When the tempter comes, we must stand on God’s Word: ‘every Word that comes from...God’ (Matthew 4: 4).
From religion to revival
Standing upon divine revelation – “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4), Jesus received God-given strength for challenging the “bread alone” of human religion – the religion of “the hypocrites” (Matthew 6:2,5,16). Their religion was centred upon themselves. Jesus had this to say about their religion – “Be careful not to practise your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them” (Matthew 6:1). The “hypocrites” added their own ideas to the Word of God – and the power of God’s Word was lost. Jesus shows us the better way – looking to the Lord, listening to the Lord and learning from the Lord. He calls us to live a God-centred life: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). He calls us to put God first: “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). The difference between Jesus and “the hypocrites” was clear for all to see: “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, because He taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law” (Matthew 7:28-29).
May God raise up, more people, in this generation, whose lives will be centred on God and grounded in His Word – rebels who will protest against the shallowness of superficial religion, prophets whose lives will point beyond religion to revival.
“Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
First things first! We worry about many things. We get anxious about this, that and the other thing. Jesus is saying to us, “Seek first God’s Kingdom.” Whenever our many anxieties threaten to overwhelm us, let us remember this: The Lord is King!
Christ is our Wisdom. We will never be wise unless we build our lives on Him (Matthew 7:24-27).
"Jesus said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old” (Matthew 13:52).
We are travelling towards "the kingdom of heaven." As we journey towards God's Kingdom, He is teaching us many lessons. We are to treasure the lessons which come to us from the Word of God in the power of the Spirit of God. There is nothing more precious than this: "We have received ... the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God" (1 Corinthians 2:12).
As well as Peter's three denials, we have three wonderful statements which point us away from Peter, in his failure, to Christ, who is the Rock of our salvation.
(a) "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16).
(b) "This Jesus, God has raised up and "made both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:32, 36).
(c) "Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone. To you who believe, He is precious" (1 Peter 2:4-7).
Praise God - Our faith is not built on shifting sand. It is built on Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the risen Lord, the wonderful Saviour.
“Come, let’s kill him” (Matthew 21:38).
From Jesus’ parable, we look to His death. The crucifixion of Jesus has a human explanation: “wicked men put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross” – but that’s not the whole story! In the death of Jesus, we see God’s “plan” of salvation – His eternal plan (Acts 2:23). When Jesus’ enemies thought that they had succeeded, they couldn’t have been more wrong! Jesus’ death was followed by His resurrection: “God raised Him from the dead.” In Jesus’ resurrection, we see His mighty triumph over death: “it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him” (Acts 2:24).
"Many are invited. Few are chosen." (Matthew 22:14).
How are we to know that we are chosen as well as invited? How are we to answer this question? We must ask another question - What are we doing with the invitation? Will we discard the invitation? or Will we take up the invitation? There is a way that we can have the assurance that we have been chosen by the Lord. It begins with taking up His invitation. He invites us to come to Him. We come to Him, and we are welcome. It is His welcome that gives us the assurance that we have been chosen by Him.
Paying Taxes to Caesar
15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. 16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” 22 When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.
The Pharisees tried to trap Jesus. They failed!
"There will be famines" (Matthew 24:7).
What are we to do when there's "a famine of hearing the words of the Lord" (Amos 8:11)?
Pray that God will give you the grace to keep on following Jesus, even when so many show no interest in following Him:
"He who stands firm to the end will be saved" (Matthew 24:13).
* This is a Word for ourselves - "Be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure" (2 Peter 1:10).
* It is also a Word for others - "Let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25).
Will we be ready, when the Lord returns? This is the question the Lord is putting to us here. It's the most important question. It's the question that we cannot evade. It's the question that won't go away. It's the question of our life. What is our life all about? What is most important to us? Who is most important to us - Jesus or ourselves?
New life for Levi (Mark 3:1-4)
* His name was LEVI.
* He was EVIL.
He was a tax collector, making a fortune for himself at the expense of other people.
* He began to LIVE when he followed Jesus.
What a wonderful message there is in the conversion of Levi.
Our Saviour still calls sinners to make a new beginning with Him (Mark 3:17).
Let's be like the new Levi - "He arose and followed Jesus" (Mark 3:15).
" ... the seed shall sprout and grow, he himself does not know how ... " (Mark 4:27).
God has given us a great promise - "my word that goes out from my mouth ... will not return to me empty" (Isaiah 55:11). When we feel that God's Word is returning to us empty, we have this Word of encouragement: God's Word will not return to Him empty. God gives us His great promise "my word ... will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." We do not see all that God's Word is doing as the Spirit of God brings Christ to the people. God sees the full impact of His Word. That is why He says that His Word will not return to Him empty. When we have preached the Word, we must say, with the hymnwriter, "I know not how the Spirit moves, convincing men of sin; revealing Jesus through the word, creating faith in Him." We don't understand all that God is doing as His Word is preached. We do know that He is at work. How do we know this? - We know Him - "I know whom I have believed." We know that we can trust His promise - His Word will achieve the purpose for which He sends it. When the "seed" of God's Word is sown in the hearts of men and women, it will "sprout and grow" - even if we are barely aware of all that is happening. The salvation of sinners - it may be beyond our understanding, but it's not beyond God's power: "the gospel ... is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16).
"How hard it will be for rich people to enter God's Kingdom!" (Mark 10:23).
Christ turns the world's values upside down. He asks us, 'The things that are so important to you - are they really so important? or Have you made them more important than they really are?'
“Whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant … For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43,45).
Do you want to be the Lord’s servant? Remember that He is your Saviour. Do you want to serve the Lord? – You must be saved by Him before you can even begin to serve Him. When we think of Jesus as God’s servant and say, “I will serve God the way Jesus served Him”, we have missed the point of Jesus’ words: “the Son of Man” came ”to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Jesus’ service is defined by the giving of His life as a ransom for many. We can never give our life as a ransom for many. Only Jesus can do that for us. Where does our life of service begin? – It begins at the Cross of Christ. It begins when we say, “I cannot serve You. I can only be saved by You.” That’s where the life of service begins. It begins with being saved by the Lord. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Get things right at this point – and then your life of service is ready to begin.
“Many warned him to be quiet, but he cried out all the more … ” (Mark 10:48).
There were many people who tried to silence blind Bartimaeus. Here was the voice of prayer – and they were saying, “Shut up’! Thank God – he didn’t shut up. He shouted out. They more they said, “Shut up”, the more he shouted out.
Because our praise is loud, that doesn’t mean that it’s real – but what kind of worship if we can hardly burst a paper bag! Let’s lift up our voices to the Lord. Why? Because we want to be loud? – No! There’s something much more important than how loud we’re singing. It’s this – how much we are lifting up our hearts to the Lord.
We read the story of blind Bartimaeus, and we ask the question: Who was really blind – Bartimaeus or the people who were trying to shut him up?
They could see Bartimaeus, but they couldn’t see that he was doing the one thing that really mattered. He was calling upon the Lord. They were busy criticizing him. He kept on calling on the Lord. They were so busy trying to put Bartimaeus right that they hardly even noticed Jesus.
Who was really blind – Bartimaeus or his critics? What did Jesus say? – Jesus spoke by His actions.
Here, we learn from what Jesus didn’t do before we learn from what He did do.
If Jesus had been on the side of the silencers, He would have joined them in telling Bartimaeus to shut up. Did Jesus do that? No! He didn’t. He did something much better than that.
Jesus’ miracle was about more than giving Bartimaeus his sight. It was about faith – “Your faith has made you well.” It was about following Jesus – “he followed Jesus” (Mark 10:52).
Bartimaeus had faith. He followed Jesus. What was the problem with his critics? Their problem was quite simple. They were not men of faith. They were not following Jesus. May God help us to be like Bartimaeus – men and women of faith and followers of Jesus.
"Have you never read the Scripture passage: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. The Lord has done this, and it is amazing for us to see’?" (Mark 12:10-11).
Jesus is the Cornerstone of our faith. We build on Him, the solid Rock. He's the sure Foundation. He died for us. He was raised again for us. What great things the Lord has done for us. To Him alone be all the glory!
Love God. Love your neighbour. Love for God comes first - but it never stands alone. It's never just "Love God" - and leave it at that. It's always "Love God" - and "Love your neighbour."
"The large crowd enjoyed listening to Jesus. As He taught, He said, “Watch out for the experts in Moses’ Teachings! They like to walk around in long robes, to be greeted in the marketplaces, and to have the front seats in synagogues and the places of honor at dinners. They rob widows by taking their houses and then say long prayers to make themselves look good. The experts in Moses’ Teachings will receive the most severe punishment. As Jesus sat facing the temple offering box, He watched how much money people put into it. Many rich people put in large amounts. A poor widow dropped in two small coins, worth less than a penny. He called His disciples and said to them, “I can guarantee this truth: This poor widow has given more than all the others. All of them have given what they could spare. But she, in her poverty, has given everything she had to live on” (Mark 12:37-44).
What's going on in your heart? This is what Jesus is saying to us here. Who are you trying to impress? Other people are watching - and God is watching! Are we so busy looking around us to see who's watching - that we forget about God. "They rob widows by taking their houses and then say long prayers to make themselves look good" - What does God think about this? To ask the question is to give the answer! This is hypocrisy! It has nothing to do with opening our hearts to the Lord and giving our lives to Him. It's all about power and prestige. There's no love for ordinary people. The power of God is conspicuous by its absence. "A poor widow dropped in two small coins, worth less than a penny" - This doesn't sound too impressive. Jesus disagrees! He says, "This poor widow has given more than all the others." What about us? Are we learning to see things Jesus' way?
7 “When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, don’t be alarmed! These things must happen, but they don’t mean that the end has come. 8 Nation will fight against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes and famines in various places. These are only the beginning pains of the end.
Wars, earthquakes, famines - What are we to make of such things? Jesus says, "Don't be alarmed." Many people look at the terrible things that happen in our world - and they lose their faith. They find it hard to rediscover their faith. Everything seems to come back to this - 'Terrible things are happening. I don't know what to make of it all.' How can Jesus say to us, "Don't be alarmed"? He looks beyond what's happening now. He looks on to "the end." We see the mess that our world's in. He sees God's eternal Kingdom. He's calling us to lift up our eyes. He's calling us to see things with his eyes. We're not to close our eyes to what's happening on earth. When we look at our troubled world, we must learn to see that this is not all that there is. There is something better. Jesus invites us to look beyond "the end" of our world. He invites us to catch a glimpse of our new beginning in God's everlasting Kingdom. When will "the end" come? We don't know. We can only trust the Lord, believing that beyond our "end", there will be his new beginning. This is what gives us hope. This is more than human optimism - hoping for the best. It's trust in Jesus, our Saviour. It's believing that He will lead us on into His eternal salvation.
"Be on your guard! I have told you everything before it happens" (Mark 13:23).
Why does Jesus speak to us about the future? He's calling us to live for Him in the present. Will we be ready for Jesus when He returns? It all depends on our response to him here-and-now.
"Then people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory" (Mark 13:26).
When will this happen? We have no answer to this question. It is one of "the secret things" that are known only to God" (Deuteronomy 29:29) - "No one knows when that day or hour will come. Even the angels in heaven and the Son don’t know. Only the Father knows... You don't know the exact time" (Mark 13:32-33). What has been "revealed to us" (Deuteronomy 29:29) is this: Jesus "will" come (Mark 13:26) - and we must get ready for Him. This is what He's saying to us in Mark 13:33-37 - " 33Be careful! Watch! You don’t know the exact time. 34 It is like a man who went on a trip. As he left home, he put his servants in charge. He assigned work to each one and ordered the guard to be alert. 35 Therefore, be alert, because you don’t know when the owner of the house will return. It could be in the evening or at midnight or at dawn or in the morning. 36 Make sure he doesn’t come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 I’m telling everyone what I’m telling you: ‘Be alert!’"
"Wherever the Good News is spoken in the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her" (Mark 14:9).
The Good News tells us about Christ's love for us. It tells us about what Christ has done for us. It also calls for our response to His love, our response to what he has done for us.
"The Son of Man is going to die as the Scriptures say he will" (Mark 14:21).
We look at Jesus. In everything, he lived his life "as the Scriptures say." What about us? Are we becoming more like him? Are we learning to live the way he lived - "as the Scriptures say"?
" “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”" (Mark 14:36).
Doing the will of God wasn't easy for Jesus. It won't be easy for us. It's always better to do God's will rather than insisting on getting our own way. For Jesus, there was more than crucifixion. There was resurrection. Whatever may lie ahead of us, may we never forget this - God is our loving, heavenly Father, and he has great things planned for us: "the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus" (2 Corinthians 4:14).
"Truly this Man was the Son of God" (Mark 15:39).
Jesus Christ was no ordinary man. He was special. He was unique. He is God's 'only Son' (John 3:16). He is God's 'beloved Son' (Matthew 3:17; Luke 9:35). He is not only the greatest Man who ever lived. He is 'greater than the angels' in heaven. 'All God's angels' are called to 'worship Him'. 'Truly this Man was the Son of God' - In these words of faith, we hear an echo of God's Word concerning His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ - 'You are My Son; today I have become Your Father...I will be His Father, and He will be My Son...Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever...Sit at my right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for your feet' (Hebrews 1:1-14). 'Truly this Man was the Son of God' - Let these words be your confession of faith in Christ.
"Theophilus" (Luke 1:3) - This name means 'lover of God.' As we read God's Word, may our love for him grow stronger and stronger.
Some people think of Jesus as a great teacher of morality. Is that all that we can say about Him? Those who “believe” in Him say something else about Him – He’s “the Son of God” and “the Saviour of the world” (Luke 1:35; John 4:42). The critics say, “You can’t say that!” We give this answer: Jesus said it! He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). He said it then. He’s still saying it now. Thank God – He’s given us more than a great teacher. He’s given us His Son – our Saviour.
* God’s Son is unchanged – He’s still our Saviour: “He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him” (Hebrews 7:25).
We sing of God’s “amazing grace” - “How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.” Sometimes, we lose our way, and we wonder, “Where is the blessedness I knew when first I saw the Lord?” Sometimes, Jesus doesn’t seem to be so precious. Sometimes, we don’t feel so blessed. What’s the problem? We’re the problem. We’ve taken our eyes off Jesus. We’ve forgotten how great our Saviour is.
* God’s Son, our Saviour, is unchanging – When you’re going through a hard time, remember this: “He didn’t bring us this far to leave us. He didn’t teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn’t build His home in us to move away. He didn’t lift us up to let us down.”
Sometimes, we find it difficult to rejoice in the Lord. Let’s remember that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) – and we will find it so much easier to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4).
* God’s Son is unchangeable – This is where true and lasting joy comes from: “Now I belong to Jesus, Jesus belongs to me, not for the years of time alone but for eternity. Joy floods my soul for Jesus has saved me.”
"And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace." (Luke 1:76-79).
These words of prophecy speak of the ministry of John the Baptist - "a prophet of the Most High." He was to "prepare the way for the Lord." "Salvation ... forgiveness ... mercy ... heaven ... peace" - John's ministry gave a taste of all that Jesus, the Saviour, would bring to us. We give thanks to God for Jesus the Saviour - and we also thank God for John the Baptist.
“We have seen strange things today” (Luke 5:26).
In his commentary on Luke’s Gospel, Leon Morris says that “strange” means “beyond expectation.” He adds the comment, “Human achievement could not explain what had happened.”
Humanly speaking, there’s nothing stranger than Christ’s resurrection. Humanly speaking, we say, “We didn’t expect this to happen.”
Humanly speaking, the story of Jesus ends like this – “you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the Cross” (Acts 2:23).
Humanly speaking, we may miss the point of -it all when we fail to hear these strange – “beyond expectation” – words: “But God raised Him from the dead … ” (Acts 2:24).
“Human achievement could not explain what had happened.” There is, however, another explanation – a “strange” explanation: “But God … ”
“Beyond expectation”? Yes! It is beyond our human expectation – but it’s not beyond the Lord our God!
Moving beyond Balaam’s donkey, here are some great promises for us today: (i) “‘Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3).
When God is at work, great and mighty things happen. How do they happen? Why do they happen? – God is the great and mighty God.
(ii) “The people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits” (Daniel 11:32).
We are forgiven sinners. We’re nothing more than that. We have a great and mighty God. Let’s believe that God can and will do great and mighty things through His faithful people when we commit ourselves to doing His will.
"Jesus looked at his disciples and said,
“Blessed are those who are poor.
God’s kingdom is theirs.
21 Blessed are those who are hungry.
They will be satisfied.
Blessed are those who are crying.
They will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you, avoid you,
insult you, and slander you
because you are committed to the Son of Man.
23 Rejoice then, and be very happy!
You have a great reward in heaven.
That’s the way their ancestors treated the prophets" (Luke 6:20-23).
"Blessed are those ..." (Luke 6:20-21). "Blessed are you ..." (Luke 6:22). The blessing is not only for those. It's for you!
"A great prophet ... Are you the one who is coming?" (Luke 7:16,19-20).
"A great prophet" - This may be the beginning of our faith, but it's not the end of our faith.
"A great prophet" - This is the first stage of our faith. We sense that there's something different about Jesus. Then, we begin to ask the question, "How different is Jesus?" We start to wonder, "Is Jesus more than a prophet?"
"Are you the one who is coming?" Where does this question come from? It comes to us, when we start thinking, "There's something different about Jesus."
We ask the question. God gives His answer. It is an answer that arises in our hearts, as we think about Jesus, as we think, "This is more than a prophet. This is my Saviour."
"Your faith has saved you" (Luke 7:50). We have been "saved by grace" (Ephesians 2:5). How are God's grace and our faith related to each other? Ephesians 2:8 tells us that we have been "saved by grace through faith." God's grace comes first. Without his grace, reaching out to us, we could never be saved. We cannot save ourselves. He must save us. What, then, does it mean to say, "Your faith has saved you"? We must begin by stating clearly what it does not mean. Faith doesn't say, "I can save myself." By faith, we look away from ourselves. We look to Jesus, our Saviour. We say, Jesus, I cannot save myself. You must save me." We should never think of our faith as a way of achieving salvation for ourselves, Faith looks to the God of grace and receives from him his free gift of salvation.
"He told them, 'The harvest is large, but the workers are few. So ask the Lord who gives this harvest to send workers to harvest his crops.'" (Luke 10:2).
A large harvest, few workers: what do we do? - "Ask the Lord ... " "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1).
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! … it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades” (Luke 10:13-15).
What is Christ saying to us as we read His strong words of judgment? He’s calling us to change direction. Stop walking on “the broad road that leads to destruction.” Start walking on “the narrow road that leads to life” (Matthew 7:13-14). Stop walking away from Christ. Start walking with Him.
“Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it” (Luke 10:23-24).
There is a progression, in Scripture, beyond the revelation given to Israel through the Old Testament prophets to the great revelation given in the coming of Jesus Christ to the world. He is greater than all the prophets. He is greater than all the kings. He is the Son of God. He is our Saviour. There is no-one else like Him. There were many prophets. There were many kings. There is only one Saviour – Jesus Christ, the Son of God: “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2).
"Lord, teach us to pray ... Ask, seek, knock ... " (Luke 11:1,9).
Prayer is more than a form of words. It's about what we're becoming as well as what we're saying. Are we becoming people who are learning to say, "What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer"? "Take it to the Lord in prayer" - Teach us, Lord, to do this.
"Someone greater than Jonah is here" (Luke 11:32).
Think of all the great servants of God in the Old Testament. Jesus is greater than all of them. He's more than a servant of God. He's the Son of God. He's our Saviour. What could be greater than this? Who could be greater than him? He's the greatest!
"After Jesus spoke, a Pharisee invited Him to have lunch at his house. So Jesus accepted the invitation. The Pharisee was surprised to see that Jesus didn’t wash before the meal. The Lord said to him, “You Pharisees clean the outside of cups and dishes. But inside you are full of greed and evil. You fools! Didn’t the One who made the outside make the inside too? Give what is inside as a gift to the poor, and then everything will be clean for you" (Luke 11:37-41).
Keeping up appearances - That was all that mattered to the Pharisees. There's a difference between the way things seem and the way they really are. Jesus saw this clearly. The Pharisees didn't. May God help us to be followers of Jesus - not followers of the Pharisees.
Jesus Criticizes Some Jewish Leaders (Luke 11:37-54).
37 After Jesus spoke, a Pharisee invited him to have lunch at his house. So Jesus accepted the invitation. 38 The Pharisee was surprised to see that Jesus didn’t wash before the meal.
39 The Lord said to him, “You Pharisees clean the outside of cups and dishes. But inside you are full of greed and evil. 40 You fools! Didn’t the one who made the outside make the inside too? 41 Give what is inside as a gift to the poor, and then everything will be clean for you.
42 “How horrible it will be for you Pharisees! You give God one-tenth of your mint, spices, and every garden herb. But you have ignored justice and the love of God. You should have done these things without ignoring the others.
43 “How horrible it will be for you Pharisees! You love to sit in the front seats in the synagogues and to be greeted in the marketplaces. 44 How horrible it will be for you! You are like unmarked graves. People walk on them without knowing what they are.”
45 One of the experts in Moses’ Teachings said to him, “Teacher, when you talk this way, you insult us too.”
46 Jesus said, “How horrible it will be for you experts in Moses’ Teachings! You burden people with loads that are hard to carry. But you won’t lift a finger to carry any of these loads.
47 “How horrible it will be for you! You build the monuments for the prophets. But it was your ancestors who murdered them. 48 So you are witnesses and approve of what your ancestors did. They murdered the prophets for whom you build monuments. 49 That’s why the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles. They will murder some of those prophets and apostles and persecute others.’ 50 So the people living now will be charged with the murder of every prophet since the world was made. 51 This includes the murders from Abel to Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the temple. Yes, I can guarantee this truth: The people living today will be held responsible for this.
52 “How horrible it will be for you experts in Moses’ Teachings! You have taken away the key that unlocks knowledge. You haven’t gained entrance into knowledge yourselves, and you’ve kept out those who wanted to enter.”
53 When Jesus left, the experts in Moses’ Teachings and the Pharisees held a terrible grudge against him. They questioned him about many things 54 and watched him closely to trap him in something he might say.
Strong words from Jesus!
If these words were spoken to us by someone else, we might well say, 'Why don't you take a good look at yourself before you start saying all these things about us?'
Jesus spoke with power because He lived with integrity. There was no gap between what He said and how He lived. At every point, His words were backed up by His life. This is where His power came from.
What about us? Are we learning to love Jesus more?
When we need to speak such words, will we speak with the spirit of Jesus? He wasn't trying to drive people away from God. He was saying to them,'Get real with God.'
We need to hear such words. When we hear them, may we hear an echo of the words of Jesus. May we hear more than a word that condemns us and leaves us feeling that we have failed miserably. May we hear the call to come out of the illusion of our hypocrisy and into the reality of true discipleship. May we hear this call as Jesus's call of love. He says, "You weren't meant for this. You were meant for something more than this.' May we hear His voice of love, calling us to a closer walk with Him. He calls us in love. He calls us to holiness. May He give us grace to say 'Yes' to His love. May He give us grace to say 'Yes' to His holiness.
"I will send them prophets and apostles. They will murder some of those prophets and apostles and persecute others ... When Jesus left, the experts in Moses’ Teachings and the Pharisees held a terrible grudge against Him. They questioned Him about many things and watched Him closely to trap Him in something He might say" (Luke 11:49, 53).
We read about "prophets and apostles." Some were murdered. Others were persecuted. We read about our Saviour. He was crucified. Murder, persecution, crucifixion - Is this all that we read about the prophets and the apostles? Is this all that we read about our Saviour? No! Here's something else - "You are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Christ Jesus himself is the cornerstone" (Ephesians 2:20). Where would we be without the prophets and apostles? Where would we be without Jesus Christ, our Saviour? No foundation, no cornerstone - that's where we'd be! Thank God - We're not left to sink into quicksand that swallows us up. We're built on the solid Rock - our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. As we thank God for Jesus, let's not forget to thank Him, also, for the prophets and the apostles.
"At that time the Holy Spirit will teach you what you must say" (Luke 12:12).
The power of the Holy Spirit - This is something we must never forget. We meet someone who needs to hear the Good News of Christ's love. God is giving us this opportunity to speak a word for Him. What are we to say? We look to the Lord - to give us His Word, the words that we are to speak for Him - "Lead me to some soul today, O teach me, Lord, just what to say; Friends of mine are lost in sin, And cannot find their way. Few there are who seem to care, And few there are who pray; Melt my heart, and fill my life, Give me one soul today."
"Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to give me my share of the inheritance that our father left us.”
14 Jesus said to him, “Who appointed me to be your judge or to divide your inheritance?”
15 He told the people, “Be careful to guard yourselves from every kind of greed. Life is not about having a lot of material possessions.”
16 Then he used this illustration. He said, “A rich man had land that produced good crops. 17 He thought, ‘What should I do? I don’t have enough room to store my crops.’ 18 He said, ‘I know what I’ll do. I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones so that I can store all my grain and goods in them. 19 Then I’ll say to myself, “You’ve stored up a lot of good things for years to come. Take life easy, eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.”’
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! I will demand your life from you tonight! Now who will get what you’ve accumulated?’ 21 That’s how it is when a person has material riches but is not rich in his relationship with God.” (Luke 12:13-21).
Who is rich? The world has its way of answering this question. Jesus has a different way of answering it. Are we listening to the Lord - or are we listening to the world?
"Be ready ... Be ready ... " (Luke 12:35,40).
When Jesus returns, we are to be ready. This doesn't mean that we need to have all the answers to all the questions that can be asked about his return. It means that we're to be waiting for him in faith. We're to be loving him and living for him.
"From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked" (Luke 12:48).
There is no privilege without responsibility.
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem ..." (Luke 13:34-35)
This is the call of love. In love, Christ is reaching out to us. In love, He's calling us to come to him.
What are we looking for? Are we looking for praise from men - or from God?
* Jesus told a story of God's love - "the story of the prodigal son" (Luke 15:11-32).
* Jesus is the Story of God's love - His Story is the Story of God's perfect Son.
In Luke 15:13, we read of the prodigal son going into the "far country". In Luke 15:20-22, we read of the joy of his homecoming -"So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet."
In Philippians 2:8, we read of Jesus going into "the far country" (Luke 15:13) - "He humbled Himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!" - so that we might have an even greatest Homecoming of all - Christ has been "exalted ... to the highest place." He has been given "the Name that is above every name." What a day it will be when "at the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:9-11).
"The Word became flesh" then so that He might be made flesh in us now (John 1:14).
The Son of God became "Emmanuel" (God with us) so that He might be "God with us" here-and-now.
"Jesus ... has risen" (Matthew 28:5-6) - so that, as the living Christ, He might live in us.
Our faith is grounded in the great facts of the Gospel: The Word became flesh, Jesus has risen. The Saviour was born for us. He lived for us. He died for us. He rose for us.
All that He has done for us must become a powerful reality in us. This is the work of the Holy Spirit.
'For us' - we must never forget this. We do not jump straight to 'In us.'
To those who speak of an inner spirituality which is not grounded in the historical reality of the great events of the Gospel, the Word of God says, "Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God" (1 John 4:2-3), "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins" (1 Corinthians 15:17).
There is no 'Christ of faith' without 'the Jesus of history." A 'Christ of faith' who is not also 'the Jesus of history' is very different from the Jesus Christ of the Bible.
'In us' - we must never forget this. We are not to rest content with a Jesus who belongs to a world that is both far away and long ago.
The Gospel does not leave us in the past. Jesus comes to us from the past. He comes as the living Saviour.
(i) The Holy Spirit comes from God.
- “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Luke 3:16).
(ii) The Holy Spirit changes us.
- “Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-4).
- “When the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you shall be My witnesses” (Acts 1:8).
We read in the Bible about God’s love. Is this just something from the ancient past? Is it for us? The Bible speaks to us from the ancient past – but it’s not to be left in the ancient past.
* “God so loved the world” (John 3:16) – This is for us today. He loved the world then. He loves the world now. His love is unchanged.
* Sometimes, we start off well. We’re reading the Bible. We’re learning about God’s love. Then something unexpected happens – and we start wondering, “Does God still love me?” Where does that thought come from? Does it come from the Spirit of God? No, it comes from our enemy, Satan. He sows seeds of doubt in our mind. He says, “Do you really think that God loves you?” He contradicts God’s Word – and leaves us very confused (Genesis 3:1-5). When Satan comes to us with his lies, we must remember this: God never stops loving us. We may stop loving Him – but He will never stop loving us. His love is unchanging.
* How do we know that God’s love is unchanged and unchanging? – The Bible answers this question in three short words: “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Times change. Unexpected things happen to us. We change – “I’m not the person that I used to be.” God never changes. “God is love” – His love is unchangeable.
What does it mean to have eternal life? There are two important dimensions in eternal life. There is life after death and there is life before death. There are a great many people who never give any thought to an after-life. The question, "Is there life after death?" rarely crosses their mind. they are content to live from day to day, taking each day as it comes. These people are, however, interested in another question: Is there life before death? When they hear of Jesus Christ, they ask, "Can He change my life here and now? Can He make a difference in my life right now? The Gospel answer to that question is an emphatic "Yes". Jesus Christ does not only give us heaven. He give us new life here and now. The two sides of the life which Christ gives to us must be emphasized. There is life before death. Jesus calls this: "abundant life" (John 10:10). There is life after death. Here, Jesus speaks of "everlasting life" (John 3:16, Authorized Version).
Eternal life has a beginning, but it has no end. It begins when we come in faith to Jesus Christ to receive from Him the new life which He alone can give, the abundant life which is far better than life without Christ. Without Christ, life is empty. In Christ, there is abundant life. Apart from Christ, we have mere existence, just going on from day to day with no real sense of meaning, purpose and direction. With Christ, everything is different. This great change is well described in the words of the hymn: "What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought since Jesus came into my heart!" Jesus makes a difference here and now. He also gives us a life which has no end. This is also emphasized in this hymn: "I'm possessed of a hope that is steadfast and sure, since Jesus came into my heart!"
Eternal life is life with a new quality. It is life with an everlasting duration. When we think of the abundant quality of eternal life, we can testify with the hymnwriter: "All that thrills my soul is Jesus; He is more than life to me." When we think of the everlasting duration of eternal life, we rejoice in these words from the hymn, "Amazing grace": "When we've been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we've no less days to sing God's praise than when we first begun." When we read the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in John 10:28 - "I give them eternal life", our hearts are filled with joy - the joy of the Lord. When we read the rest of the verse, our hearts are filled with even greater joy: "they shall never perish." These are great words! The truth of Jesus' promise is presented very effectively in a Gospel song: "He didn't bring us this far to leave us. He didn't teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn't build His home in us to move away. He didn't lift us up to let us down." When we read the words, "they shall never perish", we may be painfully aware of the many temptations which we face. we are aware of the Lord's presence, but we are also aware of the activity of Satan. He is always seeking to snatch us out of the Lord's hands. What does Jesus say to us about Satan? - "No one (not even Satan himself) shall snatch you out of My hand."
Years ago, on a mission in Brodick, on the island of Arran, I heard an interesting song, the words of which have remained in my mind: "Why do Christians never turn back? They could, if they desired. Or, could it be that Christians are permanently fired with a love for a life they've found to be so real? They've found the perfect living in a God who is ideal for today." Jesus has given us abundant life. When we are tempted to turn back from following Jesus, we find, in our hearts, an echo of the words of Peter: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68). Through faith in Jesus Christ, we look forward to life after death. Our sense of expectation is greatly increased by the marvellous fact that we have received life before death: "Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine: O what a foretaste of glory divine!" Abundant life, here on earth, is a foretaste of life, in heavenly glory, with the Lord. We are not in heaven yet, but we have been heaven in our hearts, because we have Jesus in our hearts: "Heaven came down, and glory filled my soul, when, at the cross, the Saviour made me whole. My sins were washed away, and my night was turned to day. Heaven came down, and glory filled my soul." It is a wonderful thing to know that eternal life has begun. It is an even more wonderful thing to know that it shall never end.
Many Christians have come to faith in Christ through a little booklet entitled, "Journey into Life." This is a good description of what it means to become a Christian. Becoming a Christian means beginning a journey into life. this journey is a never-ending journey. The life, which Christ gives, is not only abundant life. It is also everlasting life. Have you begun the journey into life? If not, you can begin, today, your own personal journey into life. Let Jesus Christ lead you into this journey into life.
Make it personal!
Read the words of John 3:16 and Romans 10:9. Put your name into these great verses. Make it personal - Jesus is my Saviour. Jesus is my Lord.
Chapter 3, Verse 16: The Saviour, The Scriptures, The Spirit
John 3:16 - The Saviour
2 Timothy 3:16 - The Scriptures
Colossians 3:16 - The Spirit
Let us come to the Saviour. Let us read the Scriptures. Let us worship God in Spirit and in truth.
* What God must do for us – He must save : “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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17).
* What we must do for God – We must serve: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8).
Salvation and service
* Salvation leads to service.
Those who have been saved by the Lord are to serve Him.
* Service arises out of salvation.
When we serve the Lord, we must never forget that we have been saved by Him.
In the Lord’s Supper, Jesus stands before us as the One who calls for our decision. There is no automatic guarantee that all who hear the preaching of God’s Word do, in fact, receive the blessing of which God’s Word speaks. There is no automatic guarantee that all who receive the blessing to which these symbols point. Jesus stands before us, saying to us, “What is your response to Me?”
Jesus is "the light of the world" (John 8:12).
Life without Christ is very different from life with Christ. He is "the Light of the world" (John 8:12). When Christ shines His light into our hearts, the whole of life is so much brighter than it could ever be without Him. We could compare the world to a jigsaw. We don't see the complete picture until we have all the pieces in place. For many people, Christ is "the missing piece." He's not just one small missing piece that doesn't really matter very much if it's not there. He is the Centre of everything. Take Him away, and everything else looks very different. Put Him in His proper place, at the centre of our life, and we begin to see the complete picture. Everything is centred on Him. When we see the whole of life in relation to Christ, our whole life starts to make sense in a way that it doesn't when Christ is taken out of the picture.
"We wonder, "Where have we come from? Where are we going to?" Jesus says, "I know where I came from, and where I'm going" (John 8:14). Show us, Lord Jesus, Your eternal love - the love that calls out to us from the beginning, the love that calls us on to the end, the love that calls out to us from Your eternal glory, the love that calls us on to Your eternal glory.
"You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free ... So, if the Son sets you free, you will be absolutely free" (John 8:32,36).
Don't seek freedom, the way the world defines it - free to do what you like. That's not freedom. When we live to please ourselves, we show that our lives are being controlled by Satan. The more self-centred we are, the more Satan laughs. He says, ' I've got you exactly where I want you.' Receive freedom from Christ - set free from self-centredness, set free for a Christ-centred life - "It's no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).
* Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd who died on the cross for us – “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
* Jesus Christ is the Great Shepherd who rose from the dead for us – “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21).
* Jesus Christ is the Chief Shepherd who is coming again for us – “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away” (1 Peter 5:2-4).
"We wish to see Jesus ... The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified ... I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself ... although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him ... they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God" (John 12:21,23,32,37-43).
When we say, "We want to see Jesus", we are led by the Holy Spirit to the Cross of Christ. In the Cross of Christ, we see love that appeals to all people, calling them to come to the Saviour and receive His salvation. Sadly, there are many who refuse to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. There are some who find themselves drawn to the Saviour. They "believe in Him" but "they do not confess Him" because "they love the praise of men more than the praise of God." What are we to say when the love that makes its appeal to all is rejected by many? - "Not everyone has faith, but the Lord is faithful" (2 Thessalonians 3:2-3). When we are surrounded by so much unbelief, let us hold on to this: The Lord is faithful. Whatever the unbelieving world may say about the Lord, may the Lord's people always say, "The Lord is faithful."
“Jesus answered, ‘Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.’” (John 13:10).
* “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son cleanses us all from sin” (1 John 1:7).
When we come in faith to Jesus Christ, our Saviour, we receive complete cleansing – “The vilest offender who truly believes that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.” ”Every sin had to go ‘neath the cleansing flow.” * “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, keeps on cleansing us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
Coming to Christ and receiving the forgiveness of our sins is just the beginning of our walk in God.
Through faith in our Saviour, we become God’s children. Becoming God’s children through faith in Christ is the beginning of our new life in Christ. God is calling us to grow in Christ. He is calling us to become mature believers.
How are we to grow in Christ? How are to become mature believers? Often, sin will come between us and the holy God. When this happens, we must remember that He is our loving Father. In His great love for us, He has provided for us the way of continual cleansing in the blood of Christ, our Saviour.
When we fail the Lord, He does not leave us. He does not disown us. We are still His children, saved by His wonderful grace. He does, however, call us to come back to Him. He calls us to make progress in the way of holiness.
If we are to a life that brings glory to the Lord, we must come to Him – not once only but many times - and be cleansed in the blood of Christ. This is the continual cleansing which we require if we are to grow in Christ and become mature in Him.
The cleansing of our heart begins with conversion. God gives us a new heart. The cleansing of our life involves lifelong learning – learning to live in the power of the new nature given to us by God at the time of our conversion.
May God help us never to forget our complete cleansing. May we always give thanks to Him for this great blessing. May God help us to come to Him, again and again, for the continual cleansing we need if we are to grow in Christ and bring glory to Him.
"Now you're in a painful situation. But I will see you again. Then you will be happy, and no one will take that happiness away from you" (John 16:22).
Where does happiness come from? Is it something that we reach out for and grasp? or Is it something that's given to us? Our happiness comes to us from our Lord.
This is such a great prayer. At the heart of it, we have these great words, "Your Word is truth" (John 17:17). True prayer is always grounded in truth. There is a conversation between ourselves and God. God initiates this conversation. From Him, there is revelation. From us, there is response. Revelation comes first. He speaks to us. Then, we speak to Him. In our world, there are many voices. There is one voice which must not be drowned out: the voice of God.
"Your Word is truth" (John 17:17).
Where does our faith come from? It comes from the Lord. He has spoken to us in His Word. He is still speaking to us. Are we listening to Him? We're not to come to the Word of God with the attitude that says, "This is true. That's not true." On what basis do we say, "This is true. That's not true"? We may come to some parts of the Bible and say, "That speaks to me." We may come to other parts of the Bible and say, "That doesn't speak to me." What are we saying when we say this kind of thing? Are we saying something about God's Word? or Are we saying something about our need to listen more carefully to what the Lord is saying to us through His Word? Let us learn to say, with our Lord Jesus Christ, "Your Word is truth" (John 17:17) and we will begin to say, more and more often, "That really speaks to me." It's not about our deciding what speaks to us and then saying, "That really is the Word of God." It's about our saying "Your Word is truth" and then discovering that God has a great deal to say to us when we are learning to say to Him, "Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening" (1 Samuel 3:9-10).
"Shouldn’t I drink the cup of suffering that My Father has given Me?” (John 18:11).
Jesus drank from the cup of His suffering. We drink from the cup of His salvation.
"Don't free this man! Free Barabbas!" (John 18:40).
The Gospel is here - suffering for Jesus, salvation for us. Put yourself in the place of Barabbas, and rejoice in this: Jesus took your place. Jesus died for you.
"It is finished" (John 19:30).
Was Jesus finished? No! In John 20, we read about His resurrection from the dead. He had completed His God-given task: laying down His life for our salvation - but He wasn't finished"! This wasn't the end of Him!
"Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”" (John 20:28).
In John 20, we read of Jesus Christ, the risen Lord.Can anyone else ever begin to compare with Him? No! There is no-one like Him. He is the One who has conquered death. He has triumphed over death. He has won the victory over death - for us.
Jesus loves us so much more than we love Him. In love, He comes to us to draw out from us a greater love for Him. I find great encouragement in the story of the restoration of Peter in John 21. Peter had denied the Lord three times. For each denial, Jesus came to Peter with the question, "Peter, do you love Me?" Three times, Peter reaffirmed his love for Jesus. Following on from this, there is the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) when the Lord works through Peter in a very wonderful way. Three thousand people are brought to faith in Christ - for each denial, a thousand souls brought to faith! What a wonderful restoration! May we have much cause to say of the Lord, "He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His Name's sake" (Psalm 23:3). May our ministry of His Word prosper - "those who turn many to righteousness shall shine like the stars for ever and ever" (Daniel 12:3).
“God raised Jesus Christ from the dead” (Acts 2:24).
Did this become true only because a lot of people said that it was true? Has it become false because many people refuse to believe that it’s true? No! It’s God’s great miracle. Death has been defeated. There is hope. Death will not triumph over us. Jesus Christ is Lord.
At the heart of the Gospel, there is the love of God. This is the story
told by Peter on the Day of Pentecost – the story of God’s
love for us. In love, God offers to us the forgiveness of sins and the
gift of the Holy Spirit (v. 38). These blessings are undeserved –
we are “far off” (v. 39). As the message of salvation was
proclaimed, the Spirit of love was powerfully at work, creating faith
– “they were cut to the heart and asked, ‘Brothers,
what shall we do?’” (v. 37). The story of salvation calls
for our response. Can we hear this story of salvation without
responding in faith, without earnestly seeking the blessings promised
to us in Christ? – Sadly, there are people who hear the Gospel
many times but are never gripped by the Gospel. We are only gripped by
the Gospel when we allow the Spirit of God to do His work in us,
drawing us to Jesus Christ. This emphasis on the Spirit is important.
Repentance and faith come to us through the work of the Spirit in us.
This is very different from the suggestion that we depend on our own
ability to save ourselves through our own ‘good works’ of
repentance and faith. Peter calls for repentance. When we repent , we
turn from every attempt to save ourselves. It cannot be done. We put
our trust in Christ. He alone can save us. We do not come to God,
demanding that God must accept us because of our repentance.Trusting in
Christ, we receive the Holy Spirit.
We receive the power we need to live a new life, centred upon Christ
rather than self. It is the power that comes from knowing that our sins
have been forgiven. It is the Spirit’s power to change us, making
us more like Jesus. What does it mean to be gripped by the Gospel? What
does it mean to have faith in Christ? There are two elements in faith.
First, there is faith in the events, believing that they really
happened. Second, there is trust in what the events reveal. We trust in
the love of God. What is faith? In one sense, faith is personal. In
another sense, faith involves being in community with other believers
– “they were added to their number” (v. 41). In
Peter’s call for baptism, we see this second element of faith. In
baptism, we are taken beyond the purely personal aspect of faith. Our
attention is focused on the community of faith into which we enter. We
are not simply isolated individuals. We belong to the body of Christ,
in fellowship with other believers.
Our Question And God's Answer (Acts 2:37-38)
The question is our question: “Brothers, what shall we do?”
The answer is God’s answer: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the Name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Where Does Our Question Come From? (Acts 2:37)
Where does our question come from? – It comes from God.
His Word is preached. His Spirit is at work.
Following on from the preaching of God’s Word in the power of God’s Spirit, we read this, “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart”. This is where the question comes from. God has put it into our heart. Through His Word and His Spirit, he leads us to ask the question of salvation: “What must I do to be saved?”
God's Answer To Our Question (Acts 2:37-38)
The question is our question. The answer must always be God’s answer. We ask the question. We cannot give the answer. In ourselves, there is no answer. We are “far off” (Acts 2:39).
We know about our sin, but we cannot give to ourselves the forgiveness of sin.
We know about the emptiness in our lives, but we cannot fill our own hearts with the presence of the Holy Spirit.
We can only come to God in our sin and our emptiness.
We come in our sin, praying for God’s forgiveness. We come in our emptiness, praying that God will fill us with His Spirit.
When we come in our sin and emptiness, God speaks His answer.
God’s Answer Comes To Us In The Name Of Jesus Christ.
“What are we to do?” – Before we think of what we are to do, we must think about what Jesus Christ has done for us. This is the Good News. Jesus Christ has taken our sins upon Himself. He has died for us so that we might be forgiven by Him.
We must never begin with the call for repentance and baptism. We must always begin with Jesus Christ – “the Son of God loved us and gave Himself for us” (Galatians 2:20).
“What are we to do?” – The first thing we must do is this: we must look away from ourselves to Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
When we turn our eyes on Jesus and keep our eyes fixed on Him, we will never think of our repentance and baptism as ‘good works’ we have done, ‘good works’ by which we make ourselves acceptable to God.
The Name of Jesus Christ is the Name of our salvation. It is in Him that we are called to repentance and baptism. It is through the power of Jesus Christ, the risen Lord, that we are able to put the old life behind us and begin the new life of the Spirit.
At the heart of God’s answer to our question, there is “the Name of Jesus Christ.”
In His answer to our question, God speaks to us of repentance and baptism. He speaks of the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Above all else, He speaks to us of His Son, our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
God's Answer Is For Every One Of Us (Acts 2:38).
To every one of us, God says, “Repent and be baptized”. To every one of us, He says, “Leave your old life behind. Step out into the new life with Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord.”
God’s answer is for every one of us. He doesn’t say to some of us, “You need to repent” and then turn to others, saying, “You won’t need to repent. You’re good enough already.”
Let God's Answer Change You. (Acts 2:38).
The question is asked, “What are we to do?” God’s answer begins with a call for repentance and baptism – “Repent and be baptized.”
If we were to read no further than the words, “Repent and be baptized”, we would miss a great deal of what God is saying to us here.“Repent and be baptized” is only the beginning of God’s answer. We must go on from there. As we read the remainder of verse 38, we learn that
* God’s answer is addressed to every one of us.
* God’s answer comes to us in the Name of Jesus Christ.
* God’s answer comes to us with the promise of the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
We ask the question, “What are we to do?” (Acts 2:37), God gives the answer – “Repent and be baptized.” (Acts 2:38).
We lay our old life before the Lord. We invite Him to come and change us.
He comes in forgiving love. He comes in transforming power.
Once we have put our faith in Christ, everything changes.
“If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation.
Old things have passed away. Everything has become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
“It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
Three Great Gifts - Jesus, Forgiveness, And The Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38)
Through faith in Christ, we put the old life behind us. Our sins are forgiven. We receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Through faith in Christ, we receive the strength we need to live as men and women who love God.
Through faith in Christ, we receive the strength we need to maintain our confession of faith – "Jesus Christ is Lord.”
In Jesus Christ, God’s answer comes to us with the promise of the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Christ brings a change of direction into our life.
This change of direction is described for us in Acts 2:42 -“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
Christ is preached. We believe the Gospel. We receive salvation. Life is no longer centred upon ourselves. It is centred upon Christ.
Peter preached Christ with great boldness: ‘There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’(Acts 4:12).
This boldness came from the Holy Spirit. Peter was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’(Acts 4:8). Don’t say, ‘I‘m no Peter’. Peter failed his Lord and had to be restored (Matthew 26:69-75; John 21:15-17). Peter drew great strength from ‘the company of those who believed’. They ‘gathered together’ for prayer. They ‘were of one heart and soul’...’(Acts 4:31-33). Why did God deal so severely with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11)? This was the start of something great. God refused to let His work be spoiled! There is a warning for us: Don’t pretend to be more holy than you really are. God sees what you’re really like. ‘Search me, O God...’(Psalm 139:23-24). There was great blessing: ‘More than ever believers were added to the Lord’(Acts 5:14). There was persecution (Acts 5:17-18). This did not hinder the advance of the Gospel (Acts 5:42). Satan was not going to give up easily. He came right back at the apostles (Acts 6:1). Satan was defeated. Through the Spirit of God and the Word of God, the victory was won. The apostles ‘devoted themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word’. They were supported by ‘seven men... known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom’(Acts 6:3-4). Armed with ‘the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God’, let us be ‘be strong in the Lord’- ‘filled with the Spirit’- as we ‘let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly’(Ephesians 6:17,10; 5:18; Colossians 3:16). Filled with His Spirit and obedient to His Word, let us look to God for His blessing (Acts 6:7).
Jesus is the way of salvation, joy and victory.
- Jesus is the way of salvation - Concerning "the Name of Jesus Christ", Peter tells us that "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:10, 12).
- Jesus is the way of joy - Jesus tells us, "In the world, you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
Jesus is the way of victory - Paul gives to us this word of encouragement: "Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:57).
"Look," Stephen said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God" (Acts 7:56).
Immediately after this great vision of his Saviour, Stephen prayed two prayers
- "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (Acts 7:59);
- "Lord, do not hold this sin against them" (Acts 7:60).
Stephen's death wasn't a sad exit from this world. It was a triumphant entry into God's eternal Kingdom.
Through faith in Christ, we can die triumphantly.
Great things can happen ...
Great things can happen when ‘earnest prayer’ is ‘made to God by the church’ - God ‘is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think’ (Acts 12:5-7; Ephesians 3:20). Give all the glory to God.
Herod ‘did not give God the glory’. He accepted the praise of the people - ‘This is the voice of a god, not of a man’. Herod’s sudden death - ‘an angel of the Lord struck him down’ - is a warning (Acts 12:22-23; Proverbs 29:1).
‘Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows that he will also reap’. ‘Walk humbly with your God’ (Galatians 6:7; Micah 6:8).
"Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls ... Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words ... Paul and Barnabas also remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord" (Acts 15:24,32,35).
There was a problem. There needed to be a response. Whenever God's people are being "troubled" and "unsettled" by those who speak their own "words" rather than the Word of the Lord, what are we to do? We must pray that God will raise up "prophets" who will preach the Gospel and teach the Word of God, strengthening the faith of God's people and leading them into a closer walk with God.
“Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.’” (Acts 15:36).
We begin with making decisions – but we don’t end there. We must go on from there to making disciples. Making a decision for Christ is just the beginning. Growing into a disciple of Christ – this is God’s calling for the whole of our life’s journey.
"During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the Gospel to them" (Acts 16:9-10).
Paul's guidance came through " a man of Macedonia." His guidance came from "God." We look at the human situation. We ask the Lord, "What do You want me to do?"
"The people of Berea were more open-minded than the people of Thessalonica. They were very willing to receive God’s message, and every day they carefully examined the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was true" (Acts 17:11).
Give careful attention to God's Word. This is what we learn from the Bereans. May God help us to be more like them.
"Paul ... strengthened the faith of all the disciples" (Acts 18:23).
Strengthening the faith of all the disciples - This is such an important ministry. We are not to be content with the faith that we have. We are to press on to a stronger faith. What do we mean when we speak about a strong faith? What we mean is this: We're learning to trust in our strong God. Our God is always stronger than our faith. It's not so much our faith that's strong. It's our God who's strong. The strengthening of our faith - This is about a growing awareness of our strong God. He is our strength. Our faith is growing stronger when we're learning to look away from ourselves - we are always weak - to our God - He is always strong.
"But the evil spirit answered them, I know Jesus, and I’m acquainted with Paul, but who are you?” (Acts 19:15).
There will always be a difference between the real thing and the counterfeit. There's no doubt about that. The question is: Can we tell the difference between the two? May God give us wisdom to know what is from Him and what is not from Him. May He give us courage to keep on choosing His perfect way when many others are settling for something less than His very best.
In Acts 19:23, we read about a riot in Ephesus - "a serious disturbance concerning the way of Christ broke out in the city of Ephesus."
Thank God for Ephesians 2:1-5 - "You were once dead because of your failures and sins. You followed the ways of this present world and its spiritual ruler. This ruler continues to work in people who refuse to obey God. All of us once lived among these people, and followed the desires of our corrupt nature. We did what our corrupt desires and thoughts wanted us to do. So, because of our nature, we deserved God’s anger just like everyone else. But God is rich in mercy because of His great love for us. We were dead because of our failures, but He made us alive together with Christ. (It is God’s kindness that saved you.)"
People can be changed by the love of God.
"Paul ... spoke many words of encouragement to the people" (Acts 20:1-2).
Encouragement - What an important ministry this is! We are to encourage one another in the Lord. Our words are to be upliftings words - words that say, 'Lift up your eyes. Look to Jesus. See how great He is. See how much He loves you.'
In his message to the elders at Ephesus, Paul describes his ministry in this way - "I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying to both Jews and to Greeks of repentance to God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:20-21). As he speaks of this Christ-centred ministry, Paul makes it clear that he does not carry out this ministry in his own strength. He speaks of the next step in his missionary journey - "now ... I am going to Jerusalem, bound in the Spirit" (Acts 20:22). We learn from Paul that the Holy Spirit is leading us on to greater things - in the service of Christ. Paul was not content with what he had achieved in the service of Christ. led by the Holy Spirit, Paul was moving on to greater things. This is the way the Holy Spirit is leading us today. We must not rest content. We must go on.
"When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down and prayed with all of them" (Acts 20:36).
We are to speak to the people for God. We are to speak to God for the people.
In Acts 21, we read about Paul, travelling from place to place. He was not alone. The Lord was with Him. He was more than a traveller. He was a missionary - a man on a mission. He was not travelling around aimlessly. He was a man with a purpose. Wherever he went, he shared the Good News of Christ's love.
When Paul went to Jerusalem, he received a warm welcome from the believers (Acts 21:17) - but look at what happened later on - "The mob was behind them shouting, “Kill him!”" (Acts 21:36)! Does this not remind us of our Lord Jesus Christ? - How quickly the "Hosanna" became "Crucify him." Doing God's will wasn't easy for Jesus and Paul. It won't be easy for us. God was with Jesus and Paul. He will be with us.
"You will be his witness and will tell everyone what you have seen and heard" (Acts 22:15).
"His witness" - What a great privilege this is! What a great responsibility it is!
"You must tell the truth about me in Rome" (Acts 23:11).
God is looking beyond our here and now - where we are and what we're doing. He's looking at what lies ahead of us, what he has planned for us.
"The next morning some Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul" (Acts 23:12).
We read about Paul. We remember Jesus. Paul's enemies of Christ wanted to kill him, but God had other ideas - "You must tell the truth about me in Rome" (Acts 23:11). Jesus' enemies crucified him - but God turned everything around: "wicked men put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead" (Acts 2:23-24).
"I’m not ashamed of the Good News. It is God’s power to save everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16).
Jesus wasn't ashamed of us. He went to the Cross for us. This is the Good News. Jesus is our Saviour.
May we be unashamed of Jesus. May we be glad to speak of Him who died for us. May our lives speak for Him - as well as our words. May we not bring shame on His great Name. May we bring glory to His Name - the Name of our salvation.
I was reading Romans 1:1-7. I was asking the question, "What's this about?" There's one simple answer to this question: "This is all about Jesus!"
"It is God's kindness that is trying to lead you to Him, and change the way you think and act" (Romans 2:4).
God doesn't want to leave us the way we are. He wants to change us. He wants to make us new men and women. He wants to make us men and women who love with a love that's growing stronger as we learn to walk with Him in the light of His Word. Why does He want to change us? Why does He want to make us more holy? It's because He loves us. He loved us before we started to love Him. He keeps on loving us when we fail to love him. God loves us so much that He can never be happy when He watches us wandering away from Him. He longs for us to return to Him. In love, He calls to us. He says, 'Come, and enjoy My love. Come, and be loved. Come, and I will teach You to love. Come, and let My love change your way of thinking and living.'
"Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:23-24).
Here, we read about our sin and God's salvation. Once we have received God's salvation, we must not forget about our sin. We have been saved by God's grace - but we are always sinners. Our sin has been forgiven - but our sin is still there, trying to get the upper hand, trying to keep us from "growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). How are we to grow in Christ? We rejoice in His gift of the forgiveness of our sins - but will we grow in Christ by forgetting that we are sinners? When we come to the Cross of Christ, two things are revealed to us - our sin and God's salvation. The revelation of our sin does not end when we receive God's gift of forgiveness. In love, the Lord keeps on showing us how far we have fallen short of His perfect holiness. He shows us our sin so that we might appreciate His salvation and learn to walk with Him on His "Highway of Holiness" (Isaiah 35:8).
God's way of righteousness begins with this - He is "just" - and leads to this - He "justifies those who have faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:26).
"For our salvation Christ came down from heaven" (Nicene Creed) - This is Good News for sinners.
As we rejoice in the "for our salvation" message of the Gospel, let us never forget the "for His glory" message!
"To God be the glory, great things He has done! So loved He the world that He gave us His Son, who yielded His life an atonement for sin, and opened the life-gate that all may go in.
Praise the Lord! ... Give Him the glory!"
"When people work, their pay is not regarded as a gift but something they have earned" (Romans 4:4).
When God is at work in us, bringing us to faith in His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ, everything is very different. His salvation is His gift to us. It's not our reward from Him.
Grace gives to us. We receive from grace. Grace brings us to faith. By faith, we look away from ourselves to the God of grace. We say, "Praise Him, praise Him, alleluia! Praise with us the God of grace."
"Jesus, our Lord, was handed over to death because of our failures and was brought back to life so that we could receive God’s approval" (Romans 4:25).
Think often of what Jesus had done for you. He died for you. He rose again for you. Thank him for dying for you. Thank him for rising again for you.
“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Is this no longer true just because a lot of people have lost interest in singing the song of salvation?
No! This was Good News in Paul’s day. It’s still Good News for today.
It will always be the Good News of God’s love. It will always be the great reminder of God’s “for ever” love (Psalm 136).
"There is no comparison between God’s gift and Adam’s failure" (Romans 5:15).
Adam's failure and God's gift - What a difference there is between the two! What Adam could not do, God has done. Salvation is never our achievement. It is always God's gift.
"In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires" (Romans 6:11-12).
Be what God has made you "in Christ" - not what sin has made you without Christ.
"I have reason to glory in Christ Jesus in the things which pertain to God" (Romans 15:17).
Where has the blessing come from? Does it say something about how worthy we are? No! It's not about us. We haven't done anything to deserve God's blessing. The blessing comes from the Lord. To Him be all the glory!
“… watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned … By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people” (Romans 16:17-18).
These are very strong words. They are words which have a great deal to say to the Church at a time when it seems that the voice of permissive society is threatening to drown out completely the voice of Holy Scripture. When Paul addresses the problem of divisions among God’s people, He calls us to be faithful “to the teaching you have learned.” Behind Paul’s words concerning “the teaching you have learned”, there is something else: “according to the Scriptures.” We see this in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. Paul begins by speaking about “the gospel which I preached to you” (1 Corinthians 15:1). As we look on to 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, it becomes clear that he is not concerned with drawing attention to himself. What he is concerned about is this: “according to the Scriptures” – “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
1 & 2 CORINTHIANS
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
How does the Lord keep us walking in His way? – He keeps on bringing to our attention the glorious future which He is preparing for us. He keeps on reminding us that we are being prepared for His eternal glory. How is He preparing us for ”praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed”? – He is teaching us to “love Him. ” The more we are learning to love Him, the more we will look forward, “with an inexpressible and glorious joy” to ”the end result of our faith, the salvation of our souls” (1 Peter 1:7-9).
"Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple" (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
God has given us a great privilege - "you yourselves are God's temple... God's Spirit dwells in your midst." He's given us a great responsibility - we must take care of "God's temple." When God's Spirit comes into our hearts, what does He do? Does He give us a feeling of superiority - we're better than they are? No! He calls upon us to search our hearts more deeply: "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23-24).
"Praise God in His sanctuary" (Psalm 150:1). "Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit... glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Where does praise come from? How do we learn to glorify God"? We learn that we "have been bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:20). At the Cross of Christ, we learn to praise God. We see Jesus, crucified for us - and our hearts are filled with praise to God. This is where praise begins. It doesn't begin with us. It begins with God. It begins with Jesus. It begins with the Holy Spirit.
How do we react when things don’t seem to be going very well? We all need the encouragement of God’s Word: ‘Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumph’ (2 Corinthians 2:14).
Here are some great words from Jim Elliot, an American missionary who died at the hands of Auca Indians in Ecuador in the 1950s – “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
* "To gain what he cannot lose" - Eternal life has lasting value.
* "what he cannot keep" - The things of this world don’t have lasting value.
After Jim Elliot and four other American missionaries were killed, there was great blessing among the Aucas.
* Think of these faithful martyrs. Think of the blessing which followed.
In 2 Corinthians 4:15, we have a great comment on the wonderful blessing which followed the killing of the American missionaries by the Aucas - “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” The American missionaries laid down their lives. The Aucas found eternal life. It was for their benefit. Grace reached more and more people. There was an overflow of giving glory to God.
* Think of own times of suffering.
We must remember this - we’re not alone. God is there with us. We see this in the sufferings of Job. What suffering Job endured. He knew that he was not alone. He knew that God was with him. In the middle of the most intense suffering, Job gives us a great testimony of faith: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25).
* Think of the eternal glory towards which the Lord is calling us.
The Mercy Of God And The Ministry Of His Word
In the work of ministry, we are often discouraged by the lack of response. May God help us to remember that “we have received this ministry by the mercy of God” (2 Corinthians 4:1). May He give us the wonderful privilege of seeing more people responding to the Word of God which, by the power of the Holy Spirit, “gives the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). These are tremendous words of faith. They lift our eyes above “our light and momentary troubles.” They set our eyes on the “eternal glory.” When we see our times of suffering in this eternal perspective, our hearts are encouraged in the Lord. Our suffering isn’t the last word. God’s eternal glory is – and we will share in His eternal glory – “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! … Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:1-2).
"Now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2).
In our thinking about the Lord’s Return, it is very important that we do not forget that the decision between salvation and judgment is one which must be made here and now. The Bible speaks of the Day of the Lord’s Return as a Day of salvation for the Lord’s believing people. The Lord’s Return will also bring a Day of judgment for all who turn their backs on the Saviour. The Bible also speaks of another day of salvation, another day of judgment. That day is today. This is precisely what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:2 - “Now is the day of salvation.” Now is the time for making your decision for Christ. Now is the time for faith in the Saviour. Jesus underlines the importance of our present response to Him. He does this, in John 3:18, when He speaks of those who are already under judgment because of their unbelief: “he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the Name of the only Son of God.” The Lord awaits for our response now. May God help us to put our trust in His Son, Jesus Christ. May God help us to await Christ’s Return with joyful expectation.
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all’ (2 Corinthians 13:14).
We have often heard these words spoken. Here, we are reading them in the Word of God. How often do we think about these words? What do they mean? These are life-changing words. Through ‘the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ’, we become ‘rich’ - ‘blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing’ (2 Corinthians 8:9, Ephesians 1:3). ‘In love God has destined us to be His sons through Jesus Christ’ (Ephesians 1:5). How do these blessings become ours? How do we become God’s children? We hear the Word of truth, the Gospel of our salvation. We believe in Christ. We are sealed with the promised Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). Such great blessing - ‘the Spirit is poured upon us from on high (Isaiah 32:15)!
"I have been crucified with Christ ... Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).
When our devotion to the Lord is being deepened, we learn to walk with Him on the way of the cross – “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20) When our devotion to the Lord is being deepened, we will be less concerned with being more popular and more concerned with pleasing the Lord – “approved to God” (2 Timothy 2:15).
In Galatians 3:14, we read about "receiving the promise of the Spirit through faith."
What does this mean? It may be helpful to think, first, about what it doesn't mean.
We must never think of the Holy Spirit as a reward that is given to us because we have faith - the more faith we have, the more the Holy Spirit is given to us. Where does this kind of thinking come from? It comes from human pride. We make too much of our faith - and we get things the wrong way round.
When faith is real, it changes us. This is something that we must always emphasize - but we must make sure that we never give the impression that the Holy Spirit is a reward - God's way of recognizing how well we are doing in the life of faith. When we think that we are being rewarded, the focus is on ourselves - 'Look at what I've achieved. Look at the progress I've made.'
We are called to make progress in the life of faith - but we must never forget where this progress comes from. It comes from the Lord. Every thought of holiness comes from the Lord. He puts it into our hearts. We do not begin with our faith - 'I'm going to live a godly life', and, then, somewhere along the line, we start thinking about the Holy Spirit as God's reward, earned by us because of our growing desire to become more like Jesus. The Holy Spirit isn't God's way of rewarding us - 'You've made some progress. I'll reward you with the Holy Spirit.'
How did we come to faith? The Holy Spirit, brought us to faith. He was working in our hearts. He was leading us to see that there was nothing good in ourselves. He was leading us to stop trying to save ourselves. He was leading us to look away from ourselves to Jesus. He was leading us to stop trying and start trusting - looking to Jesus to do for us what we could never do for ourselves.
How are we led in the paths of righteousness? It's the Holy Spirit who leads us closer to our Saviour, Jesus. He shows us that the self-centred way of life will never satisfy the deepest longing of our hearts. He keeps on saying to us, 'There's something more. There's a different way of living. There's a better way of living.'
Where does this new life come from? Do we make up our minds that we're going to live a better life - and hope that God will reward us with His Holy Spirit? What is this? - It's the religion of the Pharisees.
What does it have to do with God's salvation? Nothing! It's all about our human achievement. We'll never start looking to the Lord for salvation until we stop trying to save ourselves. A reward is earned by us. Salvation is given to us. A reward sends us back to our own human resources. It says to us , 'What are you going to do to show that you are worthy of this reward?' Salvation points us to Christ. It tells us what He has done for us. It calls us to look to Him - to trust Him as our Saviour, to confess Him as our Saviour. It calls us to live for Him - without ever forgetting that He died for us.
The religion of the Pharisees is all about keeping the law, and hoping that you'll be rewarded. What happens when we're honest with ourselves, and say, 'I can never keep the law the way I should'? That's when we start to realize that we need more than the law. We need the Gospel.
We don't begin with the law - what we can do for God. We begin with the Gospel - what He has done for us. Go back to Exodus 20. There, we have the Ten Commandments. Before that, there is God's declaration, 'This is what I have done for you' (Exodus 20:1-2).
We must never begin with something that we do. We must always begin with what God has done. Even, beginning with faith is missing the point of the Gospel of grace. Our faith can never be any more than a response to God's grace. His grace comes before our faith. In grace, He reaches out to us. His grace brings us to Christ. His grace leads us to put our faith in Christ.
"The law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ" (Galatians 3:24) - The Law of God, the Spirit of God and the Son of God
Some schoolmasters may be viewed as disciplinarians. I think, however, we should see the work of the Holy Spirit here. He convicts us of sin and leads us to Christ. This is not the impersonal law. It's the personal approach of the Holy Spirit. In grace and mercy, He shows us how far we have fallen short of God's perfect standard so that He might gently lead us to the Cross of Christ, the place where we receive the forgiveness of all our sins.
In Galatians 4:6, we learn that ‘God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts.’ The Spirit is not a reward which we earn by being good people. We are bad people who have broken God's law. The Spirit is God’s gift (Titus 3:5). The Spirit is not a reward which we earn because of our good works. Paul connects the gift of the Spirit with Christ’s death for us and our faith in Christ (Galatians 3:13-14).
When the Spirit brings us to Christ our Saviour, He takes us through a process which could be described as disciplinarian. We could look at His work in this way - so long as we see much more of divine grace in this than we would normally associate with the word "disciplinarian"!
The Spirit strips us of our human pride. He leads us to come to Christ with humility. When the Spirit has done His work in our hearts, we do not come to God with our religion in one hand and our morality in the other, insisting that we deserve to be blessed by Him. We look away from ourselves to Christ - ‘Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy Cross I cling.’ All pride in ourselves must be brought to Christ’s Cross as we humbly pray, ‘Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me, break me, melt me, mould me, fill me.’
Let's look beyond the idea of the law as a disciplinarian. Let's give thanks to God. He has given His Spirit to us. Let’s give ourselves to Him - to ‘be filled with the Spirit’(Ephesians 5:18).
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace ..." (Galatians 5:22-23).
* The love in us comes from the love of God.
* The joy in us comes from the joy of God.
* The peace in us comes from the peace of God.
... The God of love, the God of joy, the God of peace ...
Without God, there can be no love in us, no joy in us , no peace in us ...
... Love, Joy, Peace ... That's what we find in Jesus.
The fruit of the Spirit grows in us as we are learning to love Jesus, learning to rejoice in our Saviour, learning to rest in the peace of Christ.
The fruit of the Spirit grows in us as we learn to walk with Jesus in the way of patience, kindness and goodness.
The fruit of the Spirit grows in us as we travel to the Cross of Christ where we learn the way of faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
“God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ …” (Galatians 6:14).
At the cross, we see Jesus Christ, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” ( John 1:29). In the cross, we see the fulfilment of God’s eternal plan of salvation – “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). In the cross, we catch a glimpse of the eternal glory of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb … For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘He will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’” (Revelation 7:10,17).
As we consider the glory of our Saviour, sent to us from eternal love, crucified for us, leading us on to eternal glory, let us join with Paul in saying “I will glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We rejoice in our Saviour. We give all the glory to Him. He's "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). What a great salvation He has given to us! It begins with the forgiveness of our sins. It continues with the Holy Spirit, living in us and leading us out of a life that is centred on ourselves and into a life that is becoming more centred on Christ. Beyond the blessings that we receive while we are here on earth, there is the glory of being with the Lord forevermore - the full glory of eternal life. This final glory will surpass every blessing that we have enjoyed during our earthly journey of faith and obedience. All of these blessings come to us from our Saviour - "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).
"Sit, Walk, Stand" - This is a useful summary of the message of Ephesians: "And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (2:6); "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called" (4:1); "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil" (6:11).
"Sit, Walk, Stand" - We also find these words in the first Psalm: "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful" (v. 1). Concerning those who persist in walking in the counsel of the ungodly, standing in the way of sinners and sitting in the set of the scornful, the first Psalm says this: "Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous" (v.5).
"Every spiritual blessing in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3)
Through Christ, God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3).
Every spiritual blessing – in Christ: Come to Him and receive His blessing.
"I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers" (Ephesians 1:16).
Prayer isn't all about asking. We must not forget to give thanks to the Lord.
Saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8)
Sinners become singers. We never cease to be sinners. We are not superior to those who do not sing the song of the Lord. We have been saved by His grace. All the glory belongs to Him. May our whole life be a song of praise to Him (Ephesians 2:8-10). In our battle against Satan, we must never forget that our victory is grounded in His salvation: “At the Name of Jesus, Satan’s legions flee; on then, Christian soldiers, on to victory.” “The Church of God” is called to move forward as “a mighty army.” The Lord has loved us so much. He has saved us. May we always give to others a friendly invitation and a warm welcome: “Onward then, you people, join our happy throng, blend with ours your voices in the triumph song.” Sinners will become singers – when we, who have begun to sing the Lord’s song, always remember that we are never any more than this: sinners who have been saved by God’s grace.
"Glory belongs to God, whose power is at work in us" (Ephesians 3:20).
The power comes from God. The glory goes to God.
"one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all ..." (Ephesians 4:5-6)
Everything about our unity points away from ourselves.
* Our unity is in the Lord. He did not wait for us to come to him. He came to us and for us.
* Our unity is in the faith. This faith is not a man-centred faith. It's a faith that has been given to us - by revelation (Matthew 16:16-17).
* Our unity is in our baptism. We did not baptize ourselves. We heave been baptized "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19).
* Our unity is in in God, our Father. Before we loved him, he loved us. Before we reached out to him, he was reaching out to us. In love, he was reaching out to us - to bring us to himself.
"Awake, O sleeper" (Ephesians 5:14).
God wants us to ‘grow up in every way into Christ’(Ephesians 4:15). We are to ‘walk in love’(Ephesians 5:2), a life which is ‘pleasing to the Lord’(Ephesians 5:10). It is so easy for us to settle for something less than God’s very best. We settle down into a state of spiritual complacency. What does God have to say about this? – ‘Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God’(Ephesians 4:30). He gives us His wake-up call: ‘Awake, O sleeper…’(Ephesians 5:14). God says to us, ‘Awake, awake, put on your strength… Shake yourself from the dust, arise’(Isaiah 52:1-2). Have you become ‘lukewarm’? – ‘Be zealous and repent’. Christ says, ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him’(Revelation 3:16, 19-20). What will you say to Him? – ‘Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in today. Come in to stay’.
"Husbands, love your wives, just as also Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her" (Ephesians 5:25).
Human love is grounded in divine love. "I love you" is grounded in "God loves you." We see the love of God in the love of Christ, who gave Himself, in death, for us. Christ loves us. He has given Himself for us. He calls us His ‘Bride’ (Ephesians 5:25-27; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 21:2, 9).
"Receive your power from the Lord" (Ephesians 6:11); "undying love for our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 6:24)
Where does undying love come from? It comes from the Lord. It comes from his love for us. Where does power come from? It comes from the Lord. He is the God of love. His power is the power of love.
"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God" (Philippians 1:9-11).
Our love for the Lord comes from His love for us. His love reaches us. His love changes us. With Jesus as our Saviour, our life changes direction. It's less of self - and more of Him. We're moving towards "the day of Christ." We're not there yet. We've got a long way to go. We find it so difficult to look beyond where we are right now. Jesus is very different from us. He looks right on to the end. He sees as we will be at the time of His Return. Now, we catch only a glimpse of the glory of Christ. Then, we will see Him in the fullness of His glory. What we shall be is still to be fully revealed to us. Saved by grace, promoted to glory - Here-and-now, these are, for us, words of faith. When He returns, we will enter into the full reality of what it means to be saved by grace and promoted to glory.
Knowing the Lord Jesus Christ is more important and more wonderful than everything else (Philippians 3:8).
Paul's testimony lifts us above the shallow superficiality of the worldly way of thinking. Too often, we attach too much importance to the things that aren't really that important. We need to be reminded that Jesus is the most important Person of all. No-one else can ever be more important and more wonderful than Jesus.
"Always be joyful in the Lord ... I know how to live in poverty or prosperity" (Philippians 4:4,12).
In the Lord - This is the important thing. Poverty with the Lord is better than prosperity without Him.
“All over the world this Gospel is bearing fruit and growing” (Colossians 1:6).
The work of the Gospel is always more than what’s happening in the place where you live. Continue to pray for the work of the Lord in many places. Don’t forget to pray for those who brought the Word of the Lord to you and are now serving the Lord in another place.
"Spiritual wisdom" is "knowledge of God's will." It doesn't take us up into the clouds - and leave us there. It lifts us up - and puts our feet back on the ground again. Spiritual wisdom isn't just knowing a lot about God. It's learning to do His will.
"Be careful not to let anyone rob you of this faith through a shallow and misleading philosophy" (Colossians 2:8).
There are some ideas which sound good - if you don't look too closely at what they're really saying. They say to us, "You have a problem. This is how you can sort things out for yourself." Really? We can sort things out for ourselves, can we? This is exactly what God's Word says we can't do. We need Jesus to sort things out for us. Without Him, we are lost. We try to sort things out for ourselves. What happens when it doesn't work? Do we just look for something else, some other way of sorting things for ourselves? or Do we consider the possibility that we've been starting from the wrong place. We're staring with "I", when we should be starting with God. What does "a shallow and misleading philosophy" do for us? It leads us to think that we can sort ourselves out, we can make something of ourselves. There's a problem with this kind of thinking. It's man-centred. It tells us we can do something about our problem. What if our problem is bigger than we can handle? What if we need God? That's where "a shallow and misleading philosophy" will never take us. It always tells us that we can solve our own problems. It never tells us that we need the Lord. It tells us to look more deeply into ourselves. It never leads us to Jesus, our Saviour. What happens when we look more deeply into ourselves? The more deeply we look, the more we find that we need Jesus. That's when we begin to see that we need more than "a shallow and misleading philosophy." "Be careful not to let anyone rob you of this faith" - What faith? Is it faith in ourselves? Is it something that gives our self-confidence a boost? No! It's faith in Jesus, our Saviour. It's believing that He can do for us what we can't do for ourselves. It's believing that salvation isn't something we can obtain for ourselves. It's believing that, when we come to an end of ourselves, we make a new beginning with Jesus, our Saviour.
"If you have died with Christ to the world’s way of doing things, why do you let others tell you how to live?" (Colossians 2:20).
This is a very good question. It's a question that needs to be asked. It's a question that must be answered. May our answer be, 'We will live Christ's way - not the world's way' - "As holy people whom God has chosen and loved, be sympathetic, kind, humble, gentle, and patient. Put up with each other, and forgive each other if anyone has a complaint. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Above all, be loving" (Colossians 3:12-14).
"Everything you say or do should be done in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him" (Colossians 3:17).
Thankfulness is a way of life. It is to affect everything we say. It is to affect everything we do.
God calls us to pray - ‘Devote yourselves to prayer.’ We are to pray with concern - ‘watchful.’ We are to pray with gratitude - ‘thankful’ (Colossians 4:2). We are to pray for those who preach God’s Word. Thank God for the past. Trust Him for the future. Remember - the important thing is the ‘message’ (Colossians 4:3). The messengers are just ‘jars of clay’. The message is the ‘treasure’ (2 Corinthians 4:7). The messengers must not draw attention to themselves. They must direct attention away from themselves to Jesus Christ - ‘We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord’ (2 Corinthians 4:5). We are to pray that the message will be ‘clear’ (Colossians 4:4). Pray for good preaching - preaching which does you good, giving you good cause to say in your heart, ‘For me it is good to be near God’ (Psalm 73:28). Pray for preaching which glorifies God.
"I’m sending Tychicus to you. He is our dear brother, trustworthy deacon, and partner in the Lord’s work. He will tell you everything that is happening to me. 8 I’m sending him to you so that you may know how we are doing and so that he may encourage you ... Epaphras, a servant of Christ Jesus from your city, greets you. He always prays intensely for you. He prays that you will continue to be mature and completely convinced of everything that God wants. 13 I assure you that he works hard for you and the people in Laodicea and Hierapolis" (Colossians 4:7-8,12-13).
In Colossians 4:7-18, we have 'greetings from Paul and his co-workers.' Two of these co-workers were Tychicus and Epaphras. What a great example they have set for us. Tychicus was "trustworthy." He brought encouragement to others. Epaphras was a man of prayer and a hard worker. We need more people like them. We need to become more like them.
"Our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction" (1 Thessalonians 1:5).
We need more than words. We need the power of the Holy Spirit.
“Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).
Do we stop believing this just because it comes to us from a long time ago?
No! We keep on saying, “Praise the Lord! It’s true!”
We keep on singing the song of our Saviour.
"I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God ... the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh ..." (1 Timothy 3:15-16).
We read, in 1 Timothy 3:16, of our deeply-held convictions concerning our Saviour, Jesus Christ: "God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory." Paul is not only speaking about beliefs that we hold with our minds - 'I believe this about Christ. I believe that about Him.' He's speaking about beliefs that change the way we live - "how you conduct yourselves in the house of God" (1 Timothy 3:15).
When Paul speaks about "the mystery of godliness", he's speaking about "God was manifested in the flesh". He's also speaking about "how we conduct ourselves in the house of God." This is the practical mystery - How can sinners live a godly life? This takes us beyond recalling the events of Christ's life. This takes us beyond, "I believe this about Him. I believe that about Him." This takes us on to Paul's teaching concerning the Holy Spirit: "your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you ... you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit ... " (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
When Paul writes to us about "how we conduct ourselves in the house of God", we may recall his description of our life (it's more than our body, it's our body and our spirit) as "the temple of the Holy Spirit." Paul is not only concerned about how we behave when we set foot in the house of God. He's concerned about our whole life. He's saying to us, "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16).
What is the connection between "the mystery of godliness" - God was manifested in the flesh" - and "the mystery of godliness" - sinners saved by grace are led in the way of the Holy Spirit? - "You were bought at a price": If we really believe the things that happened to Christ and the reason that these things happened to Him ("for us and for our salvation"), how can we continue to live as if these things were not true?
How we conduct ourselves - in the house of God and in the whole of life: This is where the real strength of our faith will be seen. Strong faith expresses itself in godly living. A strong faith is always ready to ask the question, "How much is my life being changed by the Lord?"
"The Holy Scriptures are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 3:15).
Reading the Scriptures, we become wise for salvation as we find Christ who is our Wisdom (2 Timothy 3:15; 1 Corinthians 1:30).
In the Bible, we have God's written Word. The Bible points us to Christ. he is God's living Word - "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ... The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:1,14). What do we learn as we read God's written Word? - This is what we learn: "Jesus loves me. This I know, for the Bible tells me so." God speaks to us His written Word so that we may come to trust in Christ, the living Word - "from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 3:15). _________________________________________
Some people say, “Surely, you don’t believe the Bible.” They say that the Bible belongs to the past. It’s not for us today. This kind of talk takes us right back to the Garden of Eden – “Did God really say?” (Genesis 3:1). The Bible says that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God?” (2 Timothy 3:16). Who are we to say that the Bible needs to be rewritten – so that it only says what we want it to say to us? God hasn’t stopped speaking to us through His Word – but have we stopped listening to Him?
* In our cynical world, we hear that “It doesn’t matter what you believe because what you believe doesn’t matter.” When we find ourselves starting to think like this, let’s remember this: God’s Word is unchanged.
* Sometimes, we look back over our life, and we think, “I used to love reading the Bible – but somewhere along the line, something’s changed.” What’s changed? Has God’s Word changed? No! It hasn’t changed. When our feelings change, let’s not forget this: God’s Word is unchanging.
* In today’s world, there are many temptations. We are tempted to turn back from following Jesus. We forget that His words are “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Temptation is nothing new. Jesus was tempted. When He was tempted, He said, “It is written” (Matthew 4:4). God doesn’t say one thing – and then “change His mind” (Numbers 23:19). He speaks His Word – and He stands by it. His Word is not “maybe Yes, maybe No.” It’s always “Yes” – “Yes, I love you. Yes, I will keep on loving you. Yes, I will love you forever” (2 Corinthians 1:18-20). God’s Word is unchangeable.
"I have fought the good fight. I have completed the race. I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7).
The good fight, the race, the faith - three descriptions of the Christian life: It's a fight to be fought - in the strength of the Lord. It's a race to be run. It's a faith to be kept. How are we to keep on running? How are we to keep on believing? We need the Lord. He gives us the strength that we need to keep on running, to keep on believing.
* Saved by grace - "He saved us, but not because of anything we had done to gain His approval. Instead, because of his mercy He saved us" (Titus 3:5).
* Saved for good works - "God’s saving kindness ... trains us to avoid ungodly lives filled with worldly desires so that we can live self-controlled, moral, and godly lives in this present world" (Titus 2:11-12).
* Saved to be a witness - We are to "show the beauty of the teachings about God our Savior in everything we do" (Titus 2:10). Witness is more than what we say. It's what we do. Our whole life - words as well as actions - is to point people away from ourselves to our Saviour.
"Christ makes me bold enough to order you to do the right thing. 9 However, I would prefer to make an appeal on the basis of love" (Philemon 8-9).
In all that we do, we need love. We learn this love from Jesus "who loved us and gave himself for us" (Galatians 2:20).
Refusal to come to Christ for salvation leads to judgment: ‘How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?’ (Hebrews 2:3).
"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good works, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:24-25).
It's great that we are able to encourage one another in the Lord. Hebrews 10:25 speaks about "the assembling of ourselves together" and "exhorting one another." Each of us has a particular ministry of encouragement to those with whom we are gathered together to worship the Lord. It is a privilege to be able to share something of this ministry of encouragement with other people. We encourage one another in the Lord when we gather together for worship (Hebrews 10:25). The preaching of Christ strengthens our faith (Romans 10:17). What a great encouragement it is to know that "God is pleased through the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe" (1 Corinthians 1:21). What happens in the place of worship is important - but it's not the be-all and end-all. There's more than worship in the Lord's House. There's life outside of the place of worship. In the world - That's where we're to live a life of "love and good works" (Hebrews 10:24). If, when we're in the place of worship, we start thinking that this is all that there is - an hour on a Sunday, we've got it all wrong. When our worship ends, our witness begins. Our witness is more than words. It's living the life of a believer. In the world - This is where we see how real our worship is.
Let us never forget the importance of faith and holiness – 'without faith it is impossible to please God ... without holiness no-one will see the Lord' (Hebrews 11:6; 12:14). We are to 'live holy and godly lives' – 'make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love ... if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ'. In all of this, let us never forget to give all the glory to our Saviour – 'To Him be glory both now and for ever!' (2 Peter 3:11; 1:5-11; 3:18).
Past grace is no guarantee of present growth. We must keep our eyes on Jesus, ‘the Author and Finisher of our faith' (Hebrews 12: 2).
"The living God" (Hebrews 12:22)
* He is the God who is life. He is the God who gives life.
* He is the eternal God. He gives us eternal life.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
We look back to the past. We say, “That was then. That’s old.” We live in the present. We say, “This is now. This is new.” We shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss the past. Jesus Christ belongs to the past. He also speaks to us in the present. He is preparing us for God’s eternal future.
We read the Story of Jesus. We rejoice in His love. We say, “The old, old story – It is ever new. The old, old story – Praise the Lord! It’s true!” It’s true! That’s why it’s still God’s “new song.”
There will always be people who refuse to trust in Jesus Christ as Saviour. Will they silence us? Will we fail our Lord because we’re afraid of what people will say about us? Let’s be like Paul. Let’s defy our critics. Let’s keep on saying, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
Jesus Is Calling Us On To His Future.
Jesus Christ is not merely a figure from the past. He is “Jesus Christ, risen from the dead” (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus Christ, the risen Saviour, the living Lord, stands at the centre of our future. He does not only speak to us from the past. He also speaks to us from the future. What is He saying to us? How will He affect our present way of living? Jesus speaks to us from the future. He calls us on to heaven, but He does not turn us into dreamers who are so “heavenly-minded” that we’re not learning to serve the Lord right now. We sing of our heavenly hope: “On that bright and cloudless morning when the dead in Christ shall rise, and the glory of His resurrection share; when His chosen ones shall gather to their home beyond the skies, and the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.” What is to be our present response to this glorious hope? - “Let us labour for the Master from the dawn till setting sun. Let us talk of all His wondrous love and care. Then when all of life is over, and our work on earth is done, and the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.”
A call to pray, a call to seek God's glory
“You do not have because you do not ask God” (James 4:2) - This is a call to prayer.
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3) - This is a call to seek God's glory.
"My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins" (James 5:19-20).
It is a great thing to rejoice in God's salvation. We give thanks for the truth upon which our salvation rests. As well as rejoicing in God's salvation and standing upon His truth, we must also speak directly to those who have wandered from the truth, calling upon them to turn from the error of their ways.
Turning "a sinner from the error of his way" - we don't hear much of this kind of talk nowadays. People like to hear the Good News of salvation. They like to be assured of the truth of God's Word. If, however, our teaching regarding the Good News of salvation and the truth of God's Word are to have real depth, we must speak forthrightly about turning "a sinner from the error of his way."
* Speaking about our "multitude of sins" - this is not to be dismissed as a purely negative reaction against the easy-going outlook of so many people in today's world. There is something much more positive than that - we speak about our sin so that we might learn to glory in God's salvation.
* Speaking about "the error of our way" - this is not be dismissed as a 'know-it-all' attitude by which we 'look down our noses' at the 'anything goes' approach that is so common in today's world. There's something much more positive here - following our Saviour, we warn against the folly of building on a foundation of shifting sand so that we might learn to build our life upon the Solid Rock: Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:24-27; 1 Corinthians 3:11).
* Speaking about "death" - this is not be dismissed as out-of-touch with the positive outlook of today's world. Once again, there is something very positive here. We emphasize that "the wages of sin is death" so that there might be a greater appreciation of "the gift of God" which is "eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
Why do we speak of sin, error and death?
- We speak of sin so that people may be called back from the way of sin to a much better way - the way of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, our Saviour: "He is able to save to the uttermost all who come to God through Him" (Hebrews 7:25).
- We speak of error so that people may be called back from the way of error to a much more reliable way than the way of error - the way of truth, trusting in Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life" (John 14:6).
- We speak of death so that people may be called back from the way of death to the much more wonderful way that God has planned for all who put their faith in His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ - the way of eternal life: "God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life" (1 John 5:11-12).
The Problem, the Returning, the Blessing (James 5:19-20)
The Problem - "if one of you should wander from the truth"
The Returning - "if ... someone should bring him back"
The Blessing - "Whoever turns a sinner away from his error will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins."
Does God have a message of hope for those who have wandered away from Him? - Yes!
He speaks with truth concerning our sin, and He speaks with love concerning His salvation.
"Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call on Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God, for He will freely pardon" (Isaiah 55:6-7).
What blessing is given to those who return to the Lord!
There was sin and guilt. Now, there is the forgiveness of sin.
There was death. Now, there is life: new life - life with a new sense of meaning, purpose and direction; eternal life - life with the Lord in the everlasting glory of His everlasting Kingdom.
"an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:4-5)
Salvation is being kept for us. We are being kept for salvation.
In Christ, we are ‘a holy nation’. Why has God made us His ‘own people’? - ‘that you may declare the wonderful deeds of Him... ’ (1 Peter 2:9). ‘The nations are waiting for us, waiting for the gospel we will bring’ (Songs of Fellowship, 539).
Seeking to grow in our understanding of God’s Word is important. We need to move from there to ask the question: Why are we seeking to increase our understanding of God’s Word? We are to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). An increase in knowledge is to be accompanied by growth in grace.
We can easily get ourselves confused when we’re reading the most difficult parts of God’s Word. That’s when we need the reminder: God calls us to obey His Word –– “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3).
When we start thinking that we’ve made some progress in mastering the Bible’s difficult passages, we need to be reminded that God calls us to love Him and to love our neighbour – “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1).
We must never forget the words which follow the call to grow in Christ – “To Him be glory both now and for ever” (2 Peter 3:18). In all our study of God’s Word, may we always say, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
"Don’t love the world and what it offers. Those who love the world don’t have the Father’s love in them. 16 Not everything that the world offers—physical gratification, greed, and extravagant lifestyles—comes from the Father. It comes from the world, and 17 the world and its evil desires are passing away. But the person who does what God wants lives forever " (1 John 2:15-17).
There are two ways of living - the world's and the Lord's. Each of us must choose how we're going to live. What is most important to us - getting on in the world or pleasing the Lord?
"The One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world" (1 John 4:4).
Do not underestimate Satan - he has great power, but make sure that you never overestimate him. Christ is greater than Satan - and Christ in us! We should respect the power of Satan - he can do great harm, but we need not fear Satan. Christ is greater than Satan - and Christ is in us!
"Faith is the victory that overcomes the world" (1 John 5:4).
Jesus has won the victory. He gives His victory to us. We receive His victory by faith. For Jesus, the pathway to victory was the way of the Cross. We will be led in the pathway of victory, as we learn to follow Jesus. He calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Him (Luke 9:23).
"What the Spirit says to the churches"
"What the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22).
What does the Spirit say to the churches? - He speaks the words of Christ, the risen Lord.
* We need the Spirit - "Be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18).
* We need the Scriptures - "Let the word of Christ dwell among you richly" (Colossians 3:16).
To His enemies, Jesus said, "You do not know the Scriptures or the power of God" (Mark 12:24).
He is calling us to know both the Scriptures and the power of God.
A real knowledge of the Scriptures will always be more than head-knowledge. It will also be knowledge of the power of God.
"What the Spirit says to the churches" - It will be more than a knowledge of the power of God. It will also be knowledge of the Scriptures. May God give us much of both - knowledge of the Scriptures and knowledge of the power of God. This is what it means to "walk in the Spirit" (Galatians 5:16). We will walk with the Lord in the light of His Word, always paying close attention to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who says to us, "The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life" (John 6:63).
Another "3:16" to set alongside John 3:16!
In John 3:16, we read these wonderful words concerning God's love: "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."
Here's another "3:16" - "So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth" (Revelation 3:16).
This "3:16" leads on to some other words about God's love: "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent" (Revelation 3:19).
Called to repentance by the God of love, we hear the great promise given to us by our Saviour: "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20).
"Look, I'm standing at the door ... " (Revelation 3:20).
Are you ‘looking for a better country - a heavenly one’ (Hebrews 11:16)? ‘God has put eternity into man’s mind’ (Ecclesiastes 3:11). In every human heart, there’s ‘a God-shaped blank’. Jesus came to give us ‘life’ - ‘abundant life’, ‘eternal life’ (John 10:10; John 17:3; 1 John 5:11). Without Jesus, our lives are empty. The ‘longing for a better country’ can only be satisfied by Him. He is God’s ‘foretaste of glory divine’ (Mission Praise, 59). Jesus stands at the door of every human heart. He knocks. He waits for our answer. He says, ‘Look, I’m standing at the door and knocking. If anyone listens to My voice and opens the door, I’ll come in...’ (Revelation 3:20). Don’t ‘shrink back’ (Hebrews 10:39). Invite Him into your heart now.
The singers will come “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).
Not just some nations! All nations! Not just this generation! Not just the “now” generation! Every generation will be there. They will come from the past. They will come from the future. This is bigger than the Eurovision Song Contest!
“They sang a new song” (Revelation 5:9).
When does a “new song” become an old song? – People stop singing it. They forget about it. It becomes last year’s song.
What about God’s “new song”? Does it ever become yesterday’s song? Will there ever be a time when there is no-one to sing the song of salvation? Will the song of praise ever be silenced? Will it ever be thrown into the dustbin of the ancient past?
No! The song of joyful worship is always the song of the eternal future. We’re looking forward to something that’s far bigger, brighter and better than the Eurovision Song Contest!
Christ invites us to ‘come’ (6:1,3,5,7) - and look at things through His eyes. With Him, we look at earth. With Him, we look at heaven. Troubled world, tremendous worship - These are the things we see when we look through the eyes of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our world is deeply troubled. Heaven’s worship is absolutely tremendous. Of all our many ‘troubles’, the greatest is this: We are sinners, and none of us ‘can stand’ before ‘the face of Him who sits on the throne’. Our earthly ‘troubles’ are nothing compared with this! There is hope. There is a way of ‘salvation’. We can be saved through ‘the blood of the Lamb’. If, however, we turn from Him - ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ - there will be no hope. We will face ‘the wrath of the Lamb’ (4:16-17; 5:10,14; John 1:29). Will you be saved - or lost?
In Christ, we have the victory: “they have conquered Satan by the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 12:7-12).
God is calling us beyond the conflict. He is calling us on to victory.
We don’t live in a perfect world. We’re not perfect people. We wish things could be different – but they’re not! Not yet! We pray, “Your Kingdom come” – but we’re still waiting for God’s complete answer to this prayer. The Book of Revelation provides us with a vision of God’s coming Kingdom. As we await His Kingdom, the words of Habakkuk 2:3 are very helpful to us: “the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.”
* There is conflict with the world.
We commit ourselves to living for Jesus Christ. There are plenty of other people who don’t want to have anything to do with Him. This is something we must live with. “We do not lose heart” when we face opposition. We give thanks that “God’s mercy” has reached us, bringing to us the forgiveness of all our sins and giving to us the great privilege of being Christ’s witnesses in this sinful world (2 Corinthians 4:1).
* There is conflict within ourselves.
Though we have committed ourselves to Christ, we are deeply conscious that we do not serve Him as well as we should. Our problems do not always come from the world around us. Often, we create problems for ourselves. There is too much of self and not enough of Christ in our lives. He has given Himself for us. How much have we given ourselves to Him?
* God is calling us beyond the conflict.
“Just as I am, though tossed about, with many a conflict, many a doubt, fightings within, and fears without, O Lamb of God, I come.”
The conflict, the doubt, the fightings, the fears – these things don’t just disappear. Satan makes sure of that! As we look to the Lord, we receive His strength. He enables to say from the heart, “I will praise You, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High” (Psalm 9:1-2). These words take us to a ‘high’ place – but we are quickly reminded that there is also a ‘low’ place. Psalm 9:3 begins with the ominous words, “My enemies”!
Beyond those whom the Psalmist describes as “my enemies, there is another enemy – Satan! As we read Psalm 9:3-6, we must catch a glimpse of the final defeat of Satan. Here on earth, we face conflict. Our life in Christ isn’t an easy life. Satan sees to that!
Ephesians 6:12 tells us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against … the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” This is something we must never forget.
Revelation 12:9-10 tells us while Satan may be very powerful, he is less powerful than Christ. The victory does not belong with Satan. It belongs with Christ.
“The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.”
How does this victory become ours? – “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (Revelation 12:11).
The victory is not easily won. It was very costly for Christ. He went to the Cross to win for us the victory over Satan. Revelation 12:12 reminds us that it will be very costly for us – “the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”
Whatever the devil may be doing – in the world and in his attacks upon ourselves, may us learn to say from the heart, “I will praise You, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High” (Psalm 9:1-2).
The eternal love of God
"The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8): Before we had sinned, God was planning for our salvation!
Jesus was tempted. Jesus is victorious. He is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16) – and He’s at work in us, bringing us through temptation and into victory. We don’t live in constant victory. Often, we’re defeated. We need to learn to listen to God’s Word and be led into the pathway of victory. It’s a lifelong learning process. There’s never a time when our ‘education’ is complete. Throughout our life, we must keep on coming to the Lord, confessing our need of His cleansing and power and praying that He will make us more truly and more fully what He wants us to be – “Cleanse me from my sin, Lord. Put Thy power within, Lord. Take me as I am, Lord, and make me all Thine own. Keep me day by day, Lord, underneath Thy sway, Lord. Make my heart Thy palace, and Thy royal throne” (Mission Praise, 82).
May God bless each of us as we read His Word and learn to trust the Lord to give you victory over temptation.
“Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin;
each victory will help you some other to win;
fight manfully onward, dark passions subdue,
look ever to Jesus, he’ll carry you through.
Ask the Savior to help you,
comfort, strengthen and keep you;
He is willing to aid you,
He will carry you through.
Shun evil companions, bad language disdain,
God’s Name hold in reverence, nor take it in vain;
be thoughtful and earnest, kindhearted and true,
look ever to Jesus, He’ll carry you through.
To him that o’ercometh, God giveth a crown;
Through faith we shall conquer, though often cast down;
He Who is our Savior our strength will renew;
Look ever to Jesus, He’ll carry you through."
"the devil ... was thrown into the lake of fire ... " (Revelation 20:10).
The time will come when God will say to Satan, “Enough! No more!”
"The Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God - It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel" (Revelation 21:10-11).
At the heart of "the Holy City", there is Jesus Christ. In Him, we see the bright shining light of God's love. He is the precious cornerstone upon which our eternal salvation is built (1 Peter 2:4-7).
As we read about "the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God" (Revelation 21:10), our thoughts turn to our Saviour, Jesus Christ. It's only because of what He has done for us that we will be welcomed into the glory of God's saving and eternal presence of love. Jesus is "the cornerstone" of our faith (1 Peter 2:6). He is the foundation upon which our salvation is built. Without Him, there is no salvation. With Him, there is full salvation. What light there is shining into our hearts - from the wonderful love of our Saviour. It's the light that comes from the glory of God. It has touched our life here on earth. It will fill our life with Him - when we go to be with Him in "the Holy City."
To those who come to Him, the Lord Jesus says, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may … go through the gates into the city.” Let us not remain “outside” of God’s Kingdom (Revelation 22:14-15).
There is a better way than continuing in sin. It is the way of coming to the Saviour and receiving from Him the forgiveness of sin, the power of a new life and the glorious hope of entering into the full glory of His heavenly and eternal Kingdom.