Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Blessings of Obedience

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him” (Acts 5:27-32).
The apostles were brought before the Jewish leaders again to answer for their disobedience. They had been strictly charged not to teach in the name of Jesus Christ. They answered even more clearly than before… “We must obey God rather than men”. Disciples like you and me are consistently faced with the same choice, to obey God or men because we live in a fallen and unbelieving world. Jesus said obedience is evidence of true love… “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). He went on to say that there are wonderful blessings for obedience, the best of which is growing intimacy and fellowship with the Father and His Son… “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). Today we see that the apostles experienced three wonderful blessings as the result of their choice to obey God rather than men, and we are encouraged to follow their example so that we might also enjoy the blessings of obedience.
Obedient disciples receive the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised the gift of the Holy Spirit to more than 500 followers just before His ascension… “Behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Those who obeyed His command received the fulfillment of the promise on the day of Pentecost… “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4). As Christ’s disciples, we have this same promise… “Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself’” (Acts 2:38-39). As we increasingly obey the Lord we can expect His Holy Spirit to fill and lead us more and more.
Obedient disciples receive boldness to witness. Despite being commanded not to teach in the name of Jesus Christ, the apostles were fully engaged in healing, delivering, and sharing the gospel in His name. There was no fear in their hearts because their obedience reflected the love for Christ that filled their hearts and Christ’s love drives away fear… “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18). Their obedience led to boldness because they were so filled with the Holy Spirit’s power there was no room for any fear in their hearts… “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). Our increasing obedience leads to increasing boldness and confidence in serving Christ.
Obedient disciples experience success. The Jewish elders confirmed the Lord’s anointing and blessing on the ministry of the apostles with the words… “you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching”. Obedience places us in position to receive God’s blessing as we serve Him… “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28). Our increasing obedience yields God’s increasing blessing on our efforts to serve Him and to share His glorious gospel.
As we grow up into Christ, listening to and obeying His precious word, we increasingly enjoy…
The Blessings of Obedience.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Words that Promise Life

But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach. Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside.” Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. And someone came and told them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people (Acts 5:17-26).
Once again, the message of the apostles stirred up strong reactions among the people. Many were healed and delivered through the supernatural signs the Lord granted to confirm the preaching of the gospel of life. Many believed in Jesus Christ and were added to the number of disciples in the community at Jerusalem… “And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women” (Acts 5:14). Jesus taught that the gospel was and still is a message of hope beyond despair and of life beyond death, and it convicts and prompts a response from all who hear it… “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). Today we are exhorted by the words of the angel of the Lord to the apostles to boldly proclaim to our generation the words that promise life.
The Sadducees did not believe in life after death“There came to him some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection” (Luke 20:27). How sad and hopeless to hold to such an empty belief in a fallen world where we are confronted by death all the time. There is the death of a shattered dream, a fractured relationship, a broken promise, as well as the ever-approaching end of this physical life. To believe there is no life after death is to be captive to despair fueled by the lie that we are prisoners of our circumstances and of this material world. Peter and the disciples recognized that the gospel proclaimed by Jesus Christ offers hope beyond every trial and life beyond every death… “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). In Christ, maturing disciples know that death is not the final word, and we look forward to ultimate victory and eternal life in glory!
The Angel of the Lord brought life to the death of the prison. Don’t miss the wonderful example of life breaking into the death of the prison cell. The apostles’ gospel ministry had been shut down with their arrest and imprisonment, but the angel of the Lord raised them up and set them free to continue sharing the gospel. Jesus brings life to any dark, dead-end situation… “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5). As our faith in Christ grows we learn to anticipate life beyond the seeming terminal trials we may face today.
As we grow up into Christ, we are transformed by and compelled to share with others…
The Words that Promise Life.

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Heart that Invites God’s Power

Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed (Acts 5:12-16).
The disciples were sold out to building an attractive community and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with others. They had a new stewardship attitude toward material possessions. Today the Spirit shows us that the apostles had something more going on… “many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles”. The power of God was working through the apostles to heal the sick and deliver the oppressed. The ultimate result was… “more than ever believers were added to the Lord”. The apostles were fulfilling the Great Commission and God was faithfully fulfilling His promise to confirm their preaching of the gospel with supernatural signs… “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation… And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:15-18). The Lord has not changed and He still works through us to attract people to Jesus if we imitate the apostles and serve Him with the heart that invites God’s power.
The apostles had a heart to serve. The apostles did not form an exclusive community. They were actively engaged with the people around them. It began with Peter and John’s encounter with a crippled man on their way to worship in the temple and it grew to where the apostles were meeting publicly and serving their sick and oppressed neighbors. God saw their serving hearts, filled them with His power, and Jesus got the glory for every answered prayer… “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:12-13). Even today, our serving heart invites the power of God to work through us to attract others to Christ.
The apostles had a heart of unity. The Spirit compelled Luke to note again that the disciples… “were all together in Solomon’s Portico”. They had a unity of purpose. They wanted to be together in public, among the people, where the Lord could use them to meet the needs of their neighbors and share the gospel with them. The Spirit inspired the writer of Hebrews to teach that unity and fellowship among believers strengthens faith and encourages good works… “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25). A heart for unity with other believers will lead us to fellowship in a local church or ministry where God’s power is at work.
As we grow up into Christ, His grace transforms our impotent, selfish heart into…
The Heart that Invites God’s Power.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Virtues that Lead to Blessing

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land?  While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things (Acts 5:1-11).
The Spirit confronts us with a dramatic comparison here. In the shadow of Joseph’s sale of property and presentation of the proceeds to the apostles for blessing the needy in the community of believers, we encounter Ananias and Sapphira’s similar offering. The stories have very different endings. Joseph’s actions earn him the blessing of a new nickname… “Barnabas (which means son of encouragement)” (Acts 4:36), while the consequence for Ananias and Sapphira is death. The Holy Spirit leads us to important truth here about the virtues that lead to blessing.
Pleasing God above men leads to blessing. The Spirit gives us a glimpse into Ananias and Sapphira’s motivation here as their action comes on the heels of Joseph’s offering that earned him praise among the apostles and other disciples. Their answers to Peter’s questions implied that they were giving the entire proceeds from the sale of their property and they expected similar praise. They gave in to the temptation of praise from men and lied about keeping back some of the proceeds. Placing man above God brings terrible consequences in the place of His blessings… “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe” (Proverbs 29:25). Ananias and Sapphira experienced the consequences of pleasing men instead of God. We are encouraged by their story to seek the blessings of pleasing God above men.
Delighting in God leads to blessing. Ananias and Sapphira had divided hearts toward God. As our fellowship with Jesus Christ matures we learn to give Him the desires of our heart and He transforms them according to His will. God gave us our passion and when we surrender it to Him He reshapes it into something that can glorify Him, and He returns it to us… “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). This is part of God’s plan to make us more like His Son Jesus Christ who was completely devoted to pleasing His Father… “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29). Ananias and Sapphira kept part of their heart from God. We are exhorted by their story to trust our whole heart and all of its passions to God.
Being honest with God leads to life. Ananias and Sapphira lied to both God and men. This speaks volumes about their superficial relationship with God who knows all the secrets of our hearts… “If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart” (Psalm 44:20-21). Ultimately it was their artificial relationship with God that led to the consequence of death. We are compelled by their story to invest in a real, growing intimacy and fellowship with God that leads to abundant and eternal life.
As we grow up into Christ, He gets more of our heart as we grow in…
The Virtues that Lead to Blessing.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Grace that Leads to Generosity

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:32-37).
There was much external evidence of the presence and power of God in the new community of Christ followers in Jerusalem… “with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all”. There were signs and wonders confirming the testimony of Christ’s resurrection by these young disciples and the community was growing. If we look closer we see that there was also a great work happening in the hearts of the disciples. They had been raised in a culture of ownership where self-worth was measured by how much property or livestock one possessed, but we see here that… “no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common”. This dramatic change of heart was a deep, internal work of God that resulted in meeting the needs of everyone in the community of believers, and it is very clear evidence of the grace that leads to generosity.
God’s grace creates unity in the Christian community. The disciples… “were of one heart and soul”. Faith in Christ in the midst of the opposition that surrounded them had drawn them together physically, spiritually, and emotionally. The Spirit inspired Paul to describe this unity that is mark of fellowship among true disciples in every age… “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). The Holy Spirit freely and powerfully works in such a unified community to reflect the generosity and glory of Christ to others inside and outside of the community.
God’s grace transforms possession to stewardship in the Christian community. The common thought of the day, and in fact in every age, has been accumulation and possession of material things. It’s how we measure self-esteem and success. But these new disciples believed they had everything in common. Their focus was changed from possession to stewardship. They saw the things they owned as created by and belonging to Christ… “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible… all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17). God’s grace works in the hearts of true disciples to help us learn to be generous with the generosity He shows to us… “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:11). Being generous with God’s blessings creates opportunities for us meet needs and introduce others to Jesus Christ.
God’s grace meets every need in the Christian community. The obedience and cooperation of the disciples with the grace of God in their hearts led to a community where… “There was not a needy person among them”. Transformed hearts led to transformed lives where… “owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need”. The physical needs of others were being met, but on another level, the spiritual need to become more like Christ was being met in the hearts and souls of the disciples who were experiencing Christ’s promise… “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). The Lord works through the generosity of true disciples to meet every need in their lives as they meet the needs of others.
As we grow up into Christ, He blesses us to bless others through…
The Grace that Leads to Generosity.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Faith that Empowers Us to Witness

When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’— for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:23-31).
Peter and John’s boldness incited the Jewish authorities to charge them… “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18). The disciples were arrested, threatened, and warned. After making it clear that they chose to obey God rather than man, they were released. Upon their return to the other disciples their report of this encounter inspired an outburst of praise to the sovereignty of God in these events. They recalled the prophetic words of David about the rebellion and rejection of nations and authorities to the true authority of Christ. Their hearts were inspired to continue to… “speak the word of God with boldness” despite the threats of men. We find encouragement here to share the gospel in our resistant generation as we examine the faith that empowers us to witness.
The disciples had faith in the sovereignty of God. They were not blind to the reality that both Jewish and Gentile authorities and people had raged against Christ and crucified Him, but they knew and believed the Word of God that clearly showed that it was all His plan. The Holy Spirit inspired David to write about these events in the Psalms hundreds of years before. This is an affirmation of the complete sovereignty of God in the affairs of mankind… “the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men” (Daniel 4:17). Believing that God rules over every circumstance and person we encounter every day inspires us to use every moment to share Jesus Christ with someone.
The disciples had faith in the name of Jesus. Peter and John had seen the healing power of the name of Jesus in action… “let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well” (Acts 4:10). They gave all the credit and glory to God who performed the miracle through the name of His precious Son. The Spirit reminds us that Jesus promised disciples in all ages that there is great power in His name that will always bring glory to His Father… “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). Whenever we trust in the name of Jesus to meet our need, He responds in God-glorifying ways.
The disciples had faith in the Holy Spirit. God was pleased that Peter and John had chosen to obey Him rather than men. He was blessed by the praise and affirmation of the other disciples in the face of the rejection of the Jewish authorities. He responded by confirming His pleasure with a mild earthquake and with a fresh outpouring of His Spirit. The father loves to fill His faithful disciples with the gift of the Holy Spirit… “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13). Like the early disciples, we too can… speak the word of God with boldness” when we ask and receive the filling of His Holy Spirit.
As we grow up into Christ, we become more earnest and effective in sharing the gospel through…
The Faith that Empowers Us to Witness.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Virtues that Inspire Obedience

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old (Acts 4:13-22).
Peter and John’s boldness impressed the Jewish authorities even more than the healing of a 40-year-old crippled man! Their boldness not only impressed the Jewish leaders, it scared them enough to compel them to come up with a strategy to stop the spread of the gospel. The Jewish leaders… “charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus”. This was a direct conflict with Christ’s command to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). The young disciples were confronted with a choice, to obey Christ or men. Because we live in a fallen world, disciples like you and I are confronted in every generation with the same choice, to obey God or please people. Through Luke’s record of this confrontation, the Holy Spirit reveals to us the virtues that inspire obedience.
The disciples had been with Jesus. The primary, faith building virtue for every disciple is intimate fellowship with Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit works through our time in the presence of Jesus to transform and make us more like Him… “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). When we listen closely to His Word, Jesus makes us think and reason less like the world and more like Him… “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). As we learn to discern and pursue His will, we are attracted away from the world and toward obedience to what God says is good, acceptable, and perfect.
The disciples loved Jesus. They were confronted with a choice to obey Christ’s commandment or the ruling of men. Their response revealed who was in control of their heart. There is a direct connection between loving Jesus and obeying Him… “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Jesus taught that keeping His Word is evidence that we love Him and He promised to make His home with those who obey Him… “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). As our love for Jesus grows, our fellowship with Him and our obedience to His Word grows too.
The disciples did not fear men. They had witnessed the cruelty of men poured out on Jesus, and they had witnessed Christ’s resurrection victory over the grave. They had no doubt about life after death and therefore had no fear of the worst that men could do to them. Their confidence in the presence of God with them because they chose His side in this confrontation overcame their fear of men… “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6). The Spirit inspired Paul to echo this virtue in His letter to the Romans… “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Maturing disciples live in the growing peace and love of Christ as the fear of men is overcome in their hearts.
As we grow up into Christ, His grace works in us to develop and mature…
The Virtues that Inspire Obedience.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Stone that is Our Foundation

On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And 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 4:5-12).
As Peter and John appear before the Jewish authorities to give an account for the healing of a crippled man, we see the fulfillment of another of Jesus’ promises. He promised that the Holy Spirit will give us the words to say when we are brought before the judges of this world so that our testimony will bring glory to Christ… “You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matthew 10:18-20). It appears the Holy Spirit even prompted the authorities to ask the right question… “By what power or by what name did you do this?” This opened the door for Peter’s Holy Spirit inspired testimony about the stone that is our foundation.
Jesus is the rejected stone. The Spirit moved Peter to identify Jesus Christ as the stone the Jews rejected by crucifying Him. Jesus came to the Jews first to fulfill God’s promise to His chosen children but they did not receive Him… “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11). The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to teach that there were many reasons why the Jews rejected Christ, and every one of them contributes to a spiritual blindness that kept them from understanding the truth… “Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:15). But God’s grace goes to work removing the veil and revealing the truth about Christ to anyone who turns toward the Lord… “But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed” (2 Corinthians 3:16). The same grace is available today to every repentant sinner that responds to the call to turn from sin and turn toward the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the cornerstone. The Spirit moved Peter to reveal an important truth about the church here. Because there is one name that saves us, we are all united together by our faith in that name. When we trust Christ, we become part of the fellowship of believers that is the church. This makes Jesus Christ the cornerstone in the foundation of our church… “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:19-20). Our faith in Christ unites us around the world and across the generations with others of the same faith.
Jesus is the saving stone. The Spirit moved Peter to remind the Jews that God alone was the rock of their salvation. This was another affirmation of the divinity of Jesus and echoes David’s praise to God when the Lord had delivered him from Saul… “The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be my God, the rock of my salvation” (2 Samuel 22:47). This affirmation was repeated seven times in the Psalms and finds it’s fulfillment in Jesus Christ. All true believers are united by faith in one name alone, the name of Jesus… “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). Our affirmation of faith in His name makes Jesus Christ the cornerstone of our personal salvation and the foundation of our eternal life.
As we grow up into Christ, our maturing faith and fellowship with other believers is securely built on…
The Stone that is Our Foundation.

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Blessings and Consequences of the Resurrection

And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand (Acts 4:1-4).
Something in the message Peter and John shared with the crowd that gathered after the miraculous healing of a lame man incited the Sadducees and other Jewish leaders. It was the disciples’ “teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead”. Why should such good news attract five thousand men and at the same time provoke such a hostile reaction in others? Isn’t the fact that death is not the final word on our life good news? Apparently, it’s not good news to everyone. When we consider the implications of life after death we begin to understand why there are various reactions to the truth of the resurrection. Jesus taught that there are two sides to the resurrection… “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28-29). We eagerly anticipate the day when we are raised with Christ because we know and understand the blessings and the consequences of the resurrection.
The resurrection means judgment. This truth scares the unbeliever. The truth that we must face the consequences for our sin after this life is frightening. Unbelievers deny the resurrection in order to pacify their fear of judgment. In the face of this kind of fear it’s comforting to the unrepentant sinner to believe that at the conclusion of this life there is nothing more. The Holy Spirit uses our message of hope, expressed in the gospel of Jesus Christ and our anticipation of the resurrection to disturb the unbeliever’s false security and cause them to consider the claims of Christ… “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged” (John 16:8-11). Through God’s grace, many will come to believe In Jesus Christ as we share our hope in the resurrection, while others will be quite disturbed.
The resurrection means life. Apart from the gospel we have a very limited understanding of life. We believe in and cling to this material existence as if it’s all there is, but because we are created in the image of God we live on like He does… “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Hope in the resurrection means this temporary life is preparing us for eternal life.
The resurrection means restoration.  Living forever sounds pretty incredible, but as we see in today’s text, for unbelievers it will be eternal torment, away from the presence of God. The most exciting truth about the believer’s eternal life is our restoration to fellowship with God… “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God’” (Revelation 21:3). God is light, life, hope, love, and so much more. In His presence there is fullness of joy… “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). When we pause to spend time in His presence here on earth, we catch a glimpse of the hope of our resurrection, the full restoration of eternal joy in His presence in heaven.
As we grow up into Christ, our anticipation grows as we learn more about…
The Blessings and Consequences of the Resurrection.

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Prophecies that Prompt Repentance

“And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness” (Acts 3:17-26).
It has been determined that Jesus Christ fulfilled more than 300 Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. Under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, Peter confronted the crowd with the truth that their ignorance was the result of not listening to the Word of God regarding the Messiah (Old testament Hebrew) or Christ (New testament Greek). They had witnessed the life of Jesus. His words had cut their hearts and His miracles had upset their reason. His suffering before and on the cross was still fresh in their minds. Peter preached that this was all foretold by the prophets. He added that the prophets who had spoken of Messiah’s suffering also spoke of His victorious return and restoration of our fallen souls and our fallen world. These prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus Christ so that this Pentecost crowd and we who have the blessing of hearing Peter’s words here in the Bible might turn our hearts away from our wickedness and toward our Savior. Truly Jesus Christ fulfilled the prophecies that prompt repentance.
The prophets foretold that Christ will suffer. In many ways it seems contradictory that the Messiah who would be God’s Son coming to deliver His children from their enemies would suffer. But Isaiah led the prophets in identifying Messiah as a suffering servant… “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). The Lord further revealed through His prophet Isaiah that Messiah would serve us by suffering in our place to atone for our sin… “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5-6). Christ’s suffering for us prompts our hearts to turn from sin and to look to Christ, our sin-bearer with great thanksgiving.
The prophets declared that Christ will return. Writing prophetically, David made it clear the grave would not keep Him… “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption” (Psalm 16:10). The Spirit inspired Job to speak of the second coming of Christ… “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25). The promise of Christ’s return prompts us to live every day as if He is returning today.
The prophets promised that Christ will restore. Isaiah declared that God will create a new heavens and new earth… “For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the LORD, so shall your offspring and your name remain” (Isaiah 66:22), and Jeremiah confirmed that Messiah will reign over them… “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land” (Jeremiah 23:5). The certainty of Christ’s restoration of all things prompts our hearts to submit to His sovereignty and trust in His restoring power in every circumstance today.
As we grow up into Christ, we are encouraged and strengthened every day by…
The Prophecies that Prompt Repentance.

Friday, June 1, 2018

The Name that is Worthy of Faith

While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all” (Acts 3:11-16).
God used Peter and John’s compassionate confrontation with a needy man to demonstrate the healing power of faith in the name of Jesus. He also drew a crowd and anointed Peter with the words that confronted the hearts of many with the saving power of faith in the name of Jesus. We are reminded here of our great privilege and responsibility to confront our generation every day, in words and deeds, with the name that is worthy of faith.
The name of Jesus is glorified by God. The Father glorified Jesus at His baptism… “and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:17), at His transfiguration… “He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him’” (Matthew 17:5), and at His death and resurrection… “When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you’” (John 17:1). Finally, God glorifies His Son through the lives of His disciples… “All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them” (John 17:10). How might Jesus be glorified in our lives today?
The name of Jesus is denied by unbelievers. The name that identifies Christ as the Savior was given to Him at the announcement of His birth… “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). His very name should provoke reflection on the condition of our hearts and of our relationship with our Creator. Sinners are dead in sin and unable to grasp or respond to spiritual truth… “You were dead in the trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Without God’s grace, such conviction leads to denial of the truth that we are sinners in need of a Savior.
The name of Jesus is trusted by believers. Through God’s grace we are quickened, brought to spiritual life so we might understand and respond to the truth that Jesus saves us… “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5). We are set free to exercise faith in the name of Jesus, the One who “will save his people from their sins”. Our salvation and daily walk and witness with Jesus our Savior glorifies the Father and the Son every day!
As we grow up into Christ, our maturing relationship with Jesus shows the world we believe in…
The Name that is Worthy of Faith.

The Blessings of Obedience

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you ...