“From Poverty to Plenty”
Hello and welcome to "Key to the Kingdom." My name is Bret McCasland. I have been extremely blessed throughout my life. I have not had to go without food, clothing, a place to live, and many material blessings. Yes, God has richly blessed me, and for that I am very grateful. However, at times I have felt hungry spiritually. I have felt that I am not filled up with the righteousness of God. And as a result, I am in spiritual poverty. Maybe you can relate. Maybe you have a need to hunger and thirst for righteousness, as Jesus teaches in Matthew chapter 5. That is something we all need on a daily basis, to seek to be filled up with more of God every day. The good news is He wants to fill us up. He wants to take us from spiritual poverty to spiritual abundance. In our lesson today, we will focus on how God does that. We will spend time thinking about God's invitation to receive the free gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. Through Him we have everything we need spiritually. There is nothing we lack as we seek to grow in our relationship with the Lord. If you feel as if you are living in spiritual poverty, I encourage you to stay tuned to this station. I believe today's message will inspire you to think about what Jesus has done to bring you out of poverty and into a life of plenty. Oh, we may never have all we want when it comes to the material blessings of life, but we can have all we need when it comes to our own spiritual life. Join us now as we study together.
There are many people throughout this world who live in poverty. Many people in this world do not have enough to live on from one day to the next, and they simply try to survive. Yes, many people in this world are poverty-stricken. On a regular basis, my ministry, "Key to the Kingdom," takes me to the nation of India; one of the poorest nations in all of the world. When I am there, I see all kinds of poverty situations. Little children running out into the streets and they beg for money for food, or for anything that anybody might possibly give to them. I see places that people live in that we perhaps would not even consider to be a place to live. And, many people throughout the nation of India simply try to make it from one day to the next. They live with all kinds of poverty, and it is a sad situation. Yes, our ministry tries to do various things to help them overcome those poverty conditions. You may not have poverty in your life. You may have been able and blessed enough to escape that sort of problem. But, let me ask you a question, today. Do you ever feel as if you live in spiritual poverty; that there is a gap between you and your relationship with God; and, you are struggling to get by from one day to the next; and, you need some spiritual food and drink to fill you up and to fill the gap that keeps you separated in your relationship with the Lord? If that is the case, I want to let you know today that God invite you to receive His riches and His blessings. He invites you to receive spiritual strength to overcome your spiritual poverty. There are many places throughout the Bible where God extends such an invitation. One such place is found in the Old Testament book of Isaiah. And through that prophet, He invites people to come to Him for that spiritual nourishment. Listen to this passage that is found in Isaiah chapter 55 beginning with verse 1. <“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.> Four times in just those two verses we find the word "come," and God invites people to come to Him to receive what is lacking in their life. And even though people have no money, even though people cannot pay for anything, God offers it to them without any cost. It is absolutely free. Oh, when I think about the invitation that God extends to people, today, perhaps that is the greatest aspect of it. It is absolutely free and it does not cost anybody anything, and the reason is because the cost has already been paid. The debt has already been satisfied. And therefore, we are able to receive God's invitation, and what He offers to us, without paying anything. When I think about a free gift that God invites us to receive, I go to Isaiah chapter 53, just two chapters earlier. In that passage, Isaiah is looking to a time when God's Son, Jesus Christ, will pay the cost; and, that happened when He went to the cross and died on our behalf. It was then that He took a debt that we could not pay, for the sin in our life, and He took that sin with Him when He went to the cross. I want you to listen very closely to Isaiah chapter 53 verses 4 and 5, as we read about the sacrifice Jesus made so that we could receive this free invitation. <Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.> When I think about that passage of Scripture, I realize that Jesus, when He went to the cross, took our problems, and our infirmities, and our sorrows, and our sins with Him. When He died upon the cross, all of that was removed and He provided a better way for us to live. He provided for our salvation. Because of that, we now can receive this wonderful invitation that God extends to us. A number of years ago, I had an accident and I cut my neck, and that neck required some four stitches. And, if you look real closely you can still see the scar here on my neck. From time to time when I look at that scar, I am reminded of the scars that Jesus had when He rose up from the grave. Oh, He could have come back in perfect form, but He chose not to do so. He chose to keep the scars in His hands, and in His feet, and in His side, the scars that He received when He hung upon the cross to die for all of mankind. And, those scars remind us of what Jesus went through so that we could receive God's invitation. My guess is those scars don't hurt Jesus, anymore, just like my scar here doesn't hurt me anymore. And yet, it serves as a very important reminder of the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf. Perhaps we all have some scars in our life of some things that went wrong in days or years gone by. Hopefully they don't hurt us anymore, but they remind us of some bad days. But now, we can enjoy some good days because of the scars of Jesus, because of what He went through when He took our infirmities and our sins with Him to the cross. When I think about God's invitation, He invites me to be spiritually filled up because He loves me, and God loves me more than I will ever know. He loves you more than you will ever know. And, we recognize that from several places here in God's Word, the Bible. And perhaps, one of them that is most familiar is found in the gospel of John, chapter 3. Verse 16 of that third chapter is perhaps the most often quoted and memorized verse in all of the Bible: <For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.> Oh, often times we stop right there, and that's okay, I suppose. But, do you know what the next two verses say? Let's continue reading here in the third chapter with verses 17 and 18: <For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.> Oh, I love the thought in verse 17, that God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. God is not in the condemning business, He is in the saving business; and, that is at the heart of His invitation, to go from spiritual poverty to spiritual plenty. Think of a time in your life, or perhaps it is even now, when you feel as if everyone in this world has turned against you. You feel that people are judging you or condemning you because of the life you live now, or perhaps even the life you have lived in the past. And, you feel all alone in this world. You feel as if nobody cares for you or loves you, but they look at you with those judging and condemning eyes. I want you to know today, God doesn't do that. No matter what your sin might be or has been, no matter what kind of life you are living now or have lived in the past, God loves you and that's why He sent His Son into this world, to love you and to save you. But, God takes that one step further. Not only does He invite us, not only does He love us, but God forgives us. There is a story that is told here in the book of Acts, in the New Testament, it revolves around two men. One is a Jew by the name of Peter. The other one is a non-Jew, or a Gentile, by the name of Cornelius. One day, God instructs Peter to go to the house of Cornelius and to share with him the good news message of Jesus Christ. And so, Peter and some others make that trip to Cornelius's home, and they begin to tell him and all of the others who are assembled there about what God had done for them and what God could do for them as well. And in part, this is what Peter shared on that occasion, in Acts chapter 10 verses 42 and 43. <He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that He is the One whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.”> Peter tells Cornelius about God's love, that there is coming a time when everyone will stand before the judgment seat of God and have to give an account of their life here upon this Earth. Yet at the same time, for those who believe in Jesus Christ as God's one and only Son, there can be the forgiveness of sin. No doubt, Cornelius listened very closely to what Peter had to say, and he recognized that God forgives his sin when he put his faith in His Son. And, that is still true, even for us today. When we believe that Jesus is God's one and only Son, and that He died upon the cross and was buried in a tomb and then rose up from the grave, we can have that forgiveness. Well, the story doesn't end there. Let's continue on here in Acts chapter 10 with the reading of verses 44 through 48. <While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.> As Peter was sharing this message, God's Spirit came upon Cornelius and the others, and that was God's affirmation or approval of what was happening. It was His confirmation to the Gentiles that, indeed, they were now able to be a part of God's family, to receive the forgiveness of sin, and to be identified as His children. Well when Peter recognized what was happening, he said, "It is now time for everyone to be baptized (or immersed in water) into Jesus Christ." Evidently, that's what happened. When I think about that story, I realize that God provided what Cornelius needed. He provided a spiritual renewal. And, he and all of his household were able to move from spiritual poverty into spiritual plenty. God does the very same thing for us when we respond like this. Notice what all happened; we believe in Jesus Christ as God's one and only Son; we are baptized into Jesus Christ; and then, we receive the Holy Spirit and we receive the forgiveness of sin. And, all of those things are contained in just those few verses of that story. When that happens, we are then added into God's family and identified as His sons and His daughters. And, there we can be spiritually satisfied and enjoy all of the riches and blessings which God has in store for us. Once that happens, we now begin to follow Jesus into a new way of living. We begin to focus on Him and to walk in His footsteps and follow His example. Again, there are many places here in the Bible that tell us about doing that and how we are to do that. One passage, in particular, grabs my attention. It's found in the letter of Romans chapter 12. Listen to these words of the apostle Paul from verse 2. <Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — His good, pleasant and perfect will.> When we become children of God, we no longer conform to the culture and to the ways of this world if they are in opposition to the way of Jesus. Rather, we go through a transformation process, and it begins with what we think about and then it flows into the way we live, the way we handle our self, and also into our relationships. Yes, that transformation process transforms us into the image of God's Son Jesus Christ. One of the more popular shows on television today revolves around a family that chooses a new house in which to live. Yet, that house does not meet all of their needs and so they hire some contractors, some people to come out and redo the house. They begin on the outside and they redo the outside walls and perhaps put in some new landscaping. They move to the inside and begin to tear down some walls, or redo the kitchen, perhaps even add an additional room. They might even change out the flooring. And then at the end of the show when the people see that house renewed, transformed, for the very first time, they can hardly even believe the transformation that has taken place. And, perhaps that is the way it is with those who become children of God. We go through a transformation process that the world will hardly even recognize. And yet, that's okay because it is God, Jesus Christ our Savior, the One that we ultimately want to please. And so, we go through this transformation process in order to be recognized as God's children and to let the world know that we belong to Him now, and we submit to Him. He is the Lord of our life so we conform our ways to His ways. Yes, because God loves us, and because He forgives us, we now follow Jesus as He leads us into a new way of living. And, that might be hard for some of us to do. It might be hard for us to change some of our ways, or our thinking, or our behavior. And yet, we do so because we recognize what God has already done for us through the giving of His Son Jesus Christ. And once we begin to live that new life, we have every reason to celebrate. We have every reason to rejoice about our new life in Him. I think about the words of Jesus, which He shared with His disciples, right before He went to His death. In John chapter 16 in verse 33 He said, <"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome this world."> And then in John chapter 15, He also stated that we can have the peace of mind and heart. That is true, isn't it? Jesus, when He rose up from the dead, conquered sin, conquered Satan, overcame the things of this world. And now, as His disciples, walking with Him, we are able to do the very same thing. Oh, that does not mean that we will escape all of the pain and trouble and tribulations this world has to offer. No doubt, we will still encounter that as long as this world as it is will continue on. We all have our share of problems. We all have our share of trials and temptations that we have to deal with on a regular basis. And yet, the good news is Jesus has overcome it all. He is greater than any problem we might experience. And, He allows us to get out from under those circumstances, and to get on top of them, and to overcome them, just as He has overcome this world. And when we live in and with Jesus Christ, that is exactly what happens: He overcomes our troubles. And now, we can live with faith in Jesus Christ knowing that whatever storm in life we encounter we can overcome it. We live with obedience in Jesus Christ, conforming ourselves to His will and to His purposes, knowing that as we live with Him, He lives within us. And as we recognize and respond to God's great invitation, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we cannot help but to live a life of celebration and rejoicing. I invite you to join with me right now as we go to God in prayer. <<Dear Father in heaven, thank You so very much for the invitation You have given to us to receive a brand-new life in Your Son. Thank You for the promise we have to go from spiritual poverty to spiritual plenty. Thank You for the love that You have by sending Your Son Jesus to die on our behalf so that our sin can be washed away and forgiven. I pray that every person within the sound of my voice today who has yet to receive Your wonderful invitation of salvation might think very carefully about doing so. We thank You for giving Your Son Jesus, and for the new opportunity we now have to live a brand-new life of rejoicing in Him. It is in Jesus name that we offer this prayer. Amen.>> I don't know what your life looks like right now, but I want to encourage you today to consider receiving the wonderful invitation that comes from the Lord God Almighty. He invites you to believe in His Son Jesus Christ; and, to do as Cornelius did, to be immersed in water for the forgiveness of those sins so that you might be a part of God's family; and then, as you do that, begin to live a brand-new life, a life that conforms not to this world but to the image of God's dear Son. Live a life of rejoicing. Live a life of celebration as you begin to overcome the struggles and trials in life that you might experience. And then, live with trust and faith and obedience in Jesus Christ, the One who gave His life for you. Today the encouragement very simply is to move from spiritual poverty and to enjoy spiritual plenty.
Thank you for joining us for today's lesson. Hopefully it has inspired you to seek more of God and to enjoy the spiritual abundance He provides. Here at "Key to the Kingdom," we offer Bible lessons, short videos, and a variety of messages that might assist you in receiving God's love and salvation. On our website, keytothekingdom.com, you can find a number of resources which are absolutely free and require no commitment of any kind. Please feel free to download any of them that might be of benefit. You can also call the toll-free number on the screen to request a free Bible study. We want you to have it, and when you leave your name and address we will be happy to mail it to you in a few short days. Something else that might be of interest is a free app for your Apple or Android phone. After downloading it onto your phone, you can have direct access to our website, as well as to short devotional thoughts. This is just another way to quickly and easily access our ministry. Oh, God does not want you to live in spiritual poverty any longer. He wants you to experience spiritual abundance through His Son Jesus Christ. I hope you will receive that most generous offer. Thank you again for being with us today. And please, join us again next time as we study the Bible on "Key to the Kingdom."