Since John the Baptist, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and many are “forcing their way into it” (Luke 16:16).
John the Baptist was the forerunner, paving the road and preparing the people for Christ (Matthew 4:17, 11:11; Luke 1:17) and for the disciples (Matthew 10:7). Then, like the morning star before the sun, John diminished (John 3:30), and many wanted to get into the kingdom of God, including Pharisees and Sadducees, tax collectors, and soldiers (Matthew 3:7, Luke 3:12-14). The kingdom of God has been forcefully advancing (Matthew 11:12).
Many desire to get into the kingdom of God and run away from their misery and from hell (Luke 10:42, Psalm 27:4). Once the opportunity to get in is gone, those not in will be left and cast outside. No one can comprehend the power of God’s anger. So, press earnestly, firmly, and steadily to try to get in.
The path to get in is difficult to find (Matthew 7:14, Luke 13:24). Like searching for the hidden treasure (Proverbs 2:1-5), use our utmost energy (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Such desires depend on God giving our hearts the resolutions.
To press implies there will be barriers, opposition, and difficulty along the way. And devils will continue to distract and discourage us. But with God’s given earnest spirit, press on (Philippians 3:10-11). Look up to God and repent. God’s mercy is sufficient to enable us to get in (Acts 8:22, 2 Timothy 2:25, Jonah 3:8-9).
Be willing to sacrifice everything to get in. Crucify our possessions, pride, and worldly wishes for the interest of our soul, and for our salvation (Galatians 5:24; Luke 3:19; Matthew 14:3, 19:16-22). Also, forget our accomplishments. If we want to reminisce, remember our past mistakes (Jeremiah 2:23). Forge ahead for our salvation (Philippians 3:13-14).
To conclude, persevere to the end. Don’t arouse God’s anger (1 Corinthians 10:22, Ezekiel 22:14). Since no one knows how much time is left, now that we still have the opportunity, press on to get into the kingdom of God.
A summary of a sermon by Jonathan Edwards:
Let’s understand some of Christ’s diverse characters, such as a lion and a lamb, or a root out of dry ground and the life-giving tree (Revelation 5:5-6, 7:17; Genesis 49:9; Isaiah 53:2).
Christ obeys, yet is equal to, the Father. All things depend on Christ, yet Christ is reliant on the Father (Luke 22:41; John 14:21, 15:10, 10:18; Hebrews 5:8; Philippians 2:8; Matthew 27:43; 1 Peter 2:23).
Christ has infinite glory, majesty, with absolute sovereignty, and worthy to have all the good; yet descended on earth, living humbly, gently, and calmly; serving the weak, lowly and despicable; patiently enduring terrible suffering and humiliation; and dying on the cross (Proverbs 30:4; Job 11:8; James 2:5; 1 Corinthians 1:28, 5:7; Colossians 1:16-18, 3:11; Matthew 19:14, 11:29, 21:4-5, 11:29, 8:3, 26:39, 42; Philippians 2:6; John 5:23; Hebrews 1:6, 8, 6:15; Psalm 45:3, 22:14; John 5:17; 1 Peter 2:20-24; and Isaiah 53:7).
Christ was born in a manger from poor parents, submitting to them for 30 years; yet born via the Holy Spirit, with power over Satan, as our Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the bright Morning Star (Luke 2:24, 1:35; Leviticus 5:7; Isaiah 9:6; Numbers 24:17; Revelation 22:16).
Christ had no place to sleep, with livelihood supported by female followers; yet had power over nature, walking on water, calming the sea, casting demons to pigs, curing sickness, and raising the dead, with voice from the heaven proclaiming Him being the beloved Son of the Father (Luke 9:58, 8:3; John 2:11; Job 9:8; Psalm 65:7, 107:29, 89:8-9; Matthew 17:1-3, 5; 2 Peter 1:16-17).
Christ was treated as the worst criminal, delivered to His enemies, and forsaken by the Father and everyone; yet gained complete victory and was exalted to the highest, with His name above all names, and receiving praises and glory from millions of angels (John 19:15; Luke 22:53, 23:34; Isaiah 53:10; Acts 2:23, 3:17, 2:36-37; Revelation 14:1, 5:9-12; Philippians 2:8-9; Colossians 2:14-15).
At the last judgment, our totally merciful Christ will appear as the bridegroom to the church, inheriting the Kingdom with them forever. Yet earth and heavens will tremble before our totally just Christ (Revelation 20:11, Psalm 85:10, Romans 3:25-26).
We, the worm of the dust, should desire no other savior than Christ, who gently and humbly knocks at our door, waiting to invite us into the Father’s house; unite us with God; be our friend; defend our safety; give us joy, rest and water of life; and be exalted with us in His glory (Revelation 3:20, 22:16-17; Proverbs 8:4, 9:1-6; Isaiah 55:1-3, 31:4; John 17:21-24, 17:13, 20:17, 17:26-27; Matthew 11:28-30, 26:29; Luke 22:30; Galatians 4:4-6).
Summarized from a sermon by Jonathan Edwards
Examine your faith. Have you cast off duties, particularly difficult ones (Job 27:10), been swallowed up by worldly interest, developed inordinate affection for money or sensual enjoyment (Luke 14:26, 1 John 3:9), or shifted off the responsibility of doing what is right?
Earnestly watch, pray, and strive to be in His grace and not to fall into temptation. In light of your weakness and your powerful enemies, ask God to help us stand firm, particularly in times of trial (Acts 14:22, 11:23, 13:43; Luke 21:34, 36; Ephesians 6:13-14). Seek deeper roots (Ephesians 3:16-17) and bear fruit (2 King 19:30, Joshua 13:5-7).
But many of us are like uncultivated ground, full of seeds and roots of thorns (Matthew 13:7, 22) that have never been plowed.
The thorns grow spontaneously. Our worldly hearts—inordinate affections towards worldly pleasure (lust of the flesh), profits (lust of the eyes), and honor (pride of life)—choke off the words of God, so fruit cannot grow (Jeremiah 4:3, 1 John 2:15, 1 John 2:16, Mark 4:18-19, Luke 8:14).
After the fall, hearts bring forth such thorns (Genesis 3:17-18). Intense worldly concern, affection and pursuits naturally grow. We focus on being superior to others, greed over gain, and carnal pleasures. Not knowing any better happiness, we pursue worldly things above all else. They become the idol we worship.
Unfortunately, such naturally and spontaneously growing thorns are useless (Psalm 4:6), bearing no fruit (Isaiah 55:2, Jeremiah 17:11, Job 20:15), and ending in death (Romans 6:21). Furthermore, such pernicious growth wounds the soul, brings no peace nor rest (Ecclesiastes 5:12), and causes intense conflicts and pain among people (James 4:1, Micah 7:4, 2 Samuel 23:6-7).
Our uncultivated ground needs to be plowed to create good soil (Matthew 13:7, Jeremiah 4:3). Conviction of our sins and repentance can break up our hardened hearts. See the vile nature of sin against God’s glory. Be convinced of the vanity of the world to break us from them. Deny ourselves and renounce our self-righteousness to kill the thorns. Then the seed of the gospel can flourish and bear abundant fruits.
Summary of sermons by Jonathan Edwards:
Many seek wisdom, but our wisdom cannot lead us to God. Our redemption depends entirely on Him, so that no one can boast (1 Corinthians 1:29-31). Instead, God is glorified in our dependence.
First, the redeemed absolutely depend on God; He is the source of all the good in the redeemed.
Redemption is from God. The Father gave us Christ and has accepted Christ’s life for ours. God is not obligated to redeem us; He could have rejected us like He did the fallen angels. Our redemption is God’s grace, a gift that we cannot repay.
Our faith in God is also from God (Ephesians 2:8). God gives us wisdom to know Him. We are considered good and holy before God because of God. (1 Corinthians 1:29-31).
We are reborn, like being raised from the dead, through the redemption (Ephesians 1:19, 2:10, 5:24; 2 Corinthians 5:17).
We are given the Holy Spirit, as promise by the Father, enabling Christ to be in us (1 Corinthians 1:29-31). With the Holy Spirit in us, rivers of living water will flow from us. The Holy Spirit also serves as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (Galatians 3:13-14; Luke 24:49; Ephesians 1:13; John 4:14, 7:38-39; Revelation 2:1; 2 Corinthians 1:22).
We are preserved and protected by God (1 Peter 1:5). We are sufficient because of God (2 Corinthians 4:7). He is not just the source of all that is good, but the medium through whom we receive it.
Through Christ, our mediator provided by Father, we receive our redemption (Hebrews 7:27, 9:26), and we are reborn, becoming good (2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Corinthians 8:6). God is not just the purchaser, He also has paid the price with the ultimate sacrifice.
Not just the source of all good and the medium to get them, God is the good itself.
Everything good that sustains us and brings us joy—such as food, health, etc.—is in God. All that is good within us—the excellency of our soul, our divine nature, our holiness, and our happiness—comes from God, who resides in us as the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:4, Hebrews 12:10).
Second, God is glorified in the work of our redemption. The more we depend on God, the more we see God and God’s glory. We see God’s greatness and our nothingness.
So, we must rely on God alone for our redemption. Trust Him absolutely. Praise and exalt God alone. Ascribe all glory to God.
Summary of a sermon by Jonathan Edwards.
Our sovereign God decides whom He wants to give mercy. For example, He picked Isaac over Ishmael. He hardened Pharaoh. He chose Jacob over Esau before the twins were born. God bestows or denies as He pleases (Romans9:9-18).
His divine will and pleasure also determine the salvation of humans.
For those rejected by God, He withholds His Spirit from them, leaving them in their own ways. Christ ignored the rich and intelligent, such as knowledgeable and religious Pharisees. Though many of them had seen His miracles and heard His teachings, they ignored Him, further hardening their hearts. Then God was obligated to stick to His words to condemn them.
Those elected to be saved go to Father through Christ. They could be wicked. Yet, their salvation would not compromise His words, holiness, majesty, truth, justice, goodness, mercy, and faithfulness. Through Christ, Father can save the greatest sinners without approving their wickedness.
Father bestows salvation to the poor and foolish, corrupted tax collectors, prostitutes, the criminal next to Christ on the cross, and some hearing Christ’s teachings only once (Romans9:23, 1Corinthians1:26-31).
God chose the Jews to give them the opportunities of His grace, leaving to perish gentiles, like the Egyptians, Persians, Greek and Romans. But when the Jews rejected the Messiah, Father replaced them with other nations (Deuteronomy7:7, Malachi1:2-3).
So, for those saved, be humble, and adore and praise God. Out of His sovereign pleasure, He chose them before they were born. One’s salvation and righteousness depend on His will and sovereignty (Deuteronomy32:39, Psalm115:3, Daniel4:34-35, Matthew11:25, 1Corinthians1:29-31, 1Corinthians6:9,11).
But don’t count on God’s mercy and continue to sin. Beware that salvation is not under our control, though Father is bound by His words that anyone can go to Him through Christ (Hebrews6:13-20, 3:15).
On the other hand, don’t be discouraged because of your wickedness. God can bestow salvation to the worst without compromising any of His attributes.
God designs the creation to glorify Himself and manifest His glory in all His characteristics, including His holiness, wisdom, mercy, justice, and sovereignty. It pleases God to exercise His sovereignty and bestow salvation. Glorifying Himself in our salvation pleases Him greatly.
Summary of a sermon by Jonathan Edwards:
Our God is truly mighty. Unlike impotent idols, He knows we are weak and needy, and He hears and answers our prayer requests (Psalms 65:2, 1 Corinthians 8:4). For example, God granted Jacob safety from Esau (Genesis 32:7-12) and Moses safety from Egypt; He gave Samson water and later strength after he was blinded (Judges 16:25-30); He empowered Joshua to stop the sun (Joshua 10:12-14); and He enabled Elijah to stop the rain (1 King 17-18).
Because of His infinite grace and mercy, we—the worthless—can boldly and confidently go to Him for everything we need. God likes to hear from us, particularly if we are righteous (Hebrew 4:16, Song of Solomon 2:14, James 5:16). Prayer acknowledges our dependance on His power and prepares us to give Him glory.
God commands us to pray. He requires prayers to bestow mercy. Though He knows our needs, He wants to appear to be swayed by our prayers, acting in response to them (Proverbs 2:1-5, James 1:5, Acts 8:22).
We are instructed to ask the Father through Christ, our mediator at His right hand. Christ’s obedience to Him has atoned for our sins and earned us His ears (Revelation 8:3-4, Luke 1:10).
But God doesn’t answer requests with wrong motives, such as those born from pride or selfishness. These requests, if granted, can become our idols, later used to oppose Him.
Insincere requests also are ineffective, such as asking God to purge our sins while indulging in them, or or asking humbly while being arrogant inside (James 4:3). And He won’t listen to requests not good for us. He knows what is best and will give much more than our requests (Isaiah 65:24, Habakkuk 2:3, James 1:5-6, Psalm 86:5, Romans 10:12, 1 King 3:10-13, Ephesians 3:20).
Ask and it will be given to you. Don’t be anxious about anything. Give God no rest till He answers your requests, like Jacob not letting God go till getting His blessing, or the blind man shouting for Christ till Christ responded (Matthew 7:7; Luke 18:1-8, 35-43; Luke 11:5-8; Philippians 4:6-7).
So, alertly, persistently, and earnestly pray at all times, without ceasing. Don’t give up. God answers prayers.
Summary of a Jonathan Edwards’ sermon:
上帝是全能的主，与一切无能的偶像不同。 祂知道我们的软弱和需要，聆听并应允我们的祈求 (诗篇 65:2, 哥林多前书 8:4)。祂聆听雅各的祷告, 保护他免受以扫的伤害（创世记 32:7-12）；祂聆听摩西的祷告, 保护他对抗埃及；祂聆听参孙的祷告, 赐给他泉水和失明后的力量（士师记 16:25-30）；祂聆听约书亚的祷告, 停止太阳的转动（约书亚记 10:12-14）；祂聆听以利亚的祷告, 使天停止下雨（列王纪上17-18）。
因为上帝无限的恩典和怜悯，我们这些毫无价值的人也可以坦然无惧，大有信心地为一切所需来祈求。上帝喜欢听到信徒祈求的声音，特别当我们行事公义的时候(希伯来书 4:16, 雅歌 2:14, 雅各书 5:16)。 祷告承认信徒依赖上帝的能力，预备将荣耀归给祂。
上帝命令我们祷告。祂要求信徒祈祷，好使自己赐下怜悯。虽然上帝知道人的需要，但祂希望看起来似乎被祈祷所影响，因祈祷而行动 (箴言 2:1-5, 雅各书 1:5, 使徒行传 8:22)。
此外，当籍着基督祈求天父。 基督在上帝的右边作中保。祂顺从天父为世人舍命赎罪，使天父的耳能垂听我们的祈祷 (启示录 8:3-4, 路加福音 1:10)。
上帝也不听虚伪的祈求，例如在沉迷于罪中的同时祈求上帝清除自己的罪，或者虽然外面的祷告谦卑，内心是狂妄自大 (雅各书 4:3). 如果所求的对人不利，祂也不会应允。上帝知道什么是最好的，祂赐下的超过我们所求所想 (以赛亚书 65:24, 哈巴谷书 2:3, 雅各书 1:5-6, 诗篇 86:5, 罗马书 10:12, 列王纪上 3:10-13, 以弗所书 3:20)。
祈求就给你们。应当一无挂虑，不住地祷告，不让神休息，直到祂回达祈求，就像雅各不让神离开，直至得到祂的祝福；又好像那瞎子不断呼叫基督，直到祂回应自己 (马太福音 7:7; 路加福音 18:1-8,35-43; 路加福音 11:5-8, 腓立比书 4:6-7)。
总而言之，当时常警醒, 坚持不懈, 并认真恳切地不住祷告。 不要放弃，上帝是聆听并应允祷告的主。
Time is precious. Once gone, it can’t be recovered, and we are never guaranteed more of it. Though we see no signs of approaching death, today may be our last (Job 16:22, 9:25-26; James 4:14). Nothing is more precious than time, and yet we waste it like nothing else.
Don’t waste time because God is near (Isaiah 55:6, 2 Corinthians 6:2). Don’t waste time on meaningless or useless things.
Don’t be lazy and merely talk, having nothing to share with those in need. (Proverbs 19:15, 23:21, 14:23, 18:9; Ephesians 4:28). Don’t spend time on evil things, hurting yourself and others, increasing eternal misery and damnation.
Don’t spend time only in worldly pursuits, neglecting your soul and eternity. What do we really gain from pursuing the world? This time is for the eternity that follows it.
Our welfare depends on how wisely we use our time. Have we filled our time with eternal good?
We are accountable to God for our words, deeds, and how we have used our time, because we are God’s servants (Matthew 12:36). When God asks for an account of our time, what can we give? Have we made the best use of it for God and for our soul?
So, hasten and don’t delay obeying God (Psalm 119:60). Make the most of our opportunities, particularly those more important for our eternal life. This includes Sunday public worship in communion with God and His words.
We should use time not just for ourselves, but also to rescue others from their evil ways. So, God may defer anger, allowing such people to be redeemed from destruction.
Work is good, but so is rest and recreation. Use them to refresh for the work you are called to do.
In any case, we may have already wasted a lot of our time. As we get older, our opportunity, availability, and ability to do good diminish. It will be too late if our eyes are finally opened on our death beds. Even worse, if after death we end up in the fire of hell, then we will be left only with sorrow and regrets.
Whether we are young or old, we should diligently redeem time.
Make the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:16). Use time to prepare for our eternity. Beware that the day of judgment is coming soon (Revelation 10:5-6).
Summary of a sermon by Jonathan Edwards:
时间宝贵，一去不复返。 无人能确定自己还有明天。虽然没有看到死亡濒临的迹象，但今天可能就是最后的一天 (约伯记 16:22, 9:25-26; 雅各书 4:14).
不要浪费现今的时光, 亲近上帝吧，因为我们能与祂相近 (以赛亚书 55:6, 哥林多后书 6:2)。 不要把时间浪费在无意义或无用之处。
不要懒惰，不要嘴上多言浪费时间，以致没有什么可以与有需要的人分享 (箴言 19:15, 23:21, 14:23, 18:9; 以弗所书 4:28)。
每个人都要为自己的言行和如何利用时间向上帝负责，因为我们是祂的仆人 (马太福音 12:36)。当上帝要求对过去的时间交代时，如何回答呢？是否为了上帝和自己的灵魂充分地利用好时间呢?
所以要快快地遵守上帝的命令，不要再拖延 (诗篇 119:60)。充分利用现今宝贵的机会，尤其那些对自己永生更为重要的机会，包括与上帝和祂的话语相交的主日敬拜。
可能已经浪费了很多时间. 随着年龄增长，每个人的机会、可用的时间和作善工的能力也不断地减少。 如果在临终前才睁开眼睛领会明白那就太晚了。更糟糕的是如果死后最终落入地狱之火中，剩下的只有永远的悲伤和遗憾了。
当爱惜光阴，利用尚存的时间为永恒作准备(以弗所书 5:16)。留心审判的日子即将来临 (启示录 10:5-6)。
Why do we need friends and how do we meet the need?
We need friends because we are made in the image of God. Our God, the Trinity, includes 3 entities. From eternity, before the existence of the world, the 3 entities are the best of friends.
God also said it was not good for Adam to be alone (Genesis 2:18). Adam needed someone suitable for him to be his helper, whom he could share, trust, and love.
It is also not good for us to be alone. So, we need friends.
What are the main attributes of a friend?
First, a friend lets us in his inner life, willing to share with us his secrets.
We should learn from Christ. He lets us in by sharing with us everything He learnt from His Father (John 15:15).
Christ lets us in by being with us. He doesn’t lay out our whole life before us and leave. Instead, through the Holy Spirit, He is in us, accompanying and guiding us along the way.
Learn to open up ourselves to others but do it slowly. Don’t force others to get into our inner life by opening up too quickly.
Second, a friend doesn’t let us down.
Christ never lets us down. There is no greater love than laying down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:3). That was what Christ did, and His sacrifice has given us life.
Christ loves us not because we are good. We are far from it, but He still loves us.
Christ treats us as His friend. Yet, we rebel against Him. We are not surprised if our enemies harm us. But it is difficult to endure insults from our close friends. Since Christ treats us as His friends, our rebellion hurts Him deeply.
Anyway, learn from Christ regarding friendship. He lets us in by opening Himself to us and by being with us. Also, Christ never lets us down. He even died for us. We should follow Him.
We need friends because we are made in God’s image. To build friendship, learn to let others in and not let them down.
Adapted from a Tim Keller sermon.
The Book of Isaiah is sometimes called the 5th Gospel, due to its extensive coverage on Christ. Its chapter 35 describes glorious prophecies regarding the way of holiness. Its is the way that excludes the wicked and the unclean (v. 8). Heaven does not welcome the unholy (Revelation 21:27).
What is holiness?
Holiness leads one’s heart and life to conform to God and His will, including being just, excellent, loving, and doing as He does. Our life and conversation reflect our hearts. Our deeds reflect our faith. So, without deeds, there is no corresponding faith (James 1:26-27, 2:18-20).
Holiness implies conforming to Christ, the Father’s expressed image (John1:18). Christ is holy. He demands us to follow Him (Matthew11:29). Imitating Christ leads to holiness.
Holiness implies conforming to God’s laws and commands, such as in Psalm 119 and the Sermon on the Mount. These laws are written in our hearts (Jeremiah31:31, 33; IICorinthians3:3).
Holiness is important because our just God must punish sins (Exodus34:7, Numbers14:18). Also, sin leads to misery, causing the soul to suffer. God cannot unite with the unholy. So, the unholy cannot enjoy the love of God, or the happiness of heaven. The unholy will not be admitted into heaven. Otherwise, heaven will be defiled. If heaven is filled with the unclean, heaven will be turned into a mere hell.
Only the born again can be in the Kingdom of God (John3:3). Unless purified by the blood of Christ, our sins will not be forgiven and will be with us. We need to be new, with new attributes, such as love. Without love, we are nothing (1Corinthians13:1-3).
How to test if we are on the way of holiness?
Meditate on God’s holiness. Do our souls conform to it? Do we find delight in the meditation?
Do our souls agree with God’s words, which are written in our hearts? Do our souls love God’s commands?
Does our life resemble in any way the life of Christ?
Are there any similarities between us and the holy people, such as Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Paul?
Do we imitate the heavenly saints and angels? They love God above everything and love each other.
Holiness is a necessity. It makes our soul pure, divine, serene, delightful, bright, and excellent. So, earnestly seek holiness.
Summary of a sermon by Jonathan Edwards
The Ten Commandments primarily focus on behaviors, while the Sermon on the Mount focusses on desires.
According to the Sermon, our goodness needs to be better than that of the teachers of the law and Pharisees. They depended on their works, but actions can be deceiving. Do we refrain from committing crimes for moral reasons, or because we fear getting caught?
Christ focuses on our hearts and desires. Actions arise from them. For example, envy compelled Cain killed Abel, committing the first murder in the Bible.
Hate can lead to murder, so don’t even call someone a brainless idiot or a worthless fool (1 John 3:15, 1 John 2:9, Matthew 5:22). Lustful thoughts can lead to adultery, so we should guard our minds (Matthew 5:28).
“An eye for an eye” should be the job of the government. Police and the court of law are established by God to administer justice, matching punishments to the offense so as to deter criminals and purge evil (Romans 13:1-2, Deuteronomy 19:18-21).
Sometimes, force is necessary. For example, Christ administered justice with physical force in a temple (John 2:13-16). In time of danger, Christ told his disciples to get swords to defend themselves (Luke 22:36-38). Paul exercised his rights as a Roman citizen (Acts 16:35-40). But beware of the consequences. If one lives by the sword, he will die by the sword (John 18:10-11, Matthew 26:52).
There are times to take the unreasonable hit, turn the other cheek, and go the extra mile. Note that insults are difficult to bear. Even Paul could flare up (Acts 23:1-5). But our endurance can turn enemies into friends or, better yet, into followers of Christ.
Christ is our model. He loved His enemies, as shown by His crucifixion. Christ’s behavior even converted the hardcore criminal who was crucified next to Him (Luke 23:39-43).
Christ focuses on our hearts. He wants us to be perfect like our heavenly Father. So, do whatever is necessary to maintain a pure heart (Matthew 5:29-30, 48). But more importantly, rely on our Father in heaven to do so (Hebrews 12:1).
Summary of a sermon by Greg Laurie: