Tag Archives: theology

In Jesus’ Name

Jesus carefully prepared his followers for what they were about to experience.  Just hours before his arrest, conviction, and crucifixion, he gave special instructions which are recorded in John 13-16.  We spent five months looking carefully at the things that Jesus taught on that night.  What we learned will benefit us now.

Jesus developed three important ideas as he instructed his followers that evening.  His disciples would need the vital truth that Christ shared with them in order to have great victory in the face of many trials.  These truths will serve us well, too.

First, Jesus repeatedly promised his followers that although he was leaving, he would surely return.  “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me,” he said.  The Early Church lived in anticipation of Jesus’ imminent return. Our spiritual vitality will be enhanced by that same anticipation.

Second, Jesus wanted his followers to understand that they could depend on the Presence and power of God’s Spirit in their lives.  After Pentecost, when God’s Spirit was poured out on all Jesus’ followers, mighty and wonderful things happened.  The same Spirit of power and wisdom inhabits God’s people today.  By walking in the Spirit we can see God accomplish marvelous things in us and through us each year.

Finally, Jesus emphasized the importance of prayer in his followers’ lives.  Jesus was opening up unprecedented access to God.  In Old Testament days the worshiper was faced with walls, doors, priests, altars, and veils that stood between him and God’s personal Presence. In his name, Jesus’ followers could begin to speak directly to God and know that he hears and answers.

Consider this carefully. Never before had anyone prayed in Jesus’ name.  Many of us were raised hearing prayers always offered in the name of Jesus. As children we were taught to pray in Jesus’ name.  We may not fully appreciate what a great privilege it is to approach the throne of grace with confidence knowing that we will receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Prayer is the key that enables us to understand God’s plan, which will climax with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  Prayer also helps us to stay in step with God’s Spirit, living in the power and understanding of God’s personal Presence.

So, remember that Jesus is alive and he is coming back for you.  Learn to lean on the power of God’s Spirit dwelling in you.  And pray in Jesus’ name, knowing that God hears and answers you.

May God’s Holy Spirit do a mighty work in us and through us always,

Brother Richard Foster, Pastor
Grace Baptist Church, Camden, AR

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Serious Prayer

Chapter 17 of John’s Gospel is the longest recorded prayer of Jesus. Jesus spoke his prayer to God the Father just before he was betrayed by Judas and arrested by the Jewish religious leaders.  In a matter of hours he would be crucified, but first he prayed.

Earlier that evening Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples.  He spent time preparing his small group of followers for what was about to happen.  They would soon take over the mission of God’s Kingdom in this world because Jesus was about to return to the Father.  He taught them many things.  He mentioned prayer several times.  It was now time for them to begin praying in his name.

To pray in Jesus’ name is more than just saying “in Jesus’ name” at the end of our prayers.  In part, it means to pray like Jesus prays.  While those eleven disciples listened, Jesus gave them an example of how he prays.  He prayed for himself, then for his close group of believers, and finally for all who would become his followers.

If the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of God’s people, needed to pray for himself, then we certainly need to pray for ourselves as well. Jesus prayed about his mission, his calling.  Like our Lord, we should pray about our calling.  The Lord has a purpose for each of us.  Knowing and following God’s purpose gives us a great sense of confidence.

After praying for himself, Jesus prayed for his close circle of followers, the eleven men who were his disciples.  They started out as the Twelve but Judas had left, making final preparations to betray Jesus.  So Jesus prayed that his close group of eleven followers would be safe from evil and that they would be focused on fulfilling God’s mission in their lives.  He prayed that they would penetrate the darkness of this world without being absorbed by it.

We live in a world full of spiritual darkness.  Compromising with the ways of this world is deadly.  But avoiding all contact with the world is disobedient because Jesus sends his followers into the world to carry on his mission.  Like Jesus, we need to pray for one another that we can be in the world but not of the world, representing our Lord faithfully to the world. Together, with God’s empowering Presence, we will be light in a dark place.

Finally, Jesus prayed for all those who would hear the Word of Truth and believe.  His prayer for all believers focused on unity.  As he looked into the future of his Church, our Lord knew what a struggle his followers would face in order to stay united in worship and service.  Many divisions have fractured Christianity since Jesus’ prayer late that night.  Division weakens God’s people, but unity at the expense of truth is deceptive.

Jesus’ prayer is as relevant today as it was that night almost 2,000 years ago.  Since unity is so vital to Christ’s Church, then we should only allow matters of the utmost importance to separate us from other believers.  When the Truth is at stake, we are not dividing; we are defining the true Church.  We must pray that our church will have the courage to stand strong for the Truth, and the wisdom to recognize when the Truth is really at stake.

Please pray like Jesus.  Pray for yourself that you will be clear about your mission in life.  Pray for fellow Christians whom you know well, that they will be protected from evil and passionate about following Jesus.  Pray for the church that we will be wise and courageous about standing strong for God’s Truth.  And pray that our Lord will continue to teach us to pray.

May the Lord’s light shine clearly through us despite the darkness,

Brother Richard Foster, Pastor
Grace Baptist Church, Camden, AR

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Abundant Life

Jesus told his disciples, “Just as the Father sent me, I also send you” (John 20:21).  In the same way that God the Father sent his Son Jesus into the world, Jesus has sent his followers.  In other words, Jesus’ followers are carrying on the mission that Jesus started.  In order to understand what Jesus has sent us to do, we must look at what God sent Jesus to do.

Jesus said, “I have come in the Name of my Father” (John 5:43).  Jesus had the authority of God’s Name standing behind his work.  We too, as followers of Jesus, have the Lord’s authority to do what he sent us to do.  With God’s authority we can act confidently, knowing that our mandate comes from on high.

Jesus said, “I have come down from heaven not to do my will, but the will of the One having sent me” (John 6:38).  Jesus was an ambassador for God using God’s authority to carry out God’s will.  All followers of Jesus are expected to be ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making his appeal to the world through us (2 Corinthians 5:20). 

“For judgment I did not come into this world, but so that those not seeing may see,”Jesus said (John 9:39).  The Day of Judgment has not arrived.  Today is the day of salvation.  Today is the day to bring sight to the blind, which is a picture of lost people finding salvation.  We need not condemn the world.  It stands condemned already.  Like Jesus, we bring light into a dark place.

“The thief does not come except to kill and to steal and to destroy,” said Jesus, “I have come so that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).  Like Jesus, we address a world that is endangered by an Enemy who causes only destruction and death.  As ambassadors for Christ we help people escape eternal destruction and enjoy abundant life.

Jesus also said, “I am Light come into the world so that everyone trusting in me will not remain in darkness” (John 12:46).  When people put their trust in Jesus Christ they cross over from death to life, from darkness to light.  Trusting Jesus is the doorway to abundant life.  We serve the Lord by encouraging people to put their trust in Jesus in order to find eternal salvation. 

When Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, accused as a criminal even though he was innocent, threatened with death even though he gave new life to so many, he told the Roman governor his life mission.  “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, that I may testify to the Truth” (John 18:37).  What Jesus did, we do.  Our focus is to testify to the Truth, God’s unchanging Truth revealed in the Bible. 

As a part of your local church, you can participate in our God-authorized and God-empowered missions in a variety of ways. You can learn more about sharing the faith through personal evangelism training.  You can serve where people’s physical needs are met in hopes of sharing God’s Truth with them.  You can join your state or foreign missions and reach out to other communities and other countries with the Truth. 

Through your participation, your support, and your prayers, you enable us to do what Jesus did.  We testify to the unchangingTruth of God to a world that desperately needs a sure foundation for life and for eternity.  Jesus was right.  The thief is busy killing, stealing, and destroying, but we come to tell people about abundant life. 

May the love of Christ compel us to go and tell the Good News,

Brother Richard Foster, Pastor
Grace Baptist Church, Camden, AR

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Feed My Sheep

More than two years ago I started preaching through the Gospel of John during Sunday morning worship. Now I have finished, and in the concluding chapter of John’s Gospel there is a remarkable conversation between Jesus and Peter.

Jesus had warned his disciples that he would soon be betrayed and that they would all fall away. Peter had bragged that he would never fall away, even if all the others did.  Jesus assured Peter that before morning came he would deny even knowing Jesus, and so he did.

Now that Jesus was risen and appearing to his followers, proving that he was truly alive, Peter was a man torn in two.  On the one hand he was thrilled to see the Lord whom he loved so much.  On the other hand he surely wondered how Jesus could ever forgive him for what he had done.

Jesus made it a point to confront Peter in a loving and decisive manner.  As they ate breakfast together on the shore of Lake Tiberius, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?”  Three times Peter told Jesus that he did.  Jesus allowed Peter to erase his three denials with three affirmations of love.

But Jesus did more than forgive Peter for his denials.  Each time Peter said that he loved Jesus, the Lord added a command. Feed my lambs.  Tend my sheep.  Feed my sheep.  Jesus’ sheep are his followers, the people of God; and he is the Good Shepherd.

To feed Jesus’ sheep is to care for Jesus’ followers, the church.  Peter was not just forgiven; he was reinstated to a place of service among Jesus’ followers.  Jesus would soon return to the Father, but Peter’s love for the Lord Jesus would still be evident through his service to the Lord’s church, his people.

Your love for the Lord Jesus is evident in the way that you serve God’s people.  What an honor it is for me to serve alongside you, my church family, as you demonstrate your affection for the Savior through your service in his church.  Like Peter, you have a commission from the Lord to labor in his Name.

As you examine yourselves, please prayerfully consider your place of service at your church.

Like Peter, each of us is called to a place of service among Jesus’ followers.  And like Peter, even our past failures cannot keep us from expressing our love for the Lord by serving him now.

May the Lord inspire and enable us to love one another,

Brother Richard Foster
Grace Baptist Church, Camden AR

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Growing Up

When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth he addressed them as brothers because they were fellow believers, followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He expressed real affection for them.  Nevertheless, he also conveyed some frustration and disappointment over their lack of spiritual growth.

Paul wrote, “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet able.  But now you are still not able”(1 Corinthians 3:2).  Paul was comparing spiritual life with physical life.  He said that the believers in Corinth were infants in Christ.  In other words, they were not growing up spiritually as they should.

Peter encouraged followers of Jesus to crave pure spiritual milk, like newborn babies, so that they could grow up in their salvation (1 Peter 2:2).  Milk is good for babies.  Healthy adults require more than milk.  New believers are satisfied with the basics of faith.  But healthy Christians grow and require an expanded spiritual diet.

The writer of Hebrews also compared spiritual growth with physical growth, noting the necessary change in diet.  He was frustrated with the believers to whom he wrote because they should have been teaching others about God’s truth but they still needed someone to teach them the basics (Hebrews 5:12-14).  Baby Christians, he said, were those who still struggle to distinguish good from evil.

Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus and encouraged them to grow spiritually so that they would no longer be infants, tossed around by false teaching and deception (Ephesians 4:14). He explained that Christ is the measure of spiritual maturity (Ephesians 4:13, 15).  The Christian life is a life of being transformed into the likeness of our Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18).

The leaders of the Early Church expected followers of Jesus to grow in faith, building on the basics of salvation and moving ever closer to spiritual maturity, living like Jesus. Spiritual growth requires greater understanding of God’s Word and greater passion for God’s glory.  Growing spiritually requires health and vitality that comes from God’s indwelling Spirit.

Of course, to grow toward maturity in Christ one must first be in Christ.  In other words, to grow spiritually a person must first be saved. New birth is the first step in spiritual growth just as birth is primary in physical growth.  If a newborn fails to grow then everyone agrees that something is wrong.  The same is true of Christians.  When a follower of Christ fails to grow spiritually then something is wrong.

Our task as a church family is to help lost people get saved and to help saved people get strong.  We are in the business of growing spiritually mature Christians.  Paul told the believers in Corinth that there is a message of wisdom for the mature. We want to help as many people as we can to enjoy the message of wisdom that is for the mature.

What a joy it is for me to see brothers and sisters who are spiritually healthy, growing in Christ and being transformed from glory to glory into his image.  But like Paul, I also see those who are struggling to move beyond the basics.  Let us continue to labor together in the Lord’s power and wisdom until we all become mature, “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13, NIV).

May the Lord bind us together and strengthen us in His great power and wisdom,

Brother Richard Foster

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