord’s Day

January 20th, 2019

The high priest then asked Jesus of His disciples, and of His doctrine. John 18:19

We can understand in a measure why Caiaphas would ask Jesus about His doctrine. He and the Sanhedrin had an interest in the the teachings of this Man Whose views so sharply contrasted with theirs and whose words so sharply rebuked them. They had reports from spies, and many of them had heard Him themselves, but they would like to hear from His lips exactly what he taught and held as truth. That Caiaphas would ask about His doctrine was not surprising. But why did he first ask about His disciples? What was Caiaphas looking for?

Remember the account of the man who came to Jesus one day and asked if there were few that be saved? The man was looking to find out how popular this salvation was, and whether it might be good to jump onto the bandwagon. I think Caiaphas was also looking to find out how popular Jesus had become. By asking about His disciples, he could determine whether Jesus was claiming that a large portion of the people had turned to support Him. If Jesus should make such a claim, Caiaphas would be able to mark Him as a revolutionary and a traitor. His question was an attempt to entrap Jesus into convicting Himself. And it might gain the high priest some information that would enable him to squelch the Nazarene’s support. Like all enemies of the Lord Jesus and of His Gospel, Caiaphas had nothing but destruction on his mind, and selfishness in his heart.

We read of no response from Jesus concerning His disciples. He identified none of them, and made no reference to His supporters in terms of numbers or location. How different He was from us! If we were there, we could tell of the thousands who flocked to hear Jesus preach on the Galilean hillsides, and even of the throngs who welcomed him with palm branches and hosannas to Jerusalem. Even today, we note the hundreds who attend our conferences and hope nobody notices the twos and threes who gather in our little Assemblies for weekly meetings. We would like people to think that the doctrine of Christ is that which attracts many disciples. But Jesus never made such a claim.

When Jesus was asked about His disciples, He made it obvious that His disciples were His business. And we must concur. – Jim MacIntosh

Sermon for Saturday

January 19th, 2019

But Peter stood at the door without. Then went out that other disciple, which was known unto the high priest, and spake unto her that kept the door, and brought in Peter. John 18:16

The man who had sworn to march into the jaws of death for his Lord was facing a problem. His Lord had been taken into the high priest’s house for a hearing, and Peter had no way to get in. He had already proven his valour by attacking a member of the arresting mob. Now he wanted to attend the hearing, especially considering the likelihood that the hearing would not go well. The door was guarded, and admittance was by invitation only. But an invitation came. John, who had some sort of acquaintance with the high priest, had been admitted on that basis. Now, John notices Peter outside, desiring to get in. So John tells the doorkeeper, ‘It’s OK, he’s with me,’ and brings Peter inside. And it turns out that Peter’s intentions are better than his ability to carry them out.

Yesterday, you faced a situation in which the Holy Spirit presented you with an opportunity to stand up for your Lord before His enemies. The same thing will happen today, and probably tomorrow, although the circumstances will be different. We have nothing so dramatic as what Peter faced. And hopefully, we won’t experience the same collapse that Peter fell into. But we are disciples of the same Lord that Peter followed. And we see all around us the same enmity of the world against Him. We also know that it will cost us if those around us know that we are on His side. We know that there is reproach from those who reject our Lord. And just as it was a problem for Peter, it can be a problem for us. Like Peter, we find a little comfort at the world’s fire; we cringe from the stinging accusations of the scornful; we become embarrassed about standing out in the Christ-rejecting crowd. Peter had a great opportunity. And he blew it. And for the rest of his days, he regretted it. As we have opportunities to be faithful to our Lord, let us remember there is regret for blowing the opportunities.

When the cock crows, let us not regret the missed opportunities that we are given each day. – Jim MacIntosh

Food for Friday

January 18th, 2019

Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound Him. John 18:12

We remember the story of Sampson, and the problems that the Philistines had to capture him. Three times the mighty judge gave Delilah false information about the source of his strength, and three times she and the Philistines were fooled. Being bound with green bowstrings, with new rope, and even with his own hair had no impact on him. But the fourth time, Samson revealed the true secret, and was captured. When he lost the visible evidence of his devotion to God, he lost his power. How different was the Lord Jesus, who, like Sampson, was bound by the enemies of God. But unlike Sampson, the Lord Jesus never deviated from obedience and from displaying the true nature of God.

We know what happened after the so-called capture in Gethsemane. The band and captain and officers of the Jews thought they had Jesus of Nazareth in their power. But He retained all of the power He ever had; His submission to the mob was His display of His submission to His Father’s will. The ropes they bound Him with were no more binding than the bonds that the Philistines placed on Samson in his long-hair days. His pathway had always led Him in the direction that the mob was taking Him. Their capture of Him did not foil His plans; it merely accommodated His eternal purposes. For you and me, there is a lesson in obedience. If we maintain our testimony for Him, even the apparent victories of our enemies will be for our blessing and God’s glory.

There are problems that come around us, many of them affecting our ability to witness, to be effective in the Gospel, to contribute to the work of the Lord. We often see these things as reversals, as victories for God’s enemies. But are they? If we had followed the Lord Jesus through the trials and crucifixions, but never made it to the tomb on resurrection morning, we might have thought the enemies of Christ had won a victory. If we follow the whole story, we find displayed the greatest victory ever won on earthly soil. If we trust God through our apparent reversals and trials, we too will experience ultimate triumph. But only if we, like the Lord Jesus, remain within the will of God.

The world’s bonds can have no binding effect on us but what God allows. Submission to Him means certain victory. – Jim MacIntosh

Thought for Thursday

January 17th, 2019

Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and smote the the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. And the servant’s name was Malchus. John 18:10

A preacher named Dr. Ralph F. Wilson wrote a fictional account of Malchus. Wilson’s tale begins with Malchus being the man who used his ears to learn what was happening in the community and to report to his master, Caiaphas. Impressed at the gentleness of the One Who healed his injured ear, Malchus becomes ashamed at his part in the capture of Jesus of Nazareth, and follows the trials and crucifixion with remorse. When he hears the prayer from the cross, ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do’, he is no longer the servant of the high priest, but the servant of the Nazarene. As I said, the story is fiction; we really have no idea what happened to Malchus after his ear was restored. But all the others who saw the miracle were not affected, although they should have been.

People today are looking for miracles. They say they will believe if Jesus will reappear and stop the violence and killing, and fix all the injustices and pain in the world. They say they will believe if Jesus will do some great thing for them, such as provide them with wealth, health, or happiness. But even the restoration of his ear did not cause Malchus to speak up for the Healer. People need conviction, not miracles, to cause them to repent and trust. Dr. Wilson’s tale aside, Malchus stands as proof today that it takes more than the loss of an ear to change hearts and convict souls. Poor Malchus probably died with both ears intact and perished in his sins.

Malchus is a tragic lesson to the unsaved. But He is also a reminder to you and me that even those who encounter great experiences concerning Christ can still remain His enemies. Do we have false professors around us who have had dramatic experiences, and nothing but dramatic experiences? Even among the saved are those whose salvation has not created a difference between themselves and the world they once belonged to. Like Malchus, they allow themselves to remain in the camp of the rejectors and despisers. Let us not be among them.

Jesus healed Malchus’ ear, but would just as readily have saved his soul. Jesus has saved you and me, but would just as readily be Lord of our lives. – Jim MacIntosh

Word for Wednesday

January 16th, 2019

They answered Him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am He. And Judas also, which betrayed Him, stood with them. John 18:5

In the middle of the night, a group of young criminals broke into a house to steal what they could. As they made their way up the stairs, they were confronted at the top by the owner of the house, who feared for the safety of himself, his wife, and his children. He ordered the thieves to leave, telling them that he had a gun. One of the thieves, instead of backing down the stairs, rushed forward toward the owner. The owner fired his gun, and the thief fell, mortally wounded. In the investigation afterward, the slain thief’s companions declared that the young man had just joined their gang, and had never been involved in a home break-in before. Nobody believed them, of course. The young thief had taken his place among criminals, and had suffered the consequences. Just like Judas Iscariot.

The picture that John paints of the mob that came to arrest Jesus includes this reference to Judas standing with them. The one-time disciple of Jesus had now taken his stand where his heart was, where his real character was, with the enemies of Christ. He stands as a warning to us that those who might appear to be with us could be against us; those who we believe to be faithful could be traitors; those who we expect to see in the Glory could be sealing their doom for hell. We don’t know when or where the traitors will come from. But they will come, and like Judas, will eventually take their stand with the enemies of Christ, after they have performed their treachery. Calvary would have occurred without Judas’ guidance to the temple mob. But his betrayal stands as a warning today for us to be careful, and for sinners to beware lest they share his fate.

The devil has his would-be traitors anxious to come in among God’s Assemblies, just as they have come in among the denominations around us to destroy testimony and to dilute the Gospel message. They have succeeded in reducing ‘worship’ to the playing of rock music with religious overtones. They have succeeded in replacing the Gospel with pledge cards and a ‘faith’ that knows nothing of repentance. They have succeeded in making a mockery of many of those things most surely believed by Christians. How long will it be until these traitors make inroads among us, mingling among us until their treachery does its damage and they can take their stand with our enemies?

Judas’ treacherous stand became his downfall. May God preserve us from his successors’ treachery. – Jim MacIntosh

Tidings for Tuesday

January 15th, 2019

When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which He entered, and His disciples. John 18:1

There is an ongoing case in Saint John of a prominent businessman who was discovered murdered at his desk in his office. His son was later charged with the crime, and the trial is continuing. Police were initially reluctant to release many of the details, because nobody had been charged yet with the crime. But one of the facts they did release was that the man almost certainly knew his killer and was apparently comfortable having that person in his office. If that is the case, it is obvious that Dick Oland never expected to be attacked in his own office. In contrast, although the Lord Jesus certainly knew who His betrayer was, he also knew the time and the place when Judas and the temple mob would come to capture Him. And yet, He went to the garden.

From the way in which the Lord Jesus was speaking, and from His giving them the Remembrance feast, the disciples must have known that something important was about to happen. But they never guessed that it would happen in that garden, or they would never have gone. If you and I had been there, we would have run the other way. Looking back on that night, the disciples would certainly have seen that the Lord was telling them plainly what was about to happen. But they failed to put the pieces together. For them, the venture into the garden was just part of a special night with their Lord. But for Him, it was the most dramatic turning point in His entire ministry.

God’s plan of salvation was crafted in eternity. It was launched in Bethlehem, displayed for 33 years in Israel, and preached and demonstrated for three years. But it was at Gethsemane that our Saviour submitted Himself to His own creatures to be rejected, despised, and forsaken. It was in that garden where he presented Himself to God as His obedient and willing sacrifice, and then presented Himself to the temple mob. We are amazed at His devotion to His Father’s will and His commitment to be our Saviour.

In all things, the Lord Jesus is our perfect Example. There are places you and I should go today if we are to be obedient to our Lord, and there are things that you and I should do today in obedience. But to do them would expose us to the enemy’s attacks. Dare we?

As we consider the example of our Lord, we realize that there is a garden to be entered, a Cedron brook to cross, that will make or break us as faithful Christians. – Jim MacIntosh

Meditation for Monday

January 14th, 2019

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word. John 17:20

On the evening of April 8, 1967, Joseph Drybones was found drunk in the lobby of the Old Stope Hotel in Yellowknife. He was taken to court and was charged with being an Indian and intoxicated while off a reserve, which was a violation of the Indian Act. The lawyers who became involved decided to appeal the case. And they did appeal, through the Northwest Territories Territorial Court and the Northwest Territories Appeal Court. But they didn’t stop there; they took the case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. And they won! On November 20, 1969, in a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the crown’s appeal and upheld Drybones’s acquittal. Although the court agreed that Drybones had broken the Indian Act, they found that such a crime was only a crime if committed by an Indian, and therefore was in violation of the Canadian Bill of Rights. The Drybones case set a valuable precedent in Canada, supporting the position that all Canadians are equal before the law. The Lord Jesus establishes a precedent in today’s text, declaring that all Christians – not just the disciples – are the beneficiaries of His prayers.

We know how the Lord Jesus cared for and prayed for His disciples. His prayers carried them into apostleship and valuable service for Him, most of them achieving martyrdom, and seeing the spread of the Gospel throughout most of the known world. They achieved, because Jesus prayed for them. But the Lord Jesus did not pray just for them. He also prayed for those who would believe the apostles’ words. You and I have received the witness of the apostles, in the writings of the Gospels, the book of Acts, and the epistles. The great work of the spread of the Gospel and of the testimony of God’s Assemblies continues to our day, because of those like us who have believed the word of the apostles. And because the Lord Jesus prays for us, too.

We are amazed at the precedence that the Lord Jesus sets in his prayers for His disciples. His prayers are for us today because of that precedence. We may never encounter the situations or see the same results as the disciples did. But we are no less supported by our Lord’s prayers. The Lord is on our side, and we can rejoice that those who believe our word concerning the Lord Jesus will come under the same blessing.

The prayers of the Lord Jesus for His disciples are also for us and for all who will believe the Gospel. For this reason, we should make sure the Gospel is spread as far and wide as possible. – Jim MacIntosh

Lesson for the Lord’s Day

January 13th, 2019

And He opened His mouth and taught them, saying, Blessed… Matthew 5:2,3

The word ‘blessed’ means happy. In the portion of the Sermon on the Mount that is often referred to as the Beatitudes, the Lord Jesus is listing those who can be happy and what it takes to be happy. This is an interesting study, on which much time might wisely be spent. The world’s primary pursuit is for happiness. Seeking happiness, people spend huge fortunes of cash (and credit). They pursue happiness in physical endeavour and accomplishment, in education, great works of talent and genius, in adventures of all kinds, in drugs and alcohol, in gross and abominable behaviour. In all their search for happiness, all these folks had to do was to open their Bibles to Matthew chapter 5, and study and follow the teachings of these verses.

As Christians, what makes us happy? Or maybe I should say, what should make us happy? The Word of God should make us happy as we read and meditate upon it. So too should the times of communion with God in prayer, as well as the times when we gather in Assembly meetings with other Christians or fellowship with them at any time. Happiness should also flow from willing, unselfish service for our Lord. Companionship with His people should make us happy. So too should the Gospel as we live, speak, and support it.

Happiness also comes from a firm reliance on our God for all of our needs and support. In the words of John Sammis’ grand old hymn: Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

The American Declaration of Independence speaks of the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Our Lord’s declaration on the mountain spoke of far more than a pursuit… He spoke of the certainty of happiness. He spoke words that, if we follow them, will fill our lives with joy and contentment.

If you are not as happy as you would like to be, here is the solution: Fit yourself into the Beatitudes. – Jim MacIntosh

Sermon for Saturday

January 11th, 2019

Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to Me with all your heart, and with fastings and with weepings and with mourning, and rend your heart and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness, and repenteth Him of the evil. Joel 2:12,13

God loves repentance. He is pleased when sinful people acknowledge their condition and seek reconciliation with Himself. He is looking for those who will outwardly and inwardly repent. And when He find them, He blesses them.

Or should I say He blesses us. Because we can take our place in this number that Joel writes of. God must judge sin, but that is not His delight. No, His delight is to bless us, although we don’t deserve it.

Now that we are saved, have we stopped repenting? Surely not! We are still clad in sinful flesh, still encumbered with the old nature that wars against the Holy Spirit Who dwells within each believer. As hard as some Christians try, none of us is perfect. We are all daily in need of repentance. So it is a good thing that God is slow to anger. When we see some of the incredible evil of some of the characters who share the planet with us, we are amazed that God’s anger is not hastened against them. But let us look inside our own hearts, and give thanks that God’s wrath is not dispensed in haste.

Joel also reminds us of God’s great kindness. What could have been more kind than to give His own Son to die for such rebels and wretches? God is always kind to us. Even when He chastises, He does so for our blessing. Did you have a bite to eat today? Thank God for His kindness. Did you safely reach your destination after your most recent venture on the streets and roads? Thank God for His kindness. Do you have loving family and friends? Thank God for His kindness. Is there an Assembly of believers who welcome you as one of their beloved number? Thank God for His kindness. Do you have a Bible? Thank God for His kindness. Most of all, are you appreciating your salvation? Thank God for His kindness.

Submit to God in repentance today and receive His warm welcome and kindness. – Jim MacIntosh

Food for Friday

January 11th, 2019

And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain, and when He was set, His disciples came unto Him, and He opened His mouth and taught them, saying, ‘Blessed… Matthew 5:1-3

When someone comes back home from a conference that you couldn’t go to, your first question to that person is, ‘Who spoke?’ You want to know what preachers were there, and then what they spoke about. Our text today is about a conference where there was only one Speaker, one Preacher Who took the whole day’s session, spoke for three entire chapters. If somebody tried to do that at one of our open-platform conferences, they would soon hear about it. But This wasn’t one of our local or even visiting preachers of today. This was the greatest Preacher to ever draw an audience, the greatest Expositor of the Scriptures who ever opened the Book, the greatest Teacher to ever instruct His pupils.

Wouldn’t you have loved to have been there? Jesus’ message that day, or at least significant portions of it, are carefully preserved for us by Matthew. But how grand it would have been to have heard Jesus deliver that message, the greatest conference sermon ever preached on this planet! As good as many of our preachers are, they can only hope to imitate the great example set on this particular day.

No, we weren’t there. But we have Matthew’s record to read and study. We have the wonderful teaching of the Lord Jesus as he embarked on His earthly ministry. Do you seek a portion of the word of God to study in depth? Here is one of the first portions you should look to.

In all of your study of the Word of God, note very carefully the teaching of the Lord Jesus. It deserves your special attention. – Jim MacIntosh