Tag Archives: Christian

Holiday Season 2020

Holiday season reflects God's purpose

Symbols of the holiday season are everywhere.  We are ready for that golden-brown turkey, giblet dressing and cranberry sauce.  Christmas decorations appear at the mall, at our favorite grocery store, and in our neighborhoods.

Most importantly, the holidays are about enjoying relationships.  Friends and family gather to share stories and to “love on each other.”  Everyone is invited to come and enjoy time together.  However, this year relationships will feel different.  Holiday season 2020, specifically, will be very different in the midst of the pandemic.

This season will be different

As the number of people infected with the virus increase, our nation struggles to find ways to “fatten the curve”.  How do you do that during the holidays?  We are warned to wear our masks, practice social isolation—”stay at home” and exercise social distancing—”stay apart”.

The holiday season is most often depicted by images of merriment and joy.  However, this year those images have been replaced with news broadcasts showing long lines to food pantries and food giveaways.  The financial impact of the pandemic has become the face of poverty.  Joblessness, hunger, and homelessness are new experiences for many who have previously lived comfortably.  To our shame, it is far too familiar for others.

My favorite representation of Thanksgiving is the plenteous cornucopia, bursting forth with ripened fruit from its wide and ample opening.  It is this image that has caused me to evaluate my own personal fruitfulness.  Especially during this “season of COVID-19”.   If I am “rooted and built up in Him” (Col. 2:7), am I bringing forth fruit pleasing to Him?  Am I fruitful?

A season for reflection

Fruit is the product of fruitfulness.  It is used metaphorically of work or deeds (Eph. 2:10; Phil. 1:11; 2 Pet. 1:8).  While works are evidence of Christian activity, it does not always tell the whole story.  Jesus’ teachings often encouraged listeners to look beyond what they could see with their physical eyes and to examine the motives and intentions behind the deeds (Matthew 7:16-20).

You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles?  Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Therefore, by their fruits you will know them.

Fruitfulness is not “busyness for the Lord” but “transformed living” resulting in the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5).  Fruitfulness reflects the heart and mind of our beloved Lord and Savior, in whose image we are to be daily conformed (2 Cor. 3:18).

A season for fruitfulness

God has placed us in this historic moment to reflect the heart and mind of Christ.  We were created for such a time as this (Esther 4:14).   It is our responsibility to align ourselves with God’s purpose and perform that which He has given us to do.

    • Am I doing all I can to share the grace and love of Jesus with those in need?
    • How can I demonstrate Jesus’ compassion during this season of COVID?
    • How can I personally help others who are “weary and hopeless”?

We can be Jesus’ eyes that see the needs of others.  We can be Jesus’ hands that move beyond sympathy to action.  As Jesus’ disciples, let us no longer live for ourselves but live for Him who saved us (2 Cor. 5:15).   God has “seeded” us into history to be fruitful.  It is here we are to take root, grow, and be fruitful.

Discovering our fruitfulness

This holiday season will look and feel very different in the midst of the pandemic.  Let us do our part to make it the beginning of something better.  Something that lasts beyond the holiday season.  Let it be the beginning of REAL LOVE for God and for others, even our enemies.  Amid the pandemic, let us create a world that honors God, that celebrates Jesus, and that brings real “comfort and joy”.

The Danger of Spiritual Immaturity

At the beginning of this series, I asked if you were “helping or hindering your spiritual journey”.  I posed three questions, which now fit nicely with today’s warning on the danger of spiritual immaturity.

First, where are you in your current faith walk?   Secondly, what would motivate you to seriously consider the five (5) warnings?  And finally, where does Jesus Christ fit in your life today?

It is now time to move these questions from their previous position as the backdrop for this series to the focal point for our exploration of spiritual immaturity.  We begin this journey by contrasting it with its opposite–spiritual maturity.

What is spiritual maturity? 

As I researched this topic of spiritual maturity, there were varying views and opinions as to its definition.  For some it is a process; for others it is a pathway to follow.  And still others see spiritual maturity as the goal of the believer’s life. That being the case I offer several views for your consideration.

Commitment to Transformation

Dallas A. Willard, an American philosopher known for his writings on Christian spiritual formation, describes spiritual maturity as taking place “when we are drawn close to a life with Jesus. We, by the grace of God, behave differently because we have been transformed.”

This transformation occurs as believers intentionally build and live their lives as disciples of Jesus Christ in the Kingdom of God.  This transformation occurs as believers commit to grow, commit to change, and commit to learn. 

Using Willard’s description, spiritual maturity is a process.  One that never ends until we reach heaven and are face-to-face with our Savior (1 Cor. 13:12). Using this description, the question I would ask is this.  As 21st century believers, do we behave differently?

Building on the Foundation of the Gospel 

Ligonier Ministries, founded by the late Dr. R.C. Sproul, exists to proclaim, teach, and defend the holiness of God in all its fullness to as many people as possible.   In “Four Essentials of Spiritual Maturity”, author and contributing writer Kent Hughes outlines four key areas needed for spiritual maturity.

While these essentials are directed to pastors, they also outline key responsibilities for believers who desire to be spiritually mature.  They include:

    1. Christ-focused exposition of the Word—Christ is the source and sustainer of spiritual maturity
    2. Cautious “striving” to accurately present the Word—described as “struggling in preaching the gospel mystery”
    3. Commitment to the Christian community—”to comprehend with all the saints” (Eph. 3:18-19)
    4. Christian maturity demonstrated—the believer is a living testimony of what love and devotion for God should look like

Using Hughes’ description, spiritual maturity is a pathway.  One that is to be passionately pursued (2 Tim. 2:15).  That pathway includes leading people to Christ.  Using this description, the question I would ask is this.  As 21st century believers, are we intentional in building our lives on the foundation of God’s Word?

Passion to Persevere

Lastly, I present the viewpoint that spiritual maturity is a goal.  The specific goal is the believer’s capacity to persevere.  The believer is both able to weather the storms of life while also proclaiming the glory of the Lord.

Oswald in his book, Spiritual Maturity, describes it this way:

Spiritual maturity is not a level of growth Christians achieve but the passion to press on in Christ. As we embrace God’s Providence, the work of the Holy Spirit, the character  Christ desires, the terms of discipleship, hardship, and more, we can move from infancy toward the fruitful maturity we were created to enjoy.

Pastor Andy Stanley, senior pastor and founder of North Point Ministries shares a similar viewpoint: “Spiritual maturity is measured in terms of persevering faith not perfect behavior.”  

The Apostle Paul also describes spiritual maturity in terms of the early churches’ ability to persevere.  Faced with fierce and continuous persecution for their faith, they were told not to “faint” in their work for Christ (2 Cor. 4:1, 14-17; Gal. 6:9; Col. 3:15).  That is perhaps the reason the writer of Hebrews included spiritual maturity as important for this group.

Using this description, the question I would ask is this.  As 21st century believers, are we able to persevere? While we may not face religious persecution, how we respond to the current state of our world, i.e., health pandemic, economic uncertainty, and civil unrest, can be an indicator of our ability to “hold fast our faith” (Heb. 10:23).

Now is the Time 

God needs spiritually mature, 21st century disciples who will represent His Kingdom.  These disciples must be willing to proclaim, defend, and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Especially in a post-modern world that is hostile to Christianity.

Most importantly, 21st century disciples must show and share the love of Christ–even to those who may hate us (Luke 6:27-36).  We no longer can depend only on our pastor to provide outreach to the lost and to the disenfranchised.  Neither can we wait for the church’s mercy ministry to provide for the homeless and the impoverished.  The “them” is now “us”—our family, our neighbor, and our co-worker.

The physical church is temporarily “ON HOLD” for many of us.  Other churches may be operating at a reduced capacity.  But God is calling us today to be what He designed us to be—The Church (1 Pet. 2:4-6).  As the Master Builder, God places His living stones just where He wants us to be (1 Cor.12:18). Spiritual maturity is not an option—it is a necessity for the world we live in today!

Next week we will explore the “Failure of Spiritual Immaturity”.

Dare to be a Truth Teller

I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings, And will not be ashamed.

Psalm 119:46, (NKJ)

Are you a truth teller?  This might seem like a strange question to ask but it provides a great starting point for personal reflection as we close this series.  We began by asking the question, “Can you handle the truth?”  We defined truth as the meaning and reality of life defined by God versus truth shaped by postmodern thinking.  The believer’s source of truth is presented by God Himself in His Word and through the direction of the “Spirit of Truth”, the Holy Spirit.  Truth defined by God becomes the compass by which believers are able to discern truth from error (1 John 4:6) therefore allowing them to live out their God-ordained purpose (Ep. 2:10).

How well am I doing with being truthful?   Following God’s truth may result in rejection and personal persecution.  Inside the safety of the church walls it’s easy to agree with the ethics and morality inherent in God’s truth.  However, once outside the “physical boundaries” of the church, it is the “heart” which must reflect God’s truth.  It is the heart that directs the mind, will, and emotions (the soul) to sieve the noise of the world through the filter of God’s truth.  Truth and obedience are closely connected as believers must choose between God’s instructions or man’s acceptance (Matt. 10:28).

Does the world want to know the truth?  Or is truth simply a remnant of the 20th century—no longer relevant in today’s fast-paced, high tech world?  Unfortunately, truth is often defined by what’s trending on social media.  To further complicate the search for truth, corporate/community leaders and aspiring politicians create “untruthful” responses to difficult social issues that simply satisfy people who don’t really want to know the truth; so the community and nation are given a lie (instead of truth) to make them feel better.  Unfortunately people would rather believe a lie than the truth—think about that for a minute!  Are people really being deceived or are they simply choosing to believe a lie? It’s easier (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

Am I ready to be a truth teller?  We must ask ourselves why we sometimes choose to believe a lie rather than the truth.  The truth may be related to our life style, our family, or even about us personally.  Perhaps we are judgmental, critical, or unforgiving.  That’s why it is so important to regularly pray that the Holy Spirit expose those areas that interfere with receiving the truth of God.

To be a truth teller requires boldness to stand for holy “rightness” (Heb. 13:6) and to proclaim what is God’s truth versus what is politically or socially correct (Luke 12:4-5; Ps. 119:46). When Jesus taught the Beatitudes to His disciples, He established a new standard of truth that was to be actualized in the life of the believer—a standard that would result in holy and sanctified (set apart) living.  Paul declared himself to be a truth teller.  While it resulted in his persecution and polarization from the mainstream, he boldly proclaimed:  “None of these things [persecution and prison] move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I can finish my race with joy.” (Acts 20:24)  Dare to be a truth teller.

The Spirit of Truth

 

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor who will never leave you.  He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world at large cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you do, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.”   John 14:16-17 (NLT)

John F. Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the USA, shared the following observation about truth.

“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived, and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.”  

Likewise regarding truth, the Apostle Paul warned the young minister Timothy of the dangers that await him as new converts would “turn away their ears from the truth, and be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:4).  Truth, unfortunately, is being packaged in many forms; many are more speculation and creative editorializing, than substantive truth.  Because of this trend, it is important that believers have a “real-time” reliable and trustworthy compass by which to navigate in this world.  While our primary guide is the Word of God, as we discussed last week, God has also provided another source—the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth.

Earlier we defined truth as that which agrees with reality. For the believer, our reality has been defined by what God has placed in His written Word.  For the disciples in our text today, however, there was no written Word as they faced a hostile world without the presence of their Beloved Jesus (John 15:18-20).  It was Jesus’ presence that gave them the courage to challenge the spiritual tyranny of the religious leaders.  It was Jesus’ loving response to the diseased and disenfranchised that modeled what true love looked like.  They would need God’s truth as they turned their focus to witnessing (Acts 1:8), baptizing and teaching (Matt. 28:19-20).

In John 14 Jesus promises to send the Spirit of Truth that would abide with them forever.  It was the Holy Spirit Who would now come to live within them.  We generally think of the Holy Spirit in terms of gifting or empowering believers to accomplish the purposes and ministries of Christ.  However, the attribute Jesus chose to share with His disciples in John’s text focused on “truth”.  It would be the Spirit of Truth that would assist the disciples as they were persecuted for their belief in Jesus Christ.  They would be tempted to denounce and deny Him Whom “the world could not receive, because it neither saw Him nor knew Him” (v. 17).  They would need the Spirit of Truth to call “to remembrance” the life and ministry of Jesus Christ—especially His work of salvation for sinners (John 14:26).  The Spirit of Truth would assist the disciples in accomplishing the “greater works” promised by Jesus (John 14:12).   Jesus was indeed “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”.  After Jesus’ departure, the ministry of truth would continue because the Spirit of Truth.

Like the disciples of the first century, believers in the 21st century have the assistance of the Spirit of Truth to assist them especially in exposing the spirit of error.  The spirit of error is seen in the morays and life styles of the world.  For unbelievers, it leads them to be deceived and disobedient to the purposes of God in their life (Ep. 2:2).  For the believer, the spirit of error tempts them to doubt God truth and draw them away from the leading of the Holy Spirit (2 Thess. 2:15).  The Spirit of Truth stands ready to silence the lies, myths and fables of the 21st century.  Our confidence lies in the promise, power, and presence of the Spirit of Truth.  He is our True Compass as we search for truth.

Can You Handle the Truth?

“…and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

John 8: 31-32 (NRSV)

Can we handle the truth?  Especially when that truth is measured against the authority of Scripture and the lordship of Jesus Christ?   To walk in biblical truth while living in a postmodern world will be a major challenge for believers as we enter into this second decade of the 21st century.

With all the political rhetoric and social bantering, it is clear that this world is in need of truth.  But can we handle it?  Behind the news bytes and sound bits, there is an intention movement currently underway to redefine what truth is and what it isn’t.  This is nothing new.  This inclination to “repackage” the truth comes directly from the father of lies, Satan himself (John 8:44).   Be careful how you define truth or you too may fall prey to the subtly of deception.  “Did God really say you must not eat any of the fruit in the garden?” (Gen. 3:1, NLT)

In decades past, people could depend on the media to communicate the “truth” with regard to specific issues of the day.  Newspapers, magazine publications and newscasters were committed to operate at the highest ethical standards.  In addition, people could depend on their local leaders—civic or religious—to offer truth, as they knew best.  But over time that has changed.  Unfortunately both media and individuals can only offer their own opinions based on personal agendas or corporate bias, leaving individuals still “in search for truth”.  Truth is now shaped by social media and image consultants—by the number of “likes”, “retweets” and “followers” one can amass.

What is truth?  Truth is defined as that which agrees with reality.  The believer’s reality and meaning is grounded in God.  That reality began in the Garden of Eden.  Created in God’s image, our purpose and destiny is tied to our identity in Him through Christ (Col. 3:3).  This reality was sidetracked by sin and replaced with Satan’s counterfeit that placed self on the throne where only Christ was to be seated and exalted.  Because of Jesus’ atoning work on the Cross, our sins were forgiven and we are now reconciled back to God (2 Cor. 5:18, 19).  When we affirm our faith, we acknowledge that we have died to our old sin nature (Gal. 5:24) and walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).  We no longer follow the worldview—its influence was negated by the Blood.  Our meaning and reality is now realigned with God (2 Cor. 5:15).   “For in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28a).

More than ever before, believers must connect with the only True Source of Truth, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior (John 14:6).  God’s Word and the Spirit of Truth stand ready to silence the lies, myths and fables we might hear  (2 Tim. 4:3-4).  God is the only source of truth for our lives.  Can you handle the truth?

2017 National Day of Prayer: Post Mortem

“I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed…”  Daniel 9:4 (NLT)

It’s been a week since the 2017 National Day of Prayer.  Many Americans assembled in prayer in front of courthouses, as well as in houses of worship, such as churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples.  All convened on that day to pray for change and revival.  This year our “national prayers” were offered up “For Your (God’s) Name Sake!    Hear Us…Forgive Us…Heal Us!”     While I believe in both the power of prayer and the need for spiritual healing and restoration, I don’t believe that our approach—an annual prayer day—is what Daniel had in mind when he prayed for his people (Daniel 9:19).

In a recent article entitled,  Do We Need a National Day of Prayer?  I found someone who, like myself, was distressed with this country’s fascination with this annual invitation to collective prayer:

“There will be a breakfast, prayers offered, and perhaps a sermon or two calling “America back to God.” And afterwards, if history is any guide, politicians will go back to their offices to continue business as usual.  I’m not opposed to praying on May 5th. I’m pretty sure I will be saying a prayer on that day, along with many others who practice such a spiritual discipline. I’ll be praying before and after that day as well, but it won’t be because of a bill passed by Congress and signed by the President. It shouldn’t be the government that calls people to pray. It is the church’s job to call people to pray. The church doesn’t need the government’s sanction or admonition to pray.”

In Daniel 9, we get a glimpse into the past “misbehavior” of Israel before their subsequent captivity and deportation to Assyria and Babylon.  While these deportations extended over  thirty-six (36) years, Israel’s patterns of sin and defiance were clearly warned against by many prophets who came as God’s representatives to warn of the end result of their rebellion (Daniel 9:5-6).  While it was God’s desire that Israel repent, His message was (and still is) clear:

“But if you turn away and forsake My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods, and worship them, “then I will uproot them from My land which I have given them; and this house which I have sanctified for My name I will cast out of My sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples.  (2 Chronicles 7:19-20)

Daniel’s prayer for the people began with the one thing that seems to escape our nation, in general—the need to confess our collective sin.  If we compare the history of Israel with that of our nation, there are frightening similarities.  Both were once nations “under God” but who gradually and ever so imperceptibly began to question and ultimately rejected God’s commandments and precepts.   As blessed and favored nations, they both began to do what felt “right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6; Prov. 3:7).  They “professed themselves to be wise and became fools, changing the truth of God into a lie” (Romans 1:22-25).

Also read:  The Subtly of Sin

Real change for individuals and nations does not lie solely in intercessory prayer.  Prayer that changes hearts and minds, transformational prayer, must begin with confession followed by a sincere commitment to turn away from sin and turn to God (2 Chron. 7:14; 1 Kings 8:35-36).    Should our 2017 theme instead have been, “Forgive us…heal us…then in Your mercy hear us”?

Envision what our country would look like if we returned to a nation that truly “trusted in God” versus the plans of politicians and social reformers.  Imagine if we loved others more than we loved ourselves.  Wouldn’t it be radical to act on the belief that “we are our brother’s keeper”?  (Gen. 4:9)  Instead of a national day of prayer, let us strive for a “national lifestyle of prayer”:  prayers of confession, prayers of forgiveness, and prayers for wisdom, discernment, and enlightenment.

The Apostle James had this observation about life in the 1st century.  Perhaps there are lessons in his words that can inform us in our future planning for the 2018 National Day of Prayer.

“Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?  You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”  (James 4:1-3, NLT)

More on prayer next week.

 

SELAH:  Read Daniel 9:4-7 for the next three days.   Each day ask the Holy Spirit to show you how He wants you to pray on that day for our nation and our world.

 

 

 

Everything’s Looking Up! Part 2

“And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.”  Luke 24:51 (KJV)

 

We spend a lot of time talking about the incarnation of Christ, the crucifixion and the resurrection but often neglect the ascension, a key element in the ministry and work of Christ. If we stop at the resurrection event, however, we miss the full power of God. This power that raised Jesus from the grave also lifted Him to heaven. The ascension completes the ministry of Christ as affirmed in our Statement of Faith: “We believe in Jesus Christ…crucified, dead, and buried; the third day He arose from the dead; He ascended in heaven and is seated at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty.” This statement successfully captures the full efficacy of Jesus’ ministry.

Christ’s ascension is a defining moment in Christianity much like His Advent. While the ascension marked the conclusion of Christ’s ministry on earth, it also initiated three (3) key changes for all who would follow Him as Lord and Savior. The Ascension would result in:

#1. The Holy Spirit’s ENTRANCE.   Jesus had earlier reminded the Disciples that His departure was necessary in order that the Holy Spirit would come. This transference of power to the Disciples would occur through the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8) resulting in “even greater works” than had been accomplished by Jesus (John 14:12). The Holy Spirit’s arrival would also result in the “gifting” of individuals for the edification of the Church (Eph. 4:8). Lastly, the Holy Spirit would bring to remembrance the truths that Jesus had taught the disciples during His time with them. He would add clarity and understanding to many of Christ’s teachings that would later be included in the infallible record of the Gospels.

#2. The Disciples’ ENGAGEMENT.   The forty days prior to Jesus’ ascension provided a critical transition period in which Jesus could prepare the Disciples for their new commission. During that time Jesus answered their questions, banished their fears, and opened their minds to the Scriptures (Luke 24:44-48). The ascension marked the beginning of the Disciples apostolic calling. After receipt of the Holy Spirit, they would be empowered to be the primary propagators of the Gospel beginning in Jerusalem and then expanding to Judea and Samaria and finally to the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8).

#3.   Jesus Christ’s EXALTATION.   After the ascension, Jesus Christ was placed on the throne at the right hand of God the Father. Jesus’ position of honor signified the acceptance of His “once for all” sacrifice for sin (Heb. 10:12) and His triumph over the forces of evil and Satan (Heb.2:14). Jesus has ascended to heaven where He now reigns as Lord and King (Rev. 19:16). It is there that He: (1) governs the universe, (2) rules the Church, (3) gives aid to believers, and (4) intercedes for believers. The ascended Christ is “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and above every name that named” (Eph. 1:21).  In 2017 Jesus Christ reigns!

Jesus ascended into heaven “materialistically, physically, and bodily” and will return in like manner (Acts 1:11).

And what does all this business of ascension have to do with believers living in the 21st century? Everything! Although Christ’s entered through the filter of time, the impact of His life and ministry extends throughout eternity. Christ’s life, death, resurrection and ascension provide the foundation on which believers appropriate God’s grace–His mercy and His power. Our response is seen in a life style that reflects our Lord and King.

The Holy Spirit’s entrance provides believers with a litany of gifts and powers to successfully navigate in a chaotic and tumultuous world-much like that which the Disciples faced. He is there to provide guidance and direction to accomplish the purpose for which God has created us. The Holy Spirit is the source of truth in all things protecting us from the world’s deception and Satan’s lies (John 16:13).

The Disciples engagement is the same for believers today. Our commission is to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ within our sphere of influence.   We too have received the call to faithfully evangelize whenever possible. We can begin our commission by witnessing to what we personally have seen Christ do in our lives and his love for others-love that was demonstrated by His death, resurrection, and ascension (Rom. 5:8). Through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, we too can turn the world upside down (Acts 17:6).

The knowledge of Christ’s exaltation is the place where believers can respond with great joy and confidence. Christ is seated in heavenly places (Eph. 1:20) reigning as Lord and triumphant King of the universe. It is because of this fact that we can be assured that the world is not spinning out of control because He is sovereignly overseeing current history and our destiny (Ps. 103:19).  In addition, Jesus’ love and benevolence doesn’t end with His ascent into heaven for it is there that He acts as our High Priest continually making intercession before the Father on our behalf (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25).

SELAH:  Jesus Christ is ascended. What is your response to His ascension and exaltation?

Everything’s Looking Up, Part 1

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  Acts 1:8 (KJV)

I have now added the Book of Acts to my list of favorite Bible books.  Why?  Because it bears witness to the fact of what can happen when ordinary people (and the Church) cooperate with supernatural power (the Holy Spirit).  And what is the result?  Extraordinary ministry!  I’m sure the Disciples felt that things were “looking up” since once again Jesus was present with them. But they had much to learn from Jesus before He ascended to heaven.

It had been forty days since Resurrection Sunday and Jesus wasted no time in completing His earthly ministry. After His ascension, Jesus would give His commandments to His “sent ones”, the newly commissioned apostles through the Holy Ghost (Acts 1:2). Knowing His departure was rapidly approaching, Jesus directed His energies to two activities: presenting evidence of His resurrection and teaching concerning the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3).

How did Jesus prove His resurrection? Not only by the witness of others (1 Cor. 15:4-7) but Jesus Himself would offer “infallible proofs.”  Perhaps He showed unbelievers His nail scarred hands and His pierced side. For those who challenged the stories of His resurrection, Jesus might have walked through closed doors as He did Easter afternoon with his disciples (John 20:19) or suddenly joined scoffers at their evening meal and ate in their presence to prove He was no ghost or apparition (Luke 24:41-43).

What did Jesus teach His disciples concerning the kingdom of God? The kingdom of God was the future Millennial Kingdom—the thousand year bodily reign of Jesus upon the earth (Rev.20:1-6).  Jesus had spoken to the disciples before about an earthly, literal kingdom (Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:28-30).  Through the Millennial Kingdom “God would burst into human history in a spectacular way to establish His rule on earth.” [1]   Perhaps He reminded the disciples of the faithfulness of God in His promise to establish the throne of David’s kingdom forever (2 Sam. 7:13; Jer. 33:17-21).

“Knowledge of God’s faithfulness and eternal promises would far outweigh any deterrent the Disciples might face in the future.”

Jesus left his disciples two instructions.  First they were to wait for the “Promise of the Father”, the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4).  Jesus also waited for the Holy Spirit before beginning His ministry (Matt. 3:16).  The new apostles would need the Spirit’s power to accomplish their work.   Second, they were commanded to be witnesses of Jesus “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  The spreading of the Gospel would require the disciples to move from the familiar to the unknown, expanding their territory and their audience.  However, if they followed Jesus’ instruction and the Holy Spirit, the result would be “extraordinary ministry.”

In this time and place, there is both the need and the possibility to create extraordinary ministry.  Jesus has given us the commission to go and to make disciples, to teach and to witness, just as He did (Matt. 28:19-20). We need not wait for the Holy Spirit.  He is living within every believer and is ready to empower us to complete the work that Jesus began.

Jesus has provided us witnesses and infallible proofs within the Gospel narratives and the Bible in general.  We have the guarantee of eternal promises that begin now and extend into eternity (2 Pet. 1:2-4).    It’s time to move out of our comfort zones and embrace the work that Jesus has gifted us to do.  Let us live each day with intentionality creating extraordinary ministry.  Are you ready?

SELAH:  Re-read today text from Acts and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what work God has gifted you to do that will witness to His power and glory.

Need some additional encouragement before moving forward?

Read:  “Fret Not

The Reality of the Resurrection

“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” 1 Corinthians 15:19 (NKJ)

 Christ has risen! (Matt. 28:6)  What now?  The Disciples and the New Testament Church would now face persecution and even death for their belief in Jesus Christ.  If they were to continue the work that Jesus began, they would now need to demonstrate the reality of the resurrection.

The Apostle Paul knew the importance of the resurrection and passionately defended its reality.  He shared the magnitude of the resurrection with the church at Corinth by highlighting the risk that would occur if they did not accept it as “fact” and demonstrate its impact in their lives (1 Corinthians 15).   This danger still exists for believers in the 21st century.  In verse 14 Paul begins to expound the casualty to Christianity if “Christ is not raised.”

First and foremost, our faith is in vain (v.14).  Imagine awakening to the news that Christ’s resurrection did not occur?  How would your belief system be affected?  In what or who would you place your hope and trust?  Second, if Christ is not raised, we as believers have falsely represented God (v.15).  Jesus’ resurrection is the cornerstone of God’s plan of eternal salvation for man (Hebrew 5:9).  Only God could supernaturally raise Christ from the dead (Acts 2:24; Ep. 1:20). To deny the resurrection would also be denying the power of God.  Third and most disturbing, Paul concludes if Christ is not raised, we are “still in our sins” AND our family and friends who have died “have perished” (v. 17).  It was for sin that Jesus was manifested (1 John 3:5) and through His resurrection that the power of death was destroyed (Heb. 2:14).

“The resurrection of Jesus showed that Christ’s oblation as the sacrificial lamb was accepted by God, which is the basis for the giving of the Spirit to believers and the forgiveness of sins.” [1]

Finally, our text for today (v. 19) sums up the dilemma that Christians and the world in general would face if there were no resurrection:  “If we have hope in Christ only for this life, we are the most miserable people in the world” (NLT). If this life is the total sum of our existence, then Christ would have died in vain and our future prospects would be consigned to the dust from which we were created.  Continuity of our existence would be halted with our last breathe.

I question whether we, as believers, fully understand the implications of Christ’s resurrection in the 21st century.  Year after year we proclaim, “Christ is risen!” on Easter Sunday often relegating it to a “social phenomenon” that occurred thousands of years ago.  Yes, we’re willing to accept Jesus’ atoning sacrifice and the gift of His Holy Spirit, but at the end of the day, what changes have we implemented in our lives to reflect the “supernatural manifestation” that took place on Resurrection Sunday?  The reality of Jesus’ resurrection should make a difference in how we live!  Are we living our life as Christ had hoped when He sacrificed His life for ours?  Are we doing “greater works” than Christ did, as He stated in John 14:12?  Are we living each day joyfully expecting His return? (2 Pet. 3:11-12)  NOW is the right time to rededicate our life to Christ and boldly demonstrate the reality of His resurrection.  Let our hallelujah ring out to witness that Christ is raised!

SELAH:  Imagine living today without the expectation of a future resurrection.  Journal the emotions you feel as you consider this ending for your life then praise God for the reality of Jesus’ resurrection.    

[1]  Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology

Living in the Power of the Resurrection

“For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death,

we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” Romans 6:5 (NKJ)

 

Good Friday is a few days away.  Christ died for the ungodly (Rom. 5:6).  Resurrection Sunday is on the horizon.  Christ is risen! (Matt. 28:6)  And now, as a result of these two events, how are we to live?  I’m sure Christ’s disciples had the same question upon hearing of our Lord’s resurrection.  They received the resurrection proclamation from the women who visited the empty tomb early Easter morning (Matt. 28).  They had personally seen the glorified Christ “behind shut doors” (John 20:19-30).  Even after all this, the disciples did not fully understand the implications of the resurrection and how it would change their lives forever.  They lived through the suffering of the Cross.  They would now need to learn how to live in the power of the resurrection.

In the final days of His earthly life, Jesus hinted about this resurrection power.  He assured His disciples, “he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do” (John 14:12).

The Apostle Paul knew how to live in the power of the resurrection.  He wanted to not only “share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings” but also, to know Him and the power of His resurrection (Phil. 3:10).  Paul prayed that the church at Ephesus would understand “the power God that worked in Christ when He raised Him (Jesus) from the dead” (Eph. 1:19, 20).  The early New Testament church gained its potency and power through accessing that same resurrection power through the anointing and indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

How do twenty-first century believers live in the power of the resurrection?

Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us.  We now are able to walk in victory.  Sin no longer has power over us (Romans 6).  Satan is crushed and we are free (Col. 2:15).  Though he would have us believe we are still lost, we have become new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).  Though our memories and the world would tempt us on every side, we are able to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).  Though we may sometimes “stumble and fall”, we know that nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:39).  We have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, our Guarantee, until we arrive in heaven (Eph. 1:13, 14).

Also read:  Our Resurrection Witness

We have received the resurrection proclamation.  Christ has personally come to dwell within our hearts.  We are witnesses to His existence.  After the resurrection, the disciples went back to their daily routines.  Peter even invited his cohorts to “go fishing” while they awaited their new orders from our Lord.  While we celebrate the resurrection of Christ once a year at Easter, we much daily tap into this power from on high.  Don’t go back to “business as usual”.  Tap into the resurrection power of God and finish the good work God has begun in you (Phil. 1:6).

Selah:  Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any area of your life (relationships, attitudes, behaviors) where you need to access the power of the resurrection.  Then ask Him to help you develop next steps on what to do.

Are you willing to launch out?  Check out the link for more info!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPgfZbUxYFk&index=1&list=PLXZmuJ5W5m4HAmeSH2k6zZiuJvxJZXxLq