The Parable of the Mountain Laurel

The Parable of the Mountain Laurel

James R. Aist

As you may know, in the Bible, a parable is a story that uses well-known, common, everyday events or experiences to illustrate a spiritual truth or teaching. This parable took a couple of years to develop and several more years for me to discover. After I moved to Knoxville in 2004, I had new landscaping shrubbery planted in a straight row along the front of our house. Among the new shrubs were three Mountain Laurels, a species that is common in East Tennessee, both wild and domestic. At first, these new shrubs appeared healthy and vigorous, producing abundant growth with leaves of a deep green color and a few white, flowering wands. But, within a few years, things began to change for the worse.

These shrubs began to die off one at at time, one or two branches at a time. In each case, I would prune off the dead branches in hopes that the infection would not spread to the remaining branches, but, alas and alack, it always did. Once the first shrub was dead, I removed it in hopes that the infection would not spread to the adjacent shrub, but it did. This cycle was repeated until all that was left of the original three shrubs was one branch of the last shrub. This branch was healthy and green, but I couldn’t imagine how it could possibly develop into a fully and properly formed ornamental shrub, even if it were to remain healthy. Just when I was about to remove the last remnant of the three shrubs and start all over again, I decided to just let it stand until this last branch began to die, and then remove it. I was not going to be the instrument of demise of this last shrub while there was still life in it.

As time went by, I kept noticing that the last branch was remaining healthy and green. Soon, new, healthy branches began to grow from the good branch. It was then that I realized that this good branch had, somehow, escaped infection. As the years went by, more and more healthy green branches were added each year, until now, I have a large, healthy and beautiful Mountain Laurel growing in front of my house (see photo, above)! Had I given up on that last shrub while it had just that one healthy branch left, its potential would not have been realized.

So, what is the spiritual lesson in this parable of the Mountain Laurel? I believe it is that we should never give up on anyone who may seem to be beyond hope. I believe that this lesson applies not only to the salvation of the soul, but also to the healing and restoration of one who is seemingly lying at death’s door. In either case, it’s not over until God says its over, so let’s not give up on them too soon!

(To read more of my articles with a biblical theme, click HERE.)

Where Will Christians Really Spend Their Eternity?

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Where Will Christians Really Spend Their Eternity?

James R. Aist

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, you may be also.” (John 14:3)

I don’t know about you, but somehow I got the impression years ago that when we Christians die and go to heaven, our permanent residence will be in heaven with Jesus, not here on this earth. It would be as if our death would amount to a one-way ticket from earth to heaven, somewhere out in the vastness of the cosmos. Perhaps singing “This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through” may have had something to do with this perception. Or maybe it was “Won’t it be wonderful there” or “I’ll fly away“; hymns about being away from this earth and with Jesus in heaven (somewhere…

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What Must I Do To Be Saved?

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What Must I Do To Be Saved?

James R. Aist

 “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (John 6:29)

Before I begin to answer this question directly, there is something I need to say to the “seeker” who wants to understand the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. First, abandon all of your pre-conceived notions about earning your way into heaven by doing “good works.” That’s not how it operates. God’s plan of salvation is based on the good works of a sinless man, Jesus Christ, when He died on a cross to pay the price (death) for your sins. All that is required of you is to believe in Jesus (John 3:16), and you will be saved. This Gospel is foolishness to unbelievers, but to believers it is the power of God unto salvation (1 Corinthians 1:18). Second, believe only what the Bible actually says about salvation, seeking the truth there alone. There is no other way to heaven than to trust in the finished work of Jesus on the cross (Acts 4:12).

Many different answers have been given when someone asks, “What must I do to be saved?” Jesus said that it all boils down to having faith in Himself, the Son of God, and, of course, He was exactly right. Paul elaborated a bit when he wrote, “… if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved, for with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9). But, I believe that there is more that can be said truthfully and gainfully about it in order to help a seeker know and understand more fully the answer to this question.

I love to hear detailed accounts of how God has saved different folks. The details vary, but there are some aspects that are apparently universal. Of course, God knows exactly how He is going to save every one of His chosen people, and He does whatever He pleases in order to do it. Nevertheless, He has chosen to reveal to us, in His written word, some of the universal aspects concerning how He goes about saving people.

Firstly, we must recognize that we are all born into a state of enmity and rebellion toward God (Romans 3:10-12).

Secondly, we should understand that God is in control of whom He will and will not save; salvation belongs to God (Psalm 3:8; Revelation 7:10; Revelation 19:1). In fact, God chose whom He would save before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).

Thirdly, Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who has sent Me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44). No one can believe in Jesus of their own accord, apart from the Father’s influence. And all whom the Father influences in this way will be saved. One universal aspect of the Father’s influence in this regard is that He uses believers to tell unbelievers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 10:14).

Fourthly, a person can think their way toward Jesus under the influence of the Father, but it requires a direct and singular act of grace by the Father to get them all the way to saving faith in Jesus: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

And, finally, just as we are not in control of our initial salvation experience apart from God’s intervention, so also it is God Himself, not us, Who keeps us saved by His own power (1 Peter 1:4-5) and by the presence (1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Timothy 1:14) and activity (Philippians 2:13) of His Holy Spirit in us. In fact, the Holy Spirit in us is God’s guarantee that we will spend our eternity with Him in heaven (Ephesians 1:13-15).

Thus, the mechanics of salvation can be summarized in this way: We are all born into a state of enmity and rebellion toward God. God is in control of whom He will and will not save. No one can come to saving faith in Jesus unless the Father draws him. Saving faith in Jesus is a gift from God, not a product of our efforts apart from God’s influence. And, just as it is God who saves us, it is also God who keeps us saved. So, perhaps a better question to ask is , “What must God do to save us?”

If you want God to save you and keep you saved, then purpose in your heart to end your rebellion toward Him, confess your sins to the Father, ask Him to give you the gift of saving faith in Jesus Christ and commit yourself to put your faith and trust in Jesus as your Lord and Savior. God is faithful and just to forgive your sins (cf. 1 John 1:9) and to grant you the gift of saving faith (Romans 10:8-10). Rest assured that He will do it (John 5:24; Romans 10:13), because He chose you for salvation before the foundation of the world!

Finally, remember Jesus’ words: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent” (John 6:29). When God the Father has drawn you to the point that you believe in the One He has sent, Jesus, then you will already be “born from above” into eternal life with God in heaven. We have God’s word on it. Rest assured that God knows exactly how to save each and every one of His elect, so surrender to His influence, and let Him save you today!

If you are interested to know how God saved me, then click HERE.

 

What Are the “Greater Works”?

 

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What Are the “Greater Works”?

James R. Aist

“Truly, truly I say to you, he who believes in Me will do the works that I do also. And he will do greater works than these, because I am going to My Father.” (John 14:12)

During His ministry, Jesus performed many “miracles” that were evidence that He was a man sent from God. These miracles were works that were outside the realm of naturally occurring events, such as  healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, raising the dead, and casting out demons. These were all works done in the realm of created things, and they were amazing to see. Nevertheless, these were not the greatest works that Jesus was doing.

In Luke 17-20, seventy of Jesus’ disciples had just returned from an evangelistic campaign. They returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us through Your name.” He said to them, “I saw Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Look, I give you authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy. And nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Let me unpack this passage in Luke, and I will show you what Jesus was referring to when He said in John 14:12 that His disciples “…will do greater works than these.” The seventy disciples returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us through Your name.” They were amazed that this man, Jesus, was able to give them power to do miracles in the realm of created things. Upon hearing this, Jesus proceeded to explain to them that He was no ordinary man, but the very Son of God, and, as such, has innate power over all created things, saying “I saw Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Look, I give you authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy.” In other words, why were you surprised that I was able to give you power to perform miracles in the created realm, as I have been doing? There is an even greater miracle that you will have a role in: that is, the miracle of salvation. This miracle occurs in the spiritual realm and is a “greater thing” than the power I gave you over created things.

The take-home message is that miracles that manipulate the natural world, while impressive, are of lesser importance than the spiritual miracle of salvation. Remember, Jesus said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Those are the “greater works.”