Wednesday, August 20, 2014, 7:00 a.m. – the Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “It is Well with My Soul.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Mark 1 (will quote selected verses in the NASB). Make Ready The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You, Who will prepare Your way; The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight.’” John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist, and his diet was locusts and wild honey. And he was preaching, and saying, “After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals. I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” ~ vv. 1-8 John knew that his calling was to prepare the way of the Lord, the promised Messiah of the people of Israel. A path can be an opening or door providing access to or from somewhere; a mode or a means; progress or a path through life and its experiences or difficulties; or a particular direction (Encarta). It has to do with a way (manner) of life as established by the Lord himself (his paths) for us to travel, i.e. having to do with our spiritual journey. It is the way of faith and holiness, and the path to knowing our Lord Jesus Christ, and the way to freedom from slavery to sin, and from the control of Satan over our lives, and to God, and to eternal life. John was to prepare the way for this by clearing the way of all obstacles, mainly by preaching repentance – turning from sin to faith in Jesus Christ and walking in his holiness and righteousness in the power of the Spirit of God within us, by his grace. He was to make our Lord’s paths straight, i.e. NOT crooked (corrupt), curved (twisted; distorted), inaccurate (erroneous), indirect (manipulative), dishonest (deceitful), inconsistent (unreliable; changeable), and/or diluted (watered down). He and his message to the people were to be honest, forthright, accurate, consistent, reliable, and trustworthy. He preached the true gospel of salvation, i.e. that we must repent of our sins for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus Christ and the apostles taught the same message. And, that is the message we must teach, as well, if we are to prepare the way for people to receive the gift of salvation and eternal life with God in heaven, so they can receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are made holy in Christ Jesus (See Ac. 3:19; 17:30-31; 26:16-18; Ro. 6-8; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 2:8-10; 4:17-24; 2 Co. 5:15; Tit. 2:11-14; & 1 Jn. 1-5). Repent and Believe In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; and a voice came out of the heavens: “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” Immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness. And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him. Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” ~ vv. 9-15 Jesus Christ came, and he died on the cross for our sins so that we could be set free from both eternal damnation and slavery to sin. He died, as well, so we would have the hope of eternal life with God, beginning now, and so we would be free to walk in the Spirit in his righteousness and holiness, for when we were slaves to sin, we were free from the control of righteousness. He died so that we would no longer live for ourselves but for him who gave himself up for us. In fact, his grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled and upright lives in this present age while we wait for his return. And, this is the “straight path” we are to teach and that we are to follow. And, we do so because we love our Lord, and in preparation for his soon return. Yet, this path will not necessarily be smooth sailing or free from tribulation. Jesus Christ was tempted in like manner in which we are tempted, yet without sin. He was often criticized, ridiculed, mocked, falsely accused, thought to be crazy, called Satan, harassed, and hated, although he done no wrong. He told his followers that they should expect to be hated and to be treated just like he was hated and treated. As well, we should expect that if we are following our Lord Jesus Christ in obedience that Satan will be hot on our trail, too, trying every which way he can to defeat us - to get us to retreat back into our sinful ways, or to get us to doubt God’s words to us, and/or to try to discredit us or to get us to be afraid. He may even try to tempt us to get big heads and to think we are doing this all ourselves. Come and Follow As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him. ~ vv. 16-20 I always love this story! There are many wonderful aspects of following Jesus Christ. Although Satan will try his best to get us back on his side, and we will face trials and tribulations, the joy of knowing we are in his will, and that we are impacting lives for Jesus Christ, and for his gospel, far outweighs anything else. Following our Lord Jesus Christ in obedience to where he leads us has many, many rewards. I just love how these men did not hesitate when Jesus called them to follow him, but they immediately left everything behind to go with God. Amen! And, that is what it should be like when we believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives, too, although that is not taught much anymore. So many people have this idea that they can still hold on to the world and still have their ticket into heaven, as though God, by his grace, merely winks at our sin. He does not! He says that if we say we love him, and we claim to be in fellowship with him, but we continue in sinful lifestyles, then we lie, and we do not live by the truth (see 1 Jn. 1-5). Let Us Go! In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. Simon and his companions searched for Him; they found Him, and said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” He said to them, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.” And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out the demons. ~ vv. 35-39 What I am receiving here from the Lord Jesus, I believe, is a message that says we need to be willing to leave the familiar to go to the unfamiliar, i.e. to wherever God sends us. This also fits with the previous stories of how the disciples, when called of Jesus, left everything to follow him. We were not born into this world to live comfortable lives. We were not born of the Spirit of God to live for ourselves and to do what pleases us. God brought us into this world, and he saved us by his grace, so that we might live for him (See 2 Co. 5:15). We are on his timetable, and we must go wherever he sends us, say what he wants us to say, and be who he wants us to be. We are his. We were bought with his blood. Therefore, we are to honor God with our lives, no matter what comes our way. We should learn to be content, no matter what state he places us in. Amen! It Is Well with My Soul / H. G. Spafford / P. P. Bliss When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well; it is well with my soul. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed his own blood for my soul. My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul! And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll; The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, Even so, it is well with my soul. It is well with my soul, It is well; it is well with my soul.