“Snake oil never works on a Snake bite!”

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Mar 312019

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Snake oil never works on a Snake bite!”  By:  Ron Woodrum

  Jay Rathman was hunting deer in the Tehema Wildlife Area near Red Bluff in northern California. He climbed to a ledge on the slope of a rocky gorge. As he raised his head to look over the ledge above, he sensed movement to the right of his face. A coiled rattlesnake struck with lightning speed, just missing Rathman’s right ear! The four-foot snake’s fangs got snagged in the neck of Rathman’s wool turtleneck sweater, and the force of the strike caused it to land on his left shoulder. It then coiled around his neck. He grabbed it behind the head with his left hand and could feel the warm venom running down the skin of his neck, the rattles making a furious racket. He fell backward and slid headfirst down the steep slope through brush and lava rocks, his rifle and binoculars bouncing beside him. “As luck would have it”, he would later report, “I ended up wedged between some rocks with my feet caught uphill from my head. I could barely move!” He got his right hand on his rifle and used it to dislodge the fangs from his sweater, but the snake had enough leverage to strike again! “He made about eight attempts to hit me with his nose hitting me just below my eye four times. I kept my head turned so he could not get a good angle with his fangs. But oh, it was so very close. This snake and I were eyeball to eyeball and I found out that snakes do not blink! He had fangs that looked like darning needles! I had to choke him to death. It was the only way out. I was afraid that with all the blood rushing to my head that I would become light headed and pass out. After I strangled the snake, I tried to toss the dead snake aside, but my hands could not let go! I had to pry my fingers from its neck!” Rathman, who was 45, and worked for the Department of Defense in San Jose, said the entire encounter lasted 20-30 minutes! Warden David Smith of the Wildlife Area says of meeting Rathman: “He walked toward me holding this string of rattles and said with a grin on his face, ‘I’d like to register a complaint about your wildlife here!’ “

Not all encounters with such poisonous vipers turn out so well! In Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh India, in May of 2018, a 35 year old woman, named Devendri, a mother of five, was out gathering fire wood, when she was bitten by a Cobra. She ran home to tell her husband Mukesh. Instead of rushing to a hospital to get treatment with some anti-venom, the husband called the local snake charmer. He suggested a bizarre treament,(his version of snake oil treatment), which he assurred them that it would suck out the poison. His treatment was to bury her in cow dung. Husband and wife complied. Devendri was buried in cow dung. 75 minutes later she was dead…not as a result of the poison, (though that was inevitable), but she died of suffocation. Mukesh was left to raise his five children alone. The police were called to investigate and the Station house officer said, “no charges were to be filed!” Wrong remedy to a toxic venom!

One month later, in June of 2018, in Corpus Christi, Texas-(town named after the Body of Christ), Jennifer and Milo Sutcliffe were working in their yard. Jennifer spotted a four foot long rattlesnake. She pointed it out to her husband. Milo grabbed a shovel and quickly severed the head of the predator. All was well! Milo, confident they had avoided a disastrous encounter, went to pick up the decapatated snake. He picked up the body, went to pick up the severed head, when he was suddenly bitten on the hand…BY THE SEVERED HEAD! He immediately experienced seizures, loss of vision, internal bleeding. His hand swelled up and was covered with dark purple bruises. By the time he got to the hospital, doctors told Jennifer that her husband may not make it. He was given large amounts of anti-venom, but continued to deteriorate. Usually a victim responds and improves after one or two doses. Milo was given a whopping 26 doses of a very expensive anti-venom before he finally stabilized! His encounter became a matter of life and death, and he almost did not escape.

  Reading of those encounters reminded me of how the Bible warns us of that Old Serpent the Devil, who is constantly looking for that opportunity to strike at us and inject his deadly poison. We first hear of him in Genesis 3:1 and see his constant attacks until he is destroyed in Revelation 20:2. No wonder the Bible tells us to be on the alert…to live our lives vigilant and watchful ,lest we be struck with his viscious attacks. He makes our Christian life a struggle. We sometimes lose battles to him. But, we are promised that when we rely on the strength and presence of our Living Lord, we can walk in victory over him. He causes us to “always triumph over the evil one”. But there is a passage in Scripture in Numbers 21 gives us an answer to the inward poison of sin that is destroying man. God provided a miracle deliverance lifted up in the hand of His deliverer Moses. All that the bitten people had to do was to “look and live”. Jesus in John 3:14-18…and John 12:27-34. Jesus pointed back to incident to show that that incident was a Divine deliverance to an earthly problem. But that He was the Divine deliverance to an eternal problem! The first remedy pointed to the final remedy. That is the message today. The Bronze Serpent on the pole that brought deliverance and healing to the bitten children of Israel was a precursor to the Cross of Christ…that He would be lifted up on to be judged for the sin and poison from that Old Serpent. Faith in His finished work on that tree would become the only eternal anti-venom to the Serpent’s bite. The world, like the snake charmer in India, offering snake oil, for a snake bite, will find out that it provides no healing whatsover, only death. Eternal death. The only hope for a bitten world is to Look and Live. That Cross is Better than any snake oil on a deadly snake bite!

Snake Oil, Snake Bite by Dilruba Ahmed

They staunched the wound with a stone.

They drew blue venom from his blood til there was none.

When the veins ran true his face remained lifeless

Until the mothers of the village wept and prayed til heaven had little choice

But to grant their supplications and God made the Boy breathe again.

God breathes life into us, it is said, only once. But this case was an exception.

God drew back a giant gust and blew life into the boy

And like a stranded fish, he shuddered, oceanless.


It was true: the boy lived.

He lived for a very long time.

The toxins were an oil slick: contaminated and cleaned. But just as soon as the women

Kissed redness back into his cheeks

The boy began to die again.

He continued to die for the rest of his life.

The dying took place slowly, sweetly. The dying took a very long time.

 Posted by at 4:23 pm


Mar 172019


        Matthew 27:36 says “And sitting down they were watching Him there”. Mark 15:40 says, “The women were there looking from afar off and were looking on” . He lists them, “Mary Magdalene, Mary of James the least, and Joseph’s mother,( John calls her of Clopas), and Salome”. Luke says, in 23: 35 and 48-49 “And stood there the people beholding. “”And all the people that came together to that sight , beholding those things which were done, smote their breasts, and all his acquaintance, and the women that followed Him, stood afar off beholding these things”. John, some sixty years later, writes under inspiration and memory of the Holy Spirit’s guiding, “Now there stood by the Cross of Jesus, his Mother Mary, her sister Mary Cleopas, (his Aunt Mary), and Mary Magdalene” (Three Marys at the cross). The Gospel narratives seems to emphasize the impact this execution had on the spectators that day. Matthew puts the emphasis on the gurads who were “watching” the crucifixion-pointing to the fact that it was their duty to guide and guard each action that occurred. They were in a recling position. ( The word watch is “tereo” meaning to “watch over and guard”. But of course such guarding involved actively observing every movement, word, and reaction of the other bystanders. Mark points out, as the crucifixion neared the end, that the women there could take it no longer, and had moved away quite a distance, not able to bear it any longer. (“makrothen”-meaning a substantial distance yet still in sight of all occurring). Mark says, “They kept on watching from afar…and they were looking on”. The word looking is “thereo” from “theomai” meaning “to gaze, to partake of, to contemplate with analyzing” It is the root from which we get the word “theater”. It means “to take in with comprehension and understanding”-“a theater is where people concentrate on the meaning of an action or a performance” . Luke, likely writing the crucifixion from Mary’s eyewitness perspective, uses the same word-“thereo” but says that the crowds that had come together beheld, (thereo) the spectacle (Theorian). The emphasis indicates a “happening that is hard to view and understand with comprehension of meaning”. Viewing the spectacle of Calvary caused almost all of the spectators to beat their own breasts to dull the deep pain viewing this spectacle first hand, with their own eyes, had caused them to feel. Eyewitness viewing was that impactful. We all must wonder what it would have been like to have been, as John writes of the women, sixty years later in his memory, that they were “standing by the cross of Jesus”. Mel Gibson, in his Passion of the Christ, has done a theatrical spectacle quite realistic in order to transport us to their side. That is why we find it so hard to watch-so overwhelming. So crushing! In our own way we leave the presentation “beating our breasts” like they did, though maybe not literally. That kind of experience is critical for Christians-we must never forget that spectacle!

Charles Spurgeon, in his daily devotional, called Morning and Evening, writes, “Abide hard by the cross and search out the mystery of His wounds”. John R.W. Stott tells us why that is a valuable exercise for the believer. He says, “The cross is the blazing fire at which the flame of our love is kindled, but we have to get near enough for its sparks to fall on us!” That is why Jennie Evelyn Hussey wrote, in her hymn Lead Me To Calvary, sings “King of my life, I crown thee now;Thine shall the glory be; Lest I forget Thy Thorn-crowned brow; Lead me to Calvary.” Refrain reminds us-“Lest I forget Gethsemane; Lest I forget Thine agony; lest I forget Thy love for me; Lead me to Calvary”

Every year during this season it is a privilege, It is a mandate. It is an imperative given by God for your Pastor to stand in this pulpit and summon you to come to Calvary. To encourage you to “abide hard by the cross to search out that mystery!” To encourage you to come close enough to “let the sparks from the fire fall on your cold heart, to kindle a new passion in your heart” as you relive His ultimate sacrifice for you and I. Many famous painters have taken the time and their talents to preserve and portray for us the spectacle with such vividness that it enables us to answer the question of the old Spiritual-Where you there when they crucified my Lord? with a clear affirmative-yes! And as we revisit Golgotha annually it is my assignment to portray it in a worthy enough manner that your love for Him leads you to respond in kind. Rembrandt van Rijm, the great Dutch Rennaisance painter painted several scenes of the Crucifixion during the mid 1600’s. They tell us that he usually included himself in each, sometimes in a subtle way, and sometimes, as in the Raising of the Cross, in an explicit way, with him being the man with the Dutch painter’s beret, helping to raise the Cross of Christ! His way of saying, we were all there, we were all involved, we all played a part in His necessity to dying that death! As we visit there again, whether we come, like we did last Sunday, through the words of Israel King-Sweet Singer, and view the cross from the perspective of the Forgotten I AM, and view the cross from the perspective of the Son of God being Abandoned by the Father, Abhorred by the Fools, and Attacked by the Fiend, (Satan), written 1000 years before it occurred, or whether, like today we return to stand beside the cross of Jesus, seeing it portrayed by the Prophet of the Gospel of Love, Isaiah, as he paints the portrait of the Suffering Servant as He endures the Stripe of Sin to Redeem us. We must come to this Holy Ground, focus all of our heart, mind, soul, and person on what we see. Let me again share the words of Spurgeon, which he wrote of Psalm 22, but find application for Isaiah 53 as well. “For plaintive expressions uprising from unutterable depths of woe we may say of this Psalm, that there is none like it. It is a photograph of our Lord’s saddest hours. The record of his dying thoughts and words, the lachrymatory of his last tears…the memorial of his expiring joys. David and his afflictions may be here in a modified sense, but as the star is concealed by the light of the rising of the Sun, he who sees Jesus will probably neither see, nor care to see David. We should read reverently, pulling off our shoes from off our feet, as Moses did at the burning bush, for IF THERE BE HOLY GROUND ANYWHERE IN SCRIPTURE…IT IS THIS PSALM!” That is certainly true of Isaiah report of the Suffering Servant of Yahweh, the Suffering Messiah of Calvary, as he voluntarily yielded His soul as a Sacrifice to Satisfy the Stripe of Sin for a world of sinners! You and I so included that if we were the only ones he would have still paid the price in full!

In this perspective I want to give you three real life examples of what “abiding hard at the Cross can do for your heart today. The first comes from a famous Christian named Nicholas Ludwig Zinsendorf. On May 20, 1719 he, his brother Frederick, and a dear friend and tutor Herr Riederer entered the art gallery at Dusseldorf, Germany. They had been on a tour of Europe’s galleries to take in all the masterpieces. As he toured the gallery he was drawn to a particular painting-by Dominico Feti titled Ecce Homo (Behold the Man). It showed Jesus being presented by Pilate for Crucifixion, with a crown of thorns on his head. Underneath the artist had written the words “This I have done for you. What have you done for me?” He immediately thought of how he loved to read the Bible. How he loved to sing hymns. How much he did love the Lord. But somehow these things seemed so insignificant now. But his mind went back to Paedagogium in Halle. He thought about the time he had sat at the table listening to all that Bartholomaus Ziegenbaig, the missionary from India, had to say. Now there was a man who was doing something for Christ. “I will do more” he vowed as he stood in front of the painting. “My life will not be spent for myself”. He finished the rest of the gallery but could not get that painting out of his mind. It transformed his life. He founded a denomination called the Moravians that emphasized a passion heart-felt love for Christians that yielded their resources to sacrificial missionary work all over the world. Even the great John Wesley, upon spending a trip to America with them, credited them for showing him the way to true faith and salvation…”When feeling his heart strangely warmed”. “Sparks from the fire of the cross will do that for believers who are close enough to to have a new passion ignited in their heart for the Saviour.”

Another famous person found that same visit to that Gallery, that painting, impact her life as well. Francis Havergal while advancing her education in Dussseldorf, Germany saw the same painting. She saw Christ standing between Pilate and a crowd demanding death. Pilate says, “ecce homo” “behold the man” . That scene-Jesus whipped mercilessly, wearing a crown of thorns, purple robe of mockery. She copied the caption-“this I did for thee. What hast thou done for me?’ Back home when she relived that emotional moment at the gallery she wrote a poem of five stanzas each ending with a pointed challenge-“what have you done for me?” Reading it again, she thought it a poor poem and threw it in the fireplace. It did not burn. She retrieved them. Showed them to her father. He encouraged her to save them. Years later they became her most famous hymn. I Gave My Life For Thee. “I gave, I gave my life for thee; My precious blood I shed; That thou might ransomed be; and raised up from the dead; I gave my life for thee; what hast thou given for me?’

The third famous person who was impacted by “abiding hard at the cross” was Ernest Borgnine. He recounts the story in the March 1989 Guidepost testimony. While filming the movie Jesus of Nazareth, by Franco Zeffirelli, playing the role of the Centurion, back in 1976 with Anne Bancroft, and Olvia Hussey. The film was shot in January and February in Tunisia on the Mediterranean. He tells his story like this: ” It was cold, windy, and miserable. I was uncomfortable wearing the Roman soldier’s gear, especially the ponderous metal helmut. It made me pity those ancient soldiers. When it came to film my part at the cross, Robert Powell, who was playing Jesus, was given the day off. Zefferelli put a chalk mark on the cross and told me to ‘stare at it as if you were looking at Jesus’. I said, ‘okay’. I tried. I could not do it, I requested, ‘somebody read me the words of Jesus as He hung on the cross’. The director agreed to do that. I knew the words from my youth, and from reading for the part. I stared at the chalk mark and began to think like the centurion. That poor man up there, I thought. I met him. He healed my servant. He is the son of God. An unfortunate claim during these perilous times. But I know he is innocent of any crimes”. As Zefferelli read Jesus saying ‘father forgive them’ I felt so ashamed! I thought if you forgive me too, I will retire from soldiering and live out my life on that farm land outside of Rome. Then it happened! I no longer saw the chalk mark. I saw Jesus, on the cross! Not Robert Powell, the actor. Jesus! Pain-seared. sweat-stained. blood flowing from the crown. His face filled with compassion. He looked down at me, through tragic sorrowful eyes, with an expression of love beyond description. He cried out ‘it is finished’. ‘Into thy hands I commend my spirit’. His head slumped to one side! I knew he was dead. A terrible grief welled up inside of me. I became oblivious to the camera. I started sobbing uncontrollably, Zefferilli yelled, ‘Cut’. Olivia was crying. Anne Bancroft was crying, I wiped my eyes and looked again. Jesus was gone! That encounter changed my life. Made my faith real… Was a profound conversion experience. I have not been the same person since! As the centurion learned 2,000 years ago, you cannot encounter Jesus like that without being changed forever!” May that be your encounter today as we visit Mt. Calvary located in this text of Isaiah 52/53.

Two last quotes- J.I. Packer wrote, “The traveler through the Bible landscape misses his way as soon as he loses sight of hill called Mt. Calvary”. J. Knox Chambliss wrote, ” The Spirit does not take his pupils beyond the cross, BUT EVER MORE DEEPLY INTO IT!” May that be your worship experience today. “EVER MORE DEEPLY INTO HIS CROSS!”

 Posted by at 1:11 pm


Mar 102019


    One of the most controversial rock groups since the 1990’s is the rock group Korn. The Chicago Tribune described the group as “perverts, psychopaths, and paranoiacs”. Their heavy metal music and explicit lyrics had earned them quite a reputation-a bad one! But they made news March 3, 2005 when a close friend gave Korn’s lead guitarist Brian “Head” Welch a Bible. He was addicted to Xanax, and crystal meth, as well as alcohol. He was miserable. After reading portions of the Bible he announced that he had accepted The Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. He told MTV and an audience of 10,000 attendees at Valley Bible Fellowship of Bakersfield, California that this is “not about religion, it is not about this Church, it is not about me. It is about Jesus Christ and the Book Of Life. Everyone needs to be taught this. God went to a rock concert and found a hurting soul on stage. I am the happiest man in the world”. Exactly one week later, Welch left skeptics without any doubt, when he and 20 others flew to Israel to follow the Lord Jesus Christ in baptism in the Jordan River. On March 10, 2005 he and 20 white-robed pilgrims were baptized by the Pastor Ron Vetti, of the Valley Bible Fellowship in the Jordan River, confessing Jesus publically as Savior to the entire world. Welch said, “I am going home a totally different and new man”. He followed up his baptism with a new album and a new autobiography both entitled Save Me from Myself. Welch’s actions raise a lot of questions. Why go to Israel to be baptized in the Jordan River? Why be baptized at all? What does it mean to follow the Lord in baptism? Most people both in and outside the Church today see baptism as much an enigma as John the Baptist did of Jesus’ baptism over 2,000 years ago. As we preach this series on “following Jesus” we need to follow him to the Jordan River. We need to ask and answer why He was baptized by John the Baptist. What did that act that he initiated His public ministry with mean? For Him? For us? What does it mean for us to “follow the Lord in baptism?”

According to two N.T. passages Jesus’ baptism was to be an inauguration of the public ministry He was embarking on. According to Matthew 3:13-17, while John the Baptist was baptizing a steady stream of Jewish converts who were showing repentance and readiness for the coming Messiah, Jesus Himself showed up and requested that John baptize Him. John kept on refusing to do so, declaring his own unworthiness, and need to be baptized by Jesus the Messiah. Jesus convinced him to allow it at this time “to fulfill all righteousness”. John agreed. As he immersed Jesus in the Jordan River, he heard a voice from heaven declaring, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased”, and he saw “the Spirit of God descending upon Him in the form of a dove” anointing Him for His mission and ministry as Messiah. Then as you turn to John 1:31-34 we hear John the Baptist saying, “I knew Him not; but so that He might be made manifest to all Israel I came baptizing with water…and I saw the Spirit descending from heaven, in the form of a dove, and abode on Him. I knew Him not…but He who sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, ‘upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining on Him, is the same that will baptize with the Holy Spirit’. I saw and bore witness this one is the Son of God”. Those two narratives describe an event that was a fulfillment of two prophecies about the Messiah. One is Psalm 2. In that Psalm we read about the Son of God who will come to rule and judge the rebellious and mutinous nations. God says, “This is my beloved Son, this day I have begotten thee…and I will give you the nations for your inheritance”. (Psalm 2:1). But Jesus’ baptism was fully explained in Isaiah 42:1 “Behold my Servant, whom I uphold, in whom my soul delighteth, (equivalent in Hebrew to the Greek ‘in whom I am well pleased’.), and will give thee to the covenant people, and for a light to the nations, to open blind eyes, to set free prisoners from prison and the darkness of the prison house.” As Jesus began His ministry He submitted Himself to a ceremony that symbolized and pictured what His mission would be as the Suffering Servant Messiah. He would not just be the King, Son of the Most High, come to rule the nations. He would be Suffering Servant come to give His life as predicted of Him in Isaiah 53. All of that was pictured in His baptism. The Spirit would come on Him and empower Him to live a righteous life, and sacrifice Himself as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. Those who would trust Him to be the one to take away their sins, by His sacrifice, would publically declare it by following His example, and submit to water baptism, as He did. By that they would foreshadow what His sacrifice would do for them. His Spirit baptism would put them in union with Him, and His Spirit would enable them to die to sin, self, and the world, and be raised spiritually to walk in newness of life. His baptism prophesied His mission. Their baptism prophesied their deliverance from sin. Psalm 2 ends by giving all the command to “kiss the Son and give evidence to their faith and trust in Him” to be the Savior and King He came to be. Baptism is the public demonstration where we can “kiss the Son” and declare our faith in Him. Through our union with Him we have died to sin and self and risen to walk in Him.  

Having John baptize Him was Jesus’ “Crossing the Rubicon”. On January 10, 49 B.C. Julius Caesar, with all of his troops, was sitting on the banks of the Rubicon River that separated Italy from Gaul. For him to cross into Italy with his troops was to break the law of Imperium, which forbid any unauthorized generals and troops from entering the country as a military unit. To do so was to be penalized by death for the general and the troops. That night Caesar and his troops slept on the banks of the Rubicon. The next morning, stating he had been given a word from god, he uttered these words “alea iacta est” -“the die is cast” and he and his troops “crossed the Rubicon”. That phrase has become an idiom for going to the “point of no return”. It has come to mean “make a choice and face whatever consequences it brings“-no turning back. That is what Jesus did in submitting to John’s baptism. He was committing Himself to all it would be to “fulfill at righteousness” as the Suffering Servant Messiah and as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. All of that mission and ministry would be pictured in His baptism. Entering the water, lying down in the water, being buried totally in the water, and rising up out of the water. There is the vivid panorama of what it would take to “fulfill all righteousness” in obedience to the will of His Father. He would be empowered by the Spirit to live under the law, to redeem those who had broken the law. He would, as Hebrews says, “offer Himself as a sacrifice through the power of the Eternal Spirit, to be the perfect one-time sacrifice, to redeem all those who put their trust in Him. (Heb.9:14).

Jesus then gave His Church the commission to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever He commanded. (Matt. 28:19-20). That gave all who would hear the good news of the Gospel, illustrated by Jesus Death, Burial, and Resurrection, pictured in His baptism, the opportunity to follow Him in baptism, and thereby trust His redemptive work, which would unite them with Him, in His Death and Resurrection, and Spirit’s filling and anointing, enabling them to die to the old life, and be raised to walk in newness of life. (See Rom. 6:14). Our baptism, picturing the baptism of the Spirit, is our “Crossing the Rubicon“. It is us choosing to “cast the die”. It is the linking of our faith and trust with His redemptive work, resulting in a transforming salvation. C.S. Lewis talked about the miracle of this work of Christ in our lives. He wrote, “The Christian way is different: harder and easier. Christ says, ‘Give me All. I don’t so much want your time and so much your money and so much your work: I want you! I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down…Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked-the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: My own shall become yours’ “That is what happens when we follow the Lord in baptism, and begin living out the actuality of the Sprit’s baptism. That is what God wanted when He commanded in Psalm 2-“kiss the Son, lest He be angry with you!” Paint a picture of Him, by your submission to Him, and display His beauty for all the world to see.

Charles Spurgeon tells the story about an artist who was a contemporary with him, though he had never met him. His name was Gustave Dore. One day when Gustave Dore was working on a painting of Christ, a lady friend came to visit his studio and began gazing intently at the face, almost completed. As she was gazing, the artist retired from the picture to a corner of the room, and looked at the face of his friend, as she looked intently on the face on the canvas. Turning around she asked, “Why do you look at me so anxiously?” “I wanted to watch your face as you looked at His face-I think you like it”, He insisted. “Yes, I do”, she told him. “Do you want to know what I was thinking? -I was thinking that you could never paint the face of Christ like you have unless you loved Him!” “Do I love Him?’ Dore asked in agitation. “I trust I do-and that sincerely; but as I love Him more, I shall paint Him better!” Baptism, and the new life that follows, is the opportunity to show our love for Him by painting His portrait on the canvass of our lives for the world to see how our faith, in His redemptive work, is the only hope we have of fulfilling all righteousness, and restoring the glory God intended for us in the beginning. “Kiss the Son”

 Posted by at 1:04 pm

“Look to that precious standard of life…never to be wrested from our hands”.

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Mar 032019

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Look to that precious standard of life…never to be wrested from our hands”.       By:  Ron Woodrum

One of the greatest preachers of all human history was Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Each Sunday his sermons were telegraphed and printed to most of the major cities of the world. They were printed and passed out like gospel tracts, which indeed they were. Unnumbered millions came to faith through his preaching and through the printing of those sermons. His sermons always seemed to center on the Cross of Jesus Christ. No matter from what passage of Scripture he took as his text he always managed to travel from it to the place of the cross. When someone asked him why God honored his preaching he said, “I simply announce my text and make a bee-line for the cross!” He clearly understood the words of Jesus who had said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all the world to myself” (John 12:32). Why did he understand that message so much? Because he had indeed experienced the truth of it. His conversion experience happened one Sunday morning when he was only 14 years old. He was walking to his father’s Church for services when a snowstorm hindered him from getting there. He turned in to a little Primitive Methodist Church for worship. The pastor was snowed in and could not make it. A layman led the service that was attended by only 14 people. Young Spurgeon made it 15! Listen to his testimony of that morning in his own words:

“I sometimes think I might have been in darkness and despair until now had it not been for the goodness of God in sending a snowstorm, one Sunday morning, while I was going to a certain place of worship. When I could go no further, I turned down a side street, and I came to a little Primitive Methodist Chapel. In that chapel there may have been a dozen or fifteen people. I had heard of Primitive Methodists, how they sang so loudly they made people’s heads ache; But that did not matter to me. I wanted to know how I might be saved, and if they could tell me that, I did not care how much they made my head ache. The minister did not come that morning; he was snowed up, I suppose. At last, a very thin looking man-a shoemaker, or tailor, or something of that sort, went up to the pulpit to preach. Now it is well that preachers should be instructed, but this man was really stupid. He was obliged to stick to the text, for the simple reason that he had little else that he had to say. The text was-LOOK UNTO ME, AND BE YE SAVED, ALL THE ENDS OF THE EARTH. He did not even pronounce the words rightly, but that did not matter. There was, I thought, a glimpse of hope for me in that text. The preacher began thus-‘My dear friends, this is a very simple text indeed. It says-LOOK. Now looking don’t take a great deal of pains. It ain’t liftin your foot or your finger; it is just LOOK! Well a man needn’t go to college to LOOK. You may be the biggest fool, yet you can LOOK. A man needn’t be worth a thousand a year to LOOK. Anyone can LOOK. Even a child can LOOK. The text says LOOK UNTO ME.- (he said in broad ESSEX accent) many of ye are looking to yourselves, but it’s no use looking there! You will never find comfort for your souls there! Some look to God the Father. No, look to Him by and by. Jesus says, LOOK UNTO ME! Some say we must wait for the Spirit’s workin’. You have no business with that just now. LOOK TO CHRIST! The text says LOOK UNTO ME.’ Then the good man followed up his text in this way-‘Look unto me I am sweatin’ great drops of blood. Look unto me I am hanging on the Cross. Look unto me I am dead and buried. Look unto me I rise again. Look unto me I ascend into heaven. Look unto me I am sittin’ at the Father’s right hand. O poor sinner look unto me. Look unto me.’

When he had gone to about that length, and had managed to spin out ten minutes or so, he was at the end of his tether. Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I dare say, with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger. Just fixing his eyes on me, as if he knew all my heart, he said, ‘young man you look miserable’. Well I did. But I had not been accustomed to have remarks made about it from the pulpit on my personal appearance ever before. However, it was a good blow that struck right home. He continued, ‘and you will always be miserable-miserable in life-miserable in death-if you don’t obey my text; but if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved!’ Then, lifting his hands, he shouted, as only a Primitive Methodist could do, ‘Young man, look to Jesus Christ! LOOK…LOOK…LOOK! YOU HAVE NOTHING TO DO BUT TO LOOK AND LIVE!’ I saw at once the way of salvation. I know not what else he said-I did not take much notice of it. I was so possessed with that one thought. Like the brazen serpent that was lifted up in the wilderness, the people only looked and they were healed. So, it was with me. I had been waiting to do fifty things. But when I heard that word LOOK—what a charming word it seemed to me! Oh, I looked until I could have almost looked my eyes away. There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness rolled away, at that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen in an instant, and sung with the most enthusiastic of them, (enough to make a man’s head ache!) of the precious blood of Christ and the simple faith which looks alone to Him. Oh, that somebody had told me this before…Trust Christ and you shall be saved! Yet it was, no doubt, all wisely ordered and now I can say–

Ever since by faith I saw the stream

       Thy flowing wounds supply

    Redeeming love has been my theme

        And shall be til I die”

A little over one hundred years later, another famous British journalist saw the same Cross. Famed journalist Malcom Muggeridge told how he had resisted the message of the cross all his life, until one day it drew him to surrender to the Christ of the Cross and it became a treasure to wear over his heart, and a standard of salvation never to be wrested out of his hands. He wrote: “From time to time I would catch a glimpse of a cross. Not necessarily a crucifix. Maybe two pieces of wood accidently nailed together…or a telegraph pole for instance—and suddenly my heart would stand still. In an instinctive and intuitive way, I understood that it represented something more important, more tumultuous, more passionate, than all other good causes, however admirable they might be. It was, I know, an obsessive interest…I might fasten bits of wood together myself, or doodle it when I was writing. This symbol, which was considered derisory in my home, yet also the focus of inconceivable hopes and desires…as I remember this, a sense of my own failure lies leadenly upon me. Long before I did…I should have worn it over my heart; carried it, a precious standard never to be wrested from my hands…it should have been my cult, my uniform, my language, my life. I shall have no excuse. I cannot say I didn’t know earlier. I knew from the beginning and turned away all those years”

But like Spurgeon, after embracing the Christ of that Cross. After looking only to Him and that finished work on the cross for salvation. It did, as it should all of us, become our cult, our uniform, our language, our life, never to be wrest from our hands or hearts. Calvary calls…..LOOK AND BE SAVED TO THE UTTERMOST!

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