“Nevertheless, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send Him to you. When He comes, He will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment: About sin, because they do not believe in Me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see Me; and about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.” John 16:7-11 

Everything we are in the Lord Jesus Christ is totally dependent upon the ministry of the Holy Spirit; the Counselor whom He sent us when Jesus ascended to Heaven. If you are a soul-winner, and every Christian ought to be, understand that it is not your job to get people to accept the Gospel. It is your job to preach the Gospel. Today I want to remind us of the three specific things only the Holy Spirit can accomplish in us.

The Holy Spirit is the only Person who can open our eyes to the reality of our sin. The Holy Spirit has been sent to convict us of sin, show us that we are guilty of sin and in need of forgiveness. But what exactly is sin? The term ‘sin’ is rarely understood and has been removed from most people’s vocabulary. When Jesus said, “about sin because they do not believe in Me,” He described sin in one word: unbelief. People cannot even begin to come to Jesus, until they realize they are grave sinners of unbelief, and it is the Holy Spirit who convicts them of this. 

Now the second accomplishment of the Holy Spirit is to convey the remedy for sin. In the passage above, Jesus says that the Holy Spirit has come to show us the concept “about righteousness.” A man is not righteous because of what he does; a man is righteous because of what he is. Isaiah 64:6 says, “Our righteous deeds are like a filthy garments.” Sin is not doing bad, and righteousness is not doing good. Sin is the rejection of Jesus and righteousness is the reception of Jesus. And only the Holy Spirit can convey that truth.
Finally, the Holy Spirit convinces us “about judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” Why does Jesus bring up satan in this verse? To make known the judgement coming to him and those who reject Jesus as Savior. Only the Holy Spirit can convince us of the eternal results of our sin. It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit that brings repentance and redemption to the lives of lost people. Praise His holy Name!

–James Merritt

Oh The Wonderful Cross

“As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died.” Galatians 6:14 NLT

Paul had so much that he could have boasted about when he was alive. In his day he was the church’s greatest preacher, greatest missionary, greatest apologist, greatest theologian, and greatest author. He wrote more books than anyone else in the Bible; almost one-half of the New Testament. But whenever Paul boasted it was not in himself, but in the cross of Christ. This Sunday we will celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ! And for those who have heard the Easter story dozens of times, I want to encourage you to never lose the wonder and glory of the cross by reminding you what the cross revealed and accomplished for us.

The cross amplifies the love of God for His people. Many times people look at the newspaper, listen to their television, see earthquakes, murders and rapes happening all around and say: “Where is the love of God?” The cross is where the love of God is displayed to the world. The cross means that no matter what else happens in this world, God loves you. 1 John 4:10 says, “This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”

The cross satisfied the law of God and the judgment we all deserved. Ezekiel 18:20 says, “The soul who sins shall die.” Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Now if the soul that sins has to die, and if every soul has sinned, that means every soul must die. Therefore there are only two options: Either everyone has to die in their sins, or someone has to die for the sins of everyone. And that is where the cross of Christ triumphantly declares us free from sin!

All of this simply means we could never know salvation from the penalty of sin, release from the power of sin, or freedom from the presence of sin, without the cross of Christ. There is no way out of hell, and no way into heaven, except through the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to glory eternally in the cross of Christ because the only hope for a hurting, hateful, horrible world is that old rugged cross. May we never lose the wonder. 

–James Merritt

“As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” He said to another person, “Come, follow me.” The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.” Luke 9:57-61 NLT

There are many people in our Christian society that preach the Christian life is filled with complete joy, unending blessings, and overflowing prosperity. Well, as is evident from our Scripture for today, you won’t find any prosperity Gospel in the sermons of Jesus. Jesus never promised His followers a Rolex on their wrist or a Mercedes in their garage. The Lord Jesus made it very clear that those who follow Him may have to do without. Followers of Jesus will have to endure hardships. There is a great cost to following Jesus in this life, but with the cost comes great, eternal reward.

In the passage above, we see the accounts of two different men who wanted and were called to follow Jesus. This is the account of the first man: “As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” This man had probably seen Jesus perform spectacular miracles. He heard and watched the adoration everybody gave to Jesus, and he was star-struck. But the moment Jesus described the true Christian life (verse 58), the man isn’t heard from again.

The second man’s account is similar, “He said to another person, “Come, follow me.” The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.” With that, this man is not heard from again. Following Jesus means we place His importance in our life above anything else; even our spouses and children.

The cost of following Jesus means we forfeit the comforts of this world, but the reward of following Jesus is eternal life! It means we gain purpose for the life we live and comfort for when the storms of life do come. I can promise you, if you will come to Jesus, with no reserves and no excuses, you will have no regrets.

–James Merritt

God Is In Control

shutterstock_94556092“The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.” Psalm 103:19

Our sovereign God possesses supreme power and authority over everyone and everything. He is in complete control to accomplish whatever He pleases, whenever He pleases, wherever He pleases. Now what does this mean? It means everything that happens comes about because God either directly causes it or He consciously allows it. Nothing enters into history that does not come under the complete control of God. And because of this truth, believers can and should live an anxious-free life.

So what difference does a sovereign God make concerning the pain from your past, pressures and problems in the present? I believe it makes all the difference in the world. Concerning your past and your present, knowing and fully trusting in a sovereign God allows you to replace bitterness with blessings and fear with faith.

Let’s break these two ideas down a bit. First, concerning your past, I want to share a verse with you: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” This is from Genesis 50:20 and it is about a man named Joseph. If you are not familiar with Joseph’s life story, I challenge you to go back and read about it. In this passage, we see that God used the evil others did in Joseph’s life to accomplish both Joseph’s good and His glory. That is why Joseph was able to make that great statement. The life take away is that God will use your pain for His glory and your ultimate good.

Now regarding your present, knowing God is sovereign, you can face the problems of today with faith and not with fear because you know that God is at work in the middle of every circumstance.
If God is in control, then whatever happens to you today has been filtered through His fingers of wisdom and goodness. The situation you thought was going to work out a certain way that worked out another way was all a part of God’s sovereign plan. Everyday, you can live in faith instead of fear regardless of what occurs.

Rest in the fact that God is in control of everything and has authority over everything. And know that He loves you with an everlasting love.

–James Merritt

passing_the_baton“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.” Hebrews 11:1-2 NKJV

One of the most exciting events in the Olympics to me are the track and field relay races. It takes a combination of speed, timing, precision, and teamwork in order for a relay team to be victorious. But in a relay race the fastest team can lose if one thing happens; they fail to pass the baton.

Dr. James Dobson once said: “According to the Christian values which govern my life, my most important reason for living is to get the baton, the Gospel, safely in the hands of my children.” As a father and a pastor, I could not agree more with that statement. To see parents leave the teaching of faith to pastors, Sunday School leaders, or grandparents breaks my heart. Parents, if we are truly serious about our faith, it is a sin not to be intentional about teaching the truth of Christ to our children. It is critical that we pass the baton of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ to the next generation.

One of the first truths that we must teach our children is that real life begins with faith in God. The author of Hebrews gives us the defining truth of faith. Read the passage above again. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for.” The word substance comes from the word “sub” in Latin and literally means, “something under you, upon which you stand,” or “something to stand on.” A good term for it is foundation. Faith is the foundation on which we must raise our children.

The world we live in today will teach our children not to believe in God. Our culture will teach them that God does not exist. Parents, teach your children to love God with all of their heart, soul and mind. Teach them to prayer earnestly and to read the Bible diligently. Be the example of a faithful follower of Jesus for them to emulate. Nothing we pass on to our children will be greater than faith in God. Let’s give them our very best.
—James Merritt