The World is Watching

One of the most vivid and simple stories that Jesus told is recorded in the gospel of Matthew chapter 25, verses 31 – 46 which we sometimes refer to as the story of “The Sheep and the Goats.” Bible teachers don’t agree on whether this story is a parable or a prophecy about an actual future judgment. But one thing is clear. In this story, Jesus said that His true followers would be the one who are feeding and clothing the destitute and visiting and comforting the sick and afflicted.

There are many reasons why people are abandoning churches and denying Christianity. But one of the major reasons is a senses that Christians churches have given up trying to be real disciples of Jesus. Many Christians seem to think that the only purpose of Christian faith is to make sure that they get into heaven. Often people say a prayer to be saved and never truly experience the conversion of a life surrendered to Jesus.

Now, we aren’t supposed to judge, and I know that I could never pretend to know another person’s heart.

But Jesus seems pretty convinced that His people will be the ones who show love and compassion to those who are hurting and in need. He even says that those who don’t do that will be cast out with the devil and his angels.

Could it be that the faith that really saves also produces a change in a person’s heart that makes them want to help those who are hungry and naked and strangers? Could it be that we need to examine if our faith is really in Jesus, or just in ourselves?

The New Testament is clear that no amount of righteous works will bring salvation. But the New Testament is just as clear that real followers of Jesus will do good works. As G.K. Chesterton wrote, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting, it’s been found difficult; and left untried.”

In Romans, Paul says that the creation is groaning, waiting for the revealing of the children of God. I think the human race is also groaning, waiting and watching to see if we really believe in Jesus and if we will act accordingly.

Love in Christ,

Greg Burriss

Pastor, Rocky River Baptist Church


What Truth Shall Set You Free?

Have you ever heard that context makes all the difference? For example, did you know that the Bible says “there is no God?” If you don’t believe me, look up Psalm 14:1. I’ll wait…

What you find when you go there is this verse, “The fool says in his heart ‘There is no God.’” So it literally does include the phrase “there is no God.” But you have to read the whole sentence to understand the meaning.

I thought about this as I was reading Jesus’ words in John chapter 8. Many people like to quote Jesus’ words, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

Everyone likes to use these words of Jesus to place a stamp of approval upon their own version of the truth. They make this appeal to abstract ideas about truth that have no definite moral foundation. But Jesus didn’t say it like that. He gave the foundation in the same statement. To understand what truth Jesus is talking about, we need to read the whole statement.

Jesus says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” The teachings of Jesus are the foundation of truth that will set us free. We will not learn the truth by the rational arguments of philosophers or the experimental method of the scientists even though these are worthwhile pursuits.

We will learn the truth when we live in the words of Jesus.

The truth will set us free, according to Jesus. But we do not get to choose the truth. There is only one truth, the word of Jesus.


Love in Christ,

Greg Burriss

Pastor, Rocky River Baptist Church  

I Am Grateful

Grateful. The word for this week is grateful. Do you believe that God is always with you, watching and caring for you? It is easy to find things to complain about. It requires more attention and preparation to notice God’s work. You have to make up your mind to see the hand of God in every circumstance, even when those circumstances are difficult.

This week returning home from our Senior Adult retreat we had a tire blowout. This occurred out in the country about 20 miles south of Clinton, NC. We had already lost part of the van’s tailpipe earlier on the trip. We pulled the van into a little churchyard. At that moment, we could have been tempted to grumble and complain against God for the inconvenience and potential threat.

But we took a moment to thank God for keeping us safe through the incident. Then we noticed that the church had an outdoor shelter with a picnic table where most of the gang could sit in the shade while we changed the tire. Then we noticed that this happened right across the street from a little country garage that had a nice floor jack which they let us borrow.

Within a little while we were back on the road and arrived safely home. Giving thanks and grateful for God’s provision. Grateful.

Love in Christ,

Greg Burriss

Pastor, Rocky River Baptist Church  

Don’t Follow Your Heart

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”  Jeremiah 17:9  NIV

“Come, follow me.” Mark 1:17  NIV

“Follow your heart.” This phrase has become a life slogan for many modern Americans. I heard it often as a teenager in the 1970s. Many young people were finding fuel for their internal fires from this mantra. And many adults were trying desperately to cling to their adolescence by adopting its dictates.

Follow your heart is an old slogan that predates the 60s and 70s in America. It predates its European expression in the Romantic movements of the 18 and 19th centuries. It’s an old lie. It is perfectly suited to appeal to teenagers. And therefore, it is perfectly suited to appeal to the perpetually-adolescent culture of America.

Ancient Roman Stoics and modern American New-Agers taught the idea that there is a divine spark within us that will lead us to what is good and right if we only listen to it. They have convinced many. Almost no one wants to hear the response of God in the scriptures. But the scriptures plainly say that our hearts are corrupt and cannot be trusted.

It is true that the scriptures say that God made humans in His image. But right away, we corrupted that image, tainted it, with our disobedience to God’s moral law.

So don’t follow your heart.  There is one who is trustworthy whom you can follow. Along the seashore, he invited Peter and Andrew, James and John. “Come, follow me.” And Jesus invites you too. Unlike your hearts, he will not lead you astray.  

Love in Christ,

Greg Burriss

Pastor, Rocky River Baptist Church