What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?

(What if Jesus had never been born?) Bible Lesson. Teen Bible Lesson.

We all have opportunities everyday to make a difference in someone’s life. Occasionally, we are allowed to see the results of our influence. But many times we never see the fruit of our relationships or see the legacy that we might leave behind.

The life of Jesus clearly shows us the power of a single life lived to God’s glory. If Jesus had never been born, what might our world look like today? What things might be missing? Consider the four areas listed below. Think of ways Jesus has made a difference.

Compassion and Mercy

What hospitals, relief agencies, prison ministries, etc. have their roots in Christianity?

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Value of Human Life

How have Jesus and the spread of Christianity added value and dignity to all human beings?

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Government

If Jesus had never lived, what would America’s legal system look like? What would be the basis for determining right and wrong?

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Education

What role did belief in Jesus play in the development of education in America? How has the world’s education been improved through evangelism?

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Refresh My Heart In Christ (Part 3 of 3)

In Part 1, we learned about how spiritual renewal and salvation are found only in Christ. In Part 2, we are looked at 3 instances where the apostle Paul talks about being refreshed in the Lord. In this final part, let’s consider 2 more ways we can encourage or refresh each other.

Note: Keep in mind that the apostle Paul is directing his remarks about Christians to other Christians.

Our 4th example is Philemon.

Notice Philemon verses 1 – 7. . .

Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved fellow worker and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. (English Standard Version)

#4: We Can Refresh and Encourage Each Other By Actively Loving Each Other and Actively Sharing Our Faith.

This love and faith in action was not only evident in Philemon’s life but also in the lives of the Thessalonian Christians. The faith and love of these mission-minded Christians was well-known; their zeal was contagious. See if you can pick up on these qualities in the tone and content of Paul’s writing. . .

We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia —your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. (I Thessalonians 1:2 – 10; New International Version)

Chapter 2 verse 6 – 8. . .

We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. (NIV)

Verses 11, 12. . .

For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. (NIV)

Chapter 3:5 – 13. . .

For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless.

But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.

Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. (NIV)

The point is they expressed their love and their faith through their lifestyle. They intentionally shared their love, their lives, their faith and the Gospel with others.

To further illustrate, let me ask this question:

“Do you like to provoke others?”

Of course I am not talking about teasing others or trying to pick a fight. But provoking in a good sense: stirring up positive and productive activity; working out the will of God; going beyond lip service and living the life.

Take a few moments to consider these Scriptures. . .

Hebrews 10:23, 24

II Corinthians 9:1, 2

II Timothy 1:6

James 2:14 – 17

I John 3:18

After studying these, did you notice all the stimulation, incitation, stirring up, provocation, zeal, enthusiasm and action that should characterize the Christian’s life?

#5: We Can Refresh and Encourage Each Other By Encouraging Reconciliation and Forgiveness.

While everything about Jesus illustrates the perfect example of forgiveness and reconciliation, the apostle Paul’s relationship with Onesimus and Philemon gives us another great example we can learn from. Notice the real life predicaments each of these Christian brothers faced. . .

Onesimus:

He was the runaway slave who was converted to Christ by Paul in Rome. As a fugitive he could have kept dodging soldiers and bounty hunters. As a Christian, he needed to make amends with his owner. As he returned to his master with this letter in hand, he knew Philemon had the legal power to sentence him to immediate execution. His life hung in the balance as Paul used his full influence on Philemon.

Philemon:

As a wealthy Christian known for his love, hospitality and faith, Paul appeals to his friendship, his status as a Christian leader, his sense of love and compassion. He doesn’t use his apostolic authority to command Philemon to receive Onesimus as an equal Christian brother but notice the subtle tact and pressure of verses 2, 14, 19 and 22.

Paul:

The aged apostle is in prison for the sake of the Gospel. “Philemon” is the only personal letter of his preserved in the New Testament. Obviously he had a personal relationship with both the slave and slave owner. Paul’s objective: to reconcile these two men.

Take the time to deliberately read (study) this short letter:  Philemon. Feel, visualize, and imagine the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation in the lives of these men and in the early church.

Paul was humble.

He was courteous.

He used tact and diplomacy.

He was a little stern but it was wrapped up in gentleness.

The point is he was neither self-righteous nor dogmatic. It was obvious he cared deeply about his two friends; his two brothers in Christ. He understood that Philemon was the victim and that Onesimus was guilty as charged. And yet Paul was sympathetic to their strained relationship and he acted with compassion. Christian love was his motivation.

And when it comes to forgiveness and reconciliation, the blood of Christ can make, should make and does make a difference.

 

Refresh My Heart In Christ (Part 2 of 3)

In Part 1, we learned about how spiritual renewal and salvation are found only in Christ.

In this post and in Part 3, I want to look at 5 instances where the apostle Paul talks about being refreshed in the Lord: being renewed in spirit, being encouraged, being strengthened. And in doing so, consider 5 ways we can encourage or refresh each other.

Note: Keep in mind that the apostle Paul is directing his remarks about Christians to other Christians.

The first instance is found in Romans chapter 15. Here Paul expressed his desire to visit the Christians in Rome. Beginning at verse 22. . .

22 This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.

29 I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ. I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. May the God of peace be with you all. Amen. (English Standard Version)

#1: We Can Refresh and Support Each Other Through Prayer.

Paul was looking forward to a time of rest and renewal with them but he had to get there first. And he wanted to get there in accordance with God’s will. So he urged the Romans to unite and strive with him in prayer. . .

  • Pray “that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea”
  • Pray “that my service in Jerusalem maybe acceptable to the saints”

Paul first expressed his eagerness to fellowship with these Christians in Romans 1:11, 12. . .

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. (New American Standard Bible)

Again what was Paul talking about here? Mutual encouragement! Your faith encourages, strengthens and comforts me. My faith encourages, strengthens and comforts you. You may be facing a crisis or just going through the challenges of everyday life. But just knowing that your brothers and sisters in Christ are right there with you – encouraging you, helping you, wrestling in prayer with you can make all the difference.

Notice Colossians 4:12, 13. . .

Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. (ESV)

#2: We Can Refresh and Support Each Other By Strengthening and Standing With Those Going Through Difficult Times.

Because this point is so closely related to point #1, let us briefly look at 2 Timothy chapter 1. Paul was in prison for the sake of the Gospel and was likely executed shortly after writing this letter. Beginning at verse 15. . .

You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me — may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day! —and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus. You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (ESV)

Onesiphorus encouraged and helped Paul in the midst of Paul’s trial of imprisonment (as in other times). Most of us are familiar with what Jesus said in Matthew chapter 25:35, 36. . .

For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me. (NASB)

We can all agree that filling a need, showing hospitality, and showing compassion benefits both the giver and the recipient. But when the love of Christ is present, the healing power of spiritual encouragement touches and transforms the heart and soul the way nothing else can! Strengthen and stand with others going through difficult times. Bless others the way God blesses us in our times of affliction. . .

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are . . . – II Corinthians 1:3, 4 (NASB)

Our next example is found in I Corinthians chapter 16.

Here Paul commends the encouraging example of three brothers in Christ. Notice verses 13 through 18. . .

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love. You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints. I urge you, brothers, to submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work, and labors at it. I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you. For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition. (New International Version)

#3: We Can Refresh and Encourage Each Other By Being Devoted To The Work Of The Lord.

Paul tells us that the household of Stephanas “devoted themselves to the service of the saints.” The King James Version translated this phrase: “addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.” Not addicted to love or addicted to drugs but addicted to the work of the church.

The point is they didn’t take their responsibilities lightly.

They consecrated themselves.

They were deliberate.

They were committed to action.

They appointed and positioned themselves to carry out the Lord’s work.

They didn’t have a half-hearted, reluctant attitude.

Aren’t faithful, steadfast Christians more encouraging than fair-weather Christians? Isn’t it refreshing when hardworking Christians cooperate in whatever good work or service they set their hands to do? God has given every Christian talent and ability. Whatever He has given you, use it wholeheartedly to serve others and glorify Him!

In Philippians 2 beginning at verse 19, we have two other men who devoted themselves to the work of the Lord and are examples for us today. . .

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.

But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy  on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me. (NIV)

How rare (or common) are two Christians like Timothy and Epaphroditus in the church today?