Coming Clean

James wrote:  …confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.  The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much (James 5:16).

Confessing sins to someone else isn’t easy, is it?   Still, James makes it clear that this is how to receive spiritual healing and forgiveness.

Most of the time when we consider this passage, we focus on the need to confess because of the presence of sin.  However, I’d like us to consider the simple phrase “one another” and its implications.  We spend a great deal of time in this column pointing out that no one has to go through this life alone.  God is with you and He has given you help in the form of friends and loved ones.

When sin threatens, reach out to those God has given you.  And when someone reaches out to you, pray for them; help them in the way they really need.  Can you imagine what life would be like if we all did this like we should?  Well, it starts with you and me!

Don’t forget, God loves you and so do I.

Donnie Bates

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Encouragement Through Confession

One thing that discouragement is very good at, is convincing you that you are all alone.  Few things are more difficult than the feeling of facing problems, or anything else, alone.  And when the problems of life threaten to overwhelm us, that feeling of “aloneness” grows to monumental proportions.

Jesus said, “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32).  Normally, we focus on our need to confess Jesus before men when we consider this verse, but doesn’t it encourage you to think of Him confessing you before the Father?

Of course, there is the need to confess Jesus before men.  The next verse promises His denial if we do not confess Him before men.  That means we have some responsibility here.  However, it also means that we are in control of this offered grace.  What I mean is we can make the choice to be blessed or not, by confessing Him or not.

The word of encouragement here is that if you choose to stand (live) with Jesus, meaning to live according to His Word (John 8:31, 32), you are not alone!  Yes, God loves you and so do I.

Donnie Bates

Now What? (2)

They had been waiting for Messiah, the Anointed One, the Only Hope of mankind, for centuries.  Now they’ve learned that He came and instead of welcoming Him as Savior (the meaning of His name, Jesus), they crucified Him.  Their hope they destroyed themselves.  What now?

Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

Certainly, this is not all that Scripture says about salvation or about restoring hope, but hope has been restored!  And it has been restored for us, too!!  You realize, of course, that our sins put Jesus on the cross as assuredly as did the actions of those Jews.  The question, “What now?” is applicable today as it was almost 2,000 years ago.

When you feel the weight of guilt that comes with the realization that you are guilty of His blood and all hope seems lost, know that because of God’s love, hope is restored for you.  Heed the commands of His Word with respect to salvation and you will know “now what.”

Truly, God loves you and so do I.

Donnie Bates

What Now? (1)

“…God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36).  Several thousand Jews were gathered, listening to twelve Galileans preach what was the first Gospel sermon in the new age of the church, although they didn’t realize that yet.  And this was the conclusion of that sermon.

The Jews had been looking for Messiah for centuries.  These gathered here had grown up being taught that one day He would come and save them, set up an eternal kingdom; everything about their existence looked forward to that day.  Now, they hear, very convincingly, that He came….and they killed Him!  No wonder their hearts were torn in two (Acts 2:37)!!

I cannot imagine a more discouraging moment in a person’s life.  Their cry to the apostles is understandable, “Brethren, what shall we do?”  Literally their question is, “What are we to do?”  It means, “What can we do?”  “What now?”  In their minds, all hope was gone; they were devastated.

Peter’s answer then is the same as the answer today:  “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

I’m so glad God loves me and He loves you, too, and so do I.

Donnie Bates

The Genuine Article

Magicians are fascinating, aren’t they?  I mean, how do they do some of those things?  Some of their illusions simply boggle the mind!  However, we know they are just that…illusions.

Simon was a magician who worked in the city of Samaria.  He was apparently very good at what he did.  Scripture says he claimed to be someone great, but his ability must have been what convinced some to even call him “The Great Power of God” (Acts 8:10).

One day a preacher came to town; a preacher named Philip.  Philip not only was able to work genuine miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit, he preached the truth of God’s Word and people believed him and were baptized (Acts 8:12); even Simon recognized the genuine article and believed and was baptized (Acts 8:13).

The genuine article brought hope to the people of Samaria.  The genuine article impressed even someone who knew how to pull the wool over the eyes of his audience.  And the genuine article (the truth of God’s Word) can bring hope to people today just as effectively as it did in Simon’s day.

God offers that hope because He loves you and I love you, too.

Donnie Bates

In Hope Against Hope

Romans 4:18:  In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, “So shall your descendants be.”  Paul wrote these words about Abraham, one of Scripture’s greatest examples of faith.

Faith has always been what God asked of mankind; faith in Him, as opposed to listening to the lies of the father of lies…Satan himself (John 8:44).  The greatest encouragement that can be offered is that in faith all the things that plague us in this life can be endured and overcome with the hope of a better life to come.

We must understand, however, that by “faith” we mean complete and total submission to the will of God in order to receive the grace He as offered.  It is not a matter of “adding” something to faith (e.g. obedience); obedience cannot be separated from faith (James 2:19-26).

Abraham believed “in hope against hope.”  We did not deserve the offering of hope, but it was offered.  And if you, in hope against hope, believe (have faith) and all that means, you can endure and overcome the troubles and cares of this life.  Yes, God loves you and so do I.

Donnie Bates

Fitted and Held Together – Part 2

God wants His church to be unified!  This truth is easily seen in Scripture.  It’s what Jesus prayed for (John 17:20, 21).  As we noted in Part 1, it’s God design for us to have a united, strong spiritual family to help prepare us for eternity with Him.

However, what happens when there is division (and the fact is there is much division in the religious world, and perhaps in your congregation)?  What do we do when the family that God intends to support you, doesn’t do it’s job?

Christians must never forget the promise of the Father to never leave or forsake us.  After giving a list of practical instructions, the writer of Hebrews says this:  …for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.  What will man do to me?”  (Hebrews 13:5b, 6).

Whether or not others fulfill their responsibility, you may take comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone.  God is with you.  He gives that solemn promise because He loves you and I remind you of it because I love you, too.

Donnie Bates