Christianity 201

July 15, 2013

The Best System of Government

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:39 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Bill is one of the five authors at The Thinklings blog. This appeared recently under the title On Politics.

And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” – Matthew 21:23-27

A month or two ago in my daily reading I happened upon this passage. It is a passage I have read many times before. I tend to underline and at times write in my Bible as I read, and so I wrote something in the margin that I’ve never written in the margin of my Bible before.

A single word: “Politics”

Political thinking is one of the most consistent traits of Jesus’ detractors, far more so than theological thinking, which is ironic, since they thought of themselves as such astute theologians. It’s illustrative to look at the passage above as a representation of all political thought.

Notice the fear: “But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”

Notice the complete disregard for, you know, the actual truth: And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say . . .”

Writing that single word in the margin was an epiphany for me. I began to think of the many instances of political calculus in the Bible, and particularly in the New Testament. The Jewish leaders in their dealings with Jesus. Pilate in his dealings with the Jewish leaders and the crowds. Herod in his dealings with John the Baptist and his guests at the banquet. Herod Agrippa and Festus before Paul. Nicodemus, coming to Jesus at night for fear of what his associates might think. This helped sharpen for me my understanding of one of the chief, if not the chief attributes of political thinking: fear.

I’ve been around awhile, and I remember well the heady days of the 1980s and early 1990s, when the church in America began flexing her political muscle. There was real hope then that we were going to change our country and our culture for the better through electing the right people. But we did not see the fatal flaw in our thinking: everyone we elected was, by definition and necessity, a politician.

Being a politician isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I am thankful for the people who put up with all the argle-bargle and jiggery-pokery of political life to fill necessary leadership positions. But shame on me for ever trusting in elected officials to actually change the culture. In reading about the chief priests and elders of the people above, do you sense any of the courage needed to drive a culture in a good direction?

Politicians, with only very rare exceptions, do not drive cultural change. They are followers of the culture. They, by definition, “fear the people”, because the people, not the truth, keep them in power.

What drives culture is changed hearts. And hearts are only changed by the good work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration through Christ, or through the gentle and deadly drift away from God as we experience and conform ourselves to a world system of power, pleasure, riches, entertainment, angst, and apathy that is ultimately driven by the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.

Yet I feel the pull of politics. The game is afoot and it’s easy to become immersed in all the tribalism and division our political culture engenders, wherein people who would otherwise be politely disagreeing over minor issues behave like mortal enemies.

Jesus offers the better way of the Kingdom. I’m gratified that more and more of my Christian brothers and sisters seem to be laying aside the false hope that we’ll be OK if we just get this next election right.

Now I’m not saying that we should check out. I believe Christians need to be involved in politics to the extent that they can do so within the boundaries of the fruit of the Spirit. We should vote. We should even engage in political opposition where appropriate. We may be called at times to lay down our freedom or even our lives to bring urgent change to our land. But we should not hope in our political masters to lead us to the promised land. Jesus has already made that way open.

In a nation with a disintegrating culture, the best we will get from our politicians is a sort of delaying action, and I’m not discounting the value of that. But ultimately, our politicians are going to follow the culture where it leads.

This is one reason why I don’t believe democracy is the best system of government. I think it may be the best system when it comes to organizing fallen humans, but ultimately the best system of government, in my view and more importantly the Bible’s view, is an absolute monarchy.

But only when the Monarch is absolutely perfect.

June 19, 2013

Dinner with Jesus

Luke 19:9 J.B. Phillips New Testament

Jesus said to him, “Salvation has come to this house today! Zacchaeus is a descendant of Abraham, and it was the lost the Son of Man came to seek—and to save.”

Today’s post by Margaret Manning, a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Seattle, Washington, appeared yesterday on the website of RZIM, under the title A Feast of Faith.

Jesus loved to eat. At least that’s what the Gospel of Luke tells us. Throughout Luke’s narrative, Jesus is often coming and going from meals. Interestingly enough, Jesus is often eating meals with a very sundry cast of characters. Early on in Luke’s narrative, Jesus is thrown a banquet by tax gatherers—some of the most unsavory folks in Jesus’s day.

Meals with Jesus were not simply about the food. They were the conduits for spiritual and life transformation. One dramatic example of this transformation occurs with a chief tax gatherer, Zaccheus. And unlike other accounts of meals with Jesus in Luke’s Gospel where he is the invited guest, Jesus invites himself over to dine in Zaccheus’s home. As a result of this dining experience, Jesus gives Zaccheus a new identity as a “son of Abraham,” a title that inflamed the religious leaders of his day. How could Jesus count a scheming, conniving, tax-collecting outsider as a “son of Abraham”—which meant he was a son of the faithful patriarch and a true Israelite? And how did Zaccheus demonstrate faith that garnered Jesus’s commendation?

Understanding his place in society as a chief tax collector provides a necessary backdrop for Zaccheus’s feast of faith. Chief tax collectors contracted with the Romans to collect taxes in a particular town or region. It’s as if he purchased a franchise from the Roman government at a substantial price, and then subcontracted the actual collection of the taxes to a group of men who worked under him. His profit was the difference between the fee paid to the Roman government and the amount of taxes he collected. The system was prone to abuse and rewarded tax collectors for excessive collections.(1) Thus, the Jews saw tax collectors as mercenaries and thieves, and for one of their own to be in business with the Romans meant utter ostracism from the Jewish community.(2) Is it any wonder why all who heard Jesus invite himself over to Zaccheus’s house reacted with grumbling?

Yet, hearing the news of Jesus’s arrival, this much-maligned man pushed his way through the crowds, hoisting up his garments in a most undignified manner just to get a glimpse. Zaccheus had heard the stories about Jesus—his healings, his eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners, and his remarkable, authoritative teachings. Now his curious faith compelled him to see for himself if all that he heard was really true.

Even knowing all of this, how surprising it must have been when Jesus invites himself over for dinner! Jesus wants to dine with this one who is despised. In response, Zaccheus overflows with generous gratitude. “Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor” (Luke 19:8). Jesus has asked for nothing but hospitality from Zaccheus, and in response, Zaccheus willingly surrenders half of his wealth. The tax collector’s willingness to let go of half of his wealth demonstrates faith—a faith, just like Abraham. The hospitality of Jesus prompts his faith-fueled donation.

But his faithful response goes beyond gratitude as he seeks to restore justice to those whom he has defrauded. It wasn’t enough for Zaccheus to give away half of his wealth in response to Jesus; he insists on repaying those he has defrauded. The Old Testament requirement for restitution is for the amount defrauded plus one-fifth.(3) But Zaccheus doesn’t simply meet the letter of the law; he offers to repay four times as much as he has defrauded others! Four-fold restitution will impoverish Zaccheus, as he’s already committed to give away half of his wealth. Yet in response to Jesus’s gracious invitation, Zaccheus parts with his wealth as a sign of his saving faith. Jesus declares, “Today, salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham” (Luke 19:9).

Like Abraham, Zaccheus responds with faith that prompts action. Voluntarily impoverishing himself, Zaccheus shows that he, too, will live by faith—faith that demonstrates its true character in action. Thus, Zaccheus’s faith also benefits the community around him. At some point after Jesus invites himself to the tax collector’s home, Zaccheus rises—uncoerced, unadmonished, and unprompted—and commits himself to doing justice. For Zaccheus, justice rolls down like waters from the hospitality of Jesus, and it flows into his own faithful demonstration of hospitality towards others: he shares his wealth and restores what was ill-gotten. “Salvation has come to this house”—all in response to a meal. Imagine that. Hospitality—giving both emotional and physical nurture—proves the vessel for transformation. Let’s eat!

 
(1) Research from the website http://www.lectionary.org/luke.
(2) The Tosefta Toharoth notes, “When [tax] collectors enter into a house, the house [is considered] unclean.”
(3) See Leviticus 6:5 and Numbers 5:7.

April 4, 2013

He Endured The Cross

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:46 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Hebrews 12:1a-3 New Living Translation (NLT)

…And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.

Brooksyne Weber noted at Daily Encouragement, “…the many things Jesus gave up or endured on His earthly journey that would conclude at the cross…” (This is paraphrased, click the link to read the original at the bottom of their page.)

  • He gave up His glory in heaven.
  • He gave up His royal privileges.
  • He was subjected to Satan’s temptuous ways.
  • His incorruptible body was subjected to physical death.
  • He was numbered with transgressors while the guilty was freed.
  • He was abandoned by those closest to Him.
  • He chose silence when false accusations were hurled at Him.
  • He was subjected to betrayal and physical cruelty by those He came to save.
  • He sought us out even when we were indifferent to all He has done for us.
  • He bore all our sin to satisfy what the law demanded.

This reminded me of the words of a popular Christmas (!) song Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne:

Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity.

Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang,
Proclaiming Thy royal degree;
But of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth,
And in great humility.

The foxes found rest, and the birds their nest
In the shade of the forest tree;
But Thy couch was the sod, O Thou Son of God,
In the deserts of Galilee.

Thou camest, O Lord, with the living Word
That should set Thy people free;
But with mocking scorn and with crown of thorn,
They bore Thee to Calvary

Many Gospel Music artists — and Elvis Presley — recorded the song, If That Isn’t Love which echoes this idea:

He left the splendor of heaven
Knowing His destiny
Was the lonely hill of Golgotha
There to lay down His life for me

And if that isn’t love
Then the ocean is dry
There’s no stars in the sky
And the little sparrows can’t fly
Yeah if that isn’t love
Then heaven’s a myth
There’s no feeling like this
If that isn’t love

Even in death He remembered
The thief hanging by His side
Then he spoke of love and compassion
And He took him to paradise

And if that isn’t love…

More recently, we have the song The Servant King which is also sung at both Christmas and Easter.  We’ve covered that song and included a video here at C201.

Hopefully today’s devotional thoughts from Christian song lyrics has guided you to consider the breadth and width of the sacrifice we remembered at Easter.

March 27, 2013

The Apostles’ Short Term Missions Trip

This great study of a passage in Luke  — where the disciples’ story meets contemporary stories — first appeared last month at the blog of Bob Rogers, under the title Ten Secrets to Successful Missions.  (Click through to read at source.)

Luke 10:1-20 New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Sends Out the Seventy-Two

10 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.

16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Luke 10:1-20 records that Jesus sent out 70 people to go on a mission trip, going in pairs to towns and villages where He was about to go. Apparently it was very successful, because we read in verse 17,“The Seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’” And Jesus replied in verse 18, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a lightning flash.”

What made their mission so successful? And how can our mission work and the missionaries we pray for discover the same power in their ministry?

This passages gives us ten secrets to successful missions. Here they are. Open your Bible to Luke 10, and notice these ten truths:

1. Multiplication. (v. 1) Use everybody, not just professional clergy. The Lord commissioned the 12 apostles in Luke 9:1-6, but here he sends out 70. Multiply your ministry. Use volunteers.

2. Teamwork (v. 1) He sent them in pairs, not alone. We can be so much more effective by working together, and it is a testimony to our unity in Christ to work in teams. Southern Baptists believe in the Cooperative Program as an excellent strategy, as thousands of churches pool their resources to support missionaries.

3. Prayer (v. 2) Before sending them out, He told them to pray for workers for the harvest. When Jerry Rankin was president of the International Mission Board, he spoke at Ridgecrest Baptist Assembly and mentioned that the IMB has recently appointed our first missionary to serve openly in Albania. After the service, a woman came up to Dr. Rankin, crying. When she gained her composure, she said that seven years before, she had read that Albania was the most atheistic country in the world, and she called the IMB to ask what we were doing there, only to learn that Albania was completely closed to missionaries. So she went back to her ladies’ group in her church, and asked them to pray for Albania. “For seven years we have been praying for Albania!” she wept, and Dr. Rankin wept tears of joy with her. (Jerry Rankin, To the Ends of the Earth, p. 57-58)

4. Expect opposition (“like lambs among wolves”). (v. 3) A Christian pastor took a group of school children whom he was teaching, for a walk. The Secret Police dogged them at first, but when they went into a zoo, they left them alone. He led them to a lion’s cage and gathered them around so he could speak quietly. He said, “Your forefathers in the Christian faith were thrown to wild beasts like these. They died gladly, because they believed in Jesus. The time may come when you also will be imprisoned, and suffer for being a Christian. Now you must decide whether you are ready to face that day. With tears in their eyes, each in turn said, ‘yes.’ It was the last class he taught before he had to leave his country. (Richard Wurmbrand, God’s Underground. Cited in “The Last Class,” The Voice of the Martyrs, February 2013.)

5. Commitment (v. 4, 7-8) If you care too much about your personal comfort (“money-bag, traveling bag,” “eating what they offer,”) you will become discouraged. If you care too much for sightseeing and socializing (“don’t greet anyone along the road”), you will lose your focus. When William Carey arrived in India, his wife was sick, he face financial hardship, and he was so lonely that he wrote in his journal, “O that I had … an earthly friend to whom I could unbosom my soul!” (Mary Drewery, William Carey, p. 74.) Andrew Baldwin, who ministers to an unreached people group in London, England, says, “This also emphasizes the need to move out in faith and in total dependence on God. Some people insist on having everything in place and being totally prepared – preparation is good, but as the leader who first recruited me to Turkey wisely said, if we waited till we felt completely ready, we’d never go!”

6. Look for a person of peace (v. 5-6). “Shalom” means more than just peace; it means wholeness and health. A person of peace was a person who fully receives the missionary. This is a person living in the culture you are reaching, who welcomes you, receives the message, and can be a bridge between you and your target culture. When Lottie Moon was serving in China, she learned of a village ten miles from where she was, that was open to the gospel. There lived a man named Dan Ho-bang. He had heard from another missionary that Jesus could remove sins from people. Then he learned that Lottie Moon was teaching about Jesus. Mr. Dan sent three people to invite Miss Moon to preach the way of Jesus in his home. She went, and great crowds of people came to the home to listen to the gospel. It became possible, because of Mr. Dan, a man of peace. (Catherine B. Allen, The New Lottie Moon Story, p. 171)

7. Show and tell the gospel (v. 9) In other words, meet their physical needs and also their spiritual needs– by sharing the gospel. While we always have the authority to share the gospel, often they are more receptive to hearing it when we show that we love them in a practical way. But beware: don’t use service or meeting physical needs as an excuse to not share the gospel. James Harvey, who ministers to an unreached people in Nashville, Tennessee, says, “I spent four years of our work among K-people ‘earning the right’ to share the gospel, and I was wrong to do that, because waiting to share the gospel can end up hurting or killing the relationship. It is so much better to begin a relationship with lost people by sharing the gospel with them and starting your friendship on an openness about spiritual conversations and pursuing divine TRUTH together. We are beginning to see fruit through miraculous healings, power encounters, and bold evangelism in the K-community. I have not seen a single Muslim convert become Christian through the servant evangelism movement.” Servant evangelism alone is not a substitute for preaching. Harvey goes on to say, “people use it as an excuse to be lazy and non-strategic in declaring the gospel message up front with people in their first meeting/encounter, whether it’s a waitress at a lunch meeting, a wordly relative at a family reunion, or a lost co-worker they pass by every day.”

8. Don’t take rejection personally (v. 10-12). If they reject you, they are actually rejecting Jesus, not you. You’re only accountable for sharing the gospel; you are not accountable for their response. When Lottie Moon first went to China, the Chinese called her a “devil woman” because she was a foreigner. She patiently responded, “Do not curse me. I am a human like you.” It took time for them to even accept her. (Catherine B. Allen, The New Lottie Moon Story, p. 158.)

9. Celebrate spiritual victories. (v. 17-19) When the 70 returned with joy that the demons submitted, Jesus rejoiced with them that Satan was being defeated. Whether you experience small victories, such as a person listening to the gospel, or great victories, such as a person coming to faith in Jesus, it is always reason to celebrate God’s work.

10. Find your greatest satisfaction in your own salvation (v. 20) Jesus reminded them that the greatest rejoicing was that their own names are written in the Book of Life. If you have been obedient to your call to be on mission, you will always be successful, no matter what numerical results you see in your lifetime.

A famous artist was asked to paint a picture of a dying church. One would expect that he would paint a small congregation in a dilapidated building. Instead, he painted a beautiful edifice with a rich pulpit and magnificent stained glass windows—and near the door, an offering box marked “Missions,” with the contribution slot covered with cobwebs. (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes, p. 378.)

It’s very true. If the church of Jesus neglects mission, the church will die, for the heart of Christ is a heart for missions. But if a church will follow the words of Christ for missions listed here in Luke 10, that church will be alive.

Which kind of church will we be? What kind of missionary will you be?

March 22, 2013

Ministry in Out-of-the-Way Places

Imagine you’re in the middle of a great series of revival meetings where you play a major role and are one of a dozen key leaders, when suddenly God unmistakably directs you to take a day off and go a great distance to speak to one individual. You’d possibly question the wisdom of that, right? Today’s article is from Georgia pastor Brad Whitt. You’re encouraged to read these articles at source and get to know the authors better. This post was original titled A Most Unlikely Environment.

“However, he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the matter, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places; and they came to Him from every direction.” Mark 1:45

Do we even dare enter into the personal experience of the Son of Man? Yes, for the fact that He is the Son of Man means we can, without irreverence, see something of our human experience in His. That’s why I believe that this is surely one of the saddest experiences in the earthly life of Jesus. The saddest hours in any human life are those which are spent, “in deserted places” for those hours spent in the deserted places are always spent “outside.”

The outside, deserted places always put a man in an unusual, uncomfortable and most uneasy place. They naturally divert, deter and discourage. There’s no pain quite like the pain of being put in such a position of desolation and isolation. To feel that you are not walking with the rest of world, that you’ve been left behind, that you are no longer in communication with those around you or pushing forward to accomplish what had been set before you is, for an active personality, a terribly fearful thing indeed.

I believe that for the man, Jesus, this time in the deserted places must have been a very trying time indeed. To seemingly be held back from officially beginning His earthly ministry by being baptized by John in the Jordan and then being forced to be alone by the sheer force of such an unlikely environment must have been discouraging.

Yet, in the middle of what would have seemed to be a discouraging time spent alone in a desert Jesus was thronged by people. Mark makes it clear, “They came to Him from every direction.” He was supposed to be alone, but he couldn’t get away from the people. His quiet, lonely desert all of a sudden turned into a hustling and bustling metropolis.

Can you look back and see similar times in your life? I certainly can. There were days when I didn’t feel that I had accomplished much at all. Nothing was conquered or completed, and yet in the rear-view mirror I now see that those were some of my most profitable and productive days for it was in those cool, calm, quiet hours I was most closely walking with Jesus.

Don’t you think that Philip must have argued with the Lord when he was transported to the desert to minister to one Ethiopian? After all, he was in the middle of a large revival and many were coming to know Christ. Why would such a great evangelist be plucked from the place where God was moving so mightily to go share with just one person? That’s not the most effective and efficient use of missionary muscle, is it? Yes, because that one man in that one chariot on that one lonely road was an entire people group in himself. Philip cast his net and caught in one pull more fish that had to that point been caught by all the other disciples working all day long – together.

In my walk with the Lord I have seen Him working in the city as well as in the desert. I have seen Him moving among the clamoring people with their praises and palm leaves and I have seen Him treading the wine press alone once the praises and palm leaves had withered and fallen away. It would seem that the most profitable place of ministry would be the crowded places, not the deserted places. Yet Jesus has shown me that it is in the desert that singing erupts and the blossoms burst forth. The city has become the country and the country has been turned into the city. That’s why I can no longer trust my judgment of earthly things. He has exalted the valley and made the mountain low. I can no longer look with distrust at my desert hour. Every manger has the possibility of a star. Every dark night has the potential for a song. Every hunger pain experienced in the desert can bring a ministering angel. Every bitter cup can become a gift from above. Every cross seen today can be tomorrow’s crown. The Son of man has shown us a new path for personal promotion because He entered into life by the straight and narrow gate.

Brad Whitt appeared here at C201 previously in November, 2012; check out Did God Reveal it To You or In You?

I couldn’t help but think of the line in a popular worship song,

When I’m found in the desert place
When I walk through the wilderness

and thought I would include it here.

March 15, 2013

When Jesus’ Miracles Stopped

Welcome! No, today isn’t about dispensationalism. I believe God is still in the miracle business. This is a teaching from Felipe at the blog AboutJesusChrist.net titled When Jesus Couldn’t Perform Any Miracles.

Jesus performed many miracles during his ministry.  He gave sight to the blind, fed thousands with only two loaves and five fish and he even walked on water.  So how can it be that there was a time when he couldn’t perform any miracles?  The gospel of Matthew tells us that when he was in his home town of Nazareth teaching in the synagogue they doubted him.

“When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, ‘Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?’ So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.’ Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” – Matthew 13:54-58

He Didn’t Perform Miracles There

Yes, it is true, there was a time when Jesus didn’t perform miracles but it wasn’t because he couldn’t; it was because the people didn’t believe in him. It was because of their lack of faith. They knew he was wise in what he taught but they were blinded by their belief of whom he was. They saw him as, “the carpenter’s son”, and not as the Son of God. They saw him as only one member of a local family. They didn’t see him as the disciples saw him. They didn’t see him as a teacher or as someone they should follow and learn from.

Faith

Jesus was looking for faith. Time and time again we see Jesus heal someone because of the faith they have.

  • “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way; your faith had made you well.’” – Mark 10:52.
  • “Then He said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.’” – Luke 7:50.

Jesus looks at the heart and sees what we cannot see. He knows if someone has true faith on the inside and not just a false veil of faith as the Pharisees did. He knows faith is not something we can just throw on to show others but it is something that grows deep within us where no man can see but only God can see.

Today

The same can be said today about us. If we lack faith in Jesus then how can he perform miracles in our lives? He has always said to trust in him to provide for all our needs and we need to accept that he can do all things. He can and will do miracles for us if we truly believe. Faith is what he asks of us. Faith can move mountains if we only believe.

March 13, 2013

Did Jesus Need to be Baptized?

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:46 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

<NLT) Matthew 11: 1 In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was,   “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”…

11 “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.”

13 Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”

15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him.

(AMP) 14 But John protested strenuously, having in mind to prevent Him, saying, It is I who have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?

15 But Jesus replied to him, Permit it just now; for this is the fitting way for [both of] us to fulfill all righteousness [that is, to perform completely whatever is right]. Then he permitted Him.

This is from David Capes at HearTheVoice.com:

When you read the Gospels, it is clear that John’s baptism is about repentance and the forgiveness of sins.  So the question arises: Why did Jesus need to repent?  Or what sin was Jesus guilty of that he needed to be forgiven?  In Matthew ‘s account of Jesus’ baptism we are told that John finds Jesus’ request to be baptized puzzling for he demurs and says “I need to be cleansed by You.  Why do You come to me?” (Matthew 3:13-14).   But Jesus convinces John to superintend his baptism.

So why was Jesus’ baptized?  The rest of the New Testament and Christian tradition claim that Jesus was without sin so he had no need to repent—in the traditional sense of the word—and be forgiven.

Let me suggest several reasons why Jesus went to John and insisted that the prophet dip him in the Jordan River.

First, Jesus wanted to identify with John.   When Jesus heard what John was doing in the desert—calling  people to change their ways and announcing the arrival of the kingdom of God—the Nazarene wanted to be there, to drink it all in,  for he sensed in his spirit that it may be his time.

Second, Jesus wanted to identify with the women and men who were coming to John in repentance and faith.  These were the “poor in spirit” Jesus would declared “blessed” in his Sermon on the Mount.  Put another way, Jesus wanted to identify with sinners.  Later, as controversies increase around him, he will be criticized for being a friend of sinners.

Third, Jesus’ baptism marks a turning point in his life.  The word translated “repentance” in most Bible translations means “a change of mind” (metanoia).  Now a true change of mind is always accompanied by a corresponding change of behavior.  After his baptism everything changes for Jesus.  He will leave behind the carpenter shop to become an itinerant preacher and healer.  He will leave behind his home in Nazareth to set up his headquarters in Capernaum.  He will leave behind a private life and become a most public person.  Jesus’ baptism is the turning point of his life.

Fourth, Jesus’ baptism foreshadows his coming death, burial, and resurrection.  Now I must admit that this last reason is more speculative, but it is certainly consistent with the story as it unfolds in the Gospel.  When Jesus submits to John’s baptism, because of who he is—God’s Son, the Anointed One–he gives baptism an entirely new focus.  Those who follow Jesus in baptism will do so as an act of initiation into the Christian faith; through baptism they participate in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection (Roman 6).  For Christ-believers baptism is the start of their new life; it is the turning point of their lives just as it was for Jesus.

Read the same account with additional notes in the Bible translation David helped create, The Voice Bible.

March 10, 2013

Examples of Abudance in the Life of Jesus

This article was a unique find. It comes from FaithMessenger.com, the very detailed Bible study blog of Gregory L. Winfield.  It appeared about a week ago under the title Abundance in the Life of Jesus and the Disciples. As always you’re encouraged to click through to read at source.

Abundance surrounded the life of Jesus everywhere He went. When I became a Christian there were some things that I just knew from common sense had to be true. One of those ideas was that Jesus must have lived a life of abundance while He ministered here on earth.

Most people confuse the words abundance with excess. There is a huge difference in the two. Jesus absolutely DID NOT live a life of excess, but He did live a life of abundance. Jesus was never in a position where he needed man to meet His needs. Rather, He was always in a position to meet the needs of the people wherever He went.

I knew deep down inside that if we have a God who came to earth and was so poor that He needed men to meet His needs materially, we must serve a pretty weak God. I was a babe in Christ, so even though I had these thoughts, I didn’t know how to express them from a scriptural standpoint.

Nowhere in bible do we ever see an instance when Jesus was caught unprepared or in a position where He couldn’t meet the needs of the people.

Now, I can see abundance in the life of Jesus from His very birth in the fact that wise men brought Him gold, frankincense and myrrh. I have no scripture to support it but I believe these acts of benevolence continued throughout the life of Jesus.

Signs of Abundance in the Life of Jesus

  • Case Study #1 – Jesus chose the twelve disciples, some of whom we know from scripture were gainfully employed at the time they were called. He called these men to come and follow Him. By doing so, Jesus made Himself responsible for the food and shelter of 13 men (including Himself) for 3 and half years. We have no record of any of the disciples being employed during the time they traveled with Jesus, so I’m led to believe that Jesus was solely responsible for them.
  • Case Study #2 – Seeing that there was a need for a treasurer, Judas was elected to carry the money bag (John 12:6). A treasurer is only needed if there is an overage.
  • Case Study #3 – The bible says that Judas was stealing out of the money bag (John 12:6) but no one knew it.  Now think about it for a moment. If you have a money bag with $10.00 in it and hypothetically speaking, someone stole 10% ($1.00) out of it. With $9.00 left in the money bag, everyone in the group would know that $1.00 was missing. However, if you have a money bag with $50,000 in it and someone stole 10% ($5000) out of it, it would be much harder to detect that a theft had occurred.
  • Case Study #4 – When there was a tax need, Jesus knew exactly how and where to get the money to pay the taxes for Himself and the disciples (Matthew 17:27).
  • Case Study #5 – The bible said that those who crucified Jesus, cast lots to see who would get His clothes. I’m no fashion guru, but I would have to think that Jesus must have worn some pretty nice clothes in order for the people to compete for ownership of them after He was crucified (Matthew 27:35).

Nowhere in bible do we ever see an instance when Jesus was caught un-prepared or in a position where He couldn’t meet the needs of the people.

I understand that some hold on to the thought that Jesus was poor and had very little in terms of this worlds goods. I can agree with that way of thinking only to the degree that He was involved in a travelling ministry, therefore He didn’t have a need for houses and other items that tend to tie us down instead of liberate us.

But when it comes to abundance in the moment, I’m persuaded that in the life of Jesus and those whom He called to minister with Him, abundance surrounded them at every turn.

February 21, 2013

In The Hands of One Who Cares for You

Today we’re featuring Timothy Foster who is a brand new member of Faithful Bloggers and whose Bible study and devotional blog is titled Worship Forward+.  As always, we encourage you to click through to read at source.  (With a limited number of posts to date, you can read everything he’s written!) I think many of you will like Timothy’s writing style in this piece, which appeared at his blog as He Likes Me, He Really Likes Me. (You can encourage new bloggers with a comment on their page.)

During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said,  “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat.  If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.” (Mark 8:1-3 NIV84)

Poor Sally Field, our blog post title today comes from that memorable speech she made at the Oscars in 1984 where she said, “… The first time I didn’t feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me.”  Whatever that speech really meant, I think among other things, it sort of hits on an emotional challenge many have, and that is that we really crave to be truly, deeply, cared for, “liked”, and loved.  We don’t want lip service, we don’t want to be “stroked”, we want to know and feel that someone out there really and truly cares.

I was moved in the Mark passage by Jesus’ loving reaction to the physical condition of the people to whom He had been ministering so fervently.  Mark explains that He had compassion for the people.  Here Jesus, teaching for 3 days, probably exhausted and hungry himself, has the magnitude and fortitude to feel compassion for a people so hungry for a Savior, they are willing to ignore their own hunger; even to the point of possible collapse during their journey home.  As only a parent would know, Jesus recognizes their state and wants to feed them.

In Luke 15:20 we see this word compassion used again in yet another familiar story, the Prodigals Son:

“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 story did not say that his Father saw him and waited for him to come to him, it said that he ran to him and threw his arms around him.  That’s not just a feeling, that’s a passion.  That’s a loving parent who truly deeply cares for the well-being of His son.

We again see this property shown in possibly its purest form when Jesus actually weeps for His friend Lazarus who has recently died.  John 11:33-36:

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.  “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.  Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

This English word compassion comes from the Greek word Splagchnizomai (Strong’s 4697) and the definition is “to be moved as to one’s bowels, hence to moved with compassion”.  OK.  I’ll say it.  Gross.  I know your saying, wow, this Greek thing is really helpful :)  Fact is that the Strong’s definition goes on to explain that “the bowels were regarded as the seat of the more violent passions, such as anger and love; but by the Hebrews as the seat of the tenderer affections, esp. kindness, benevolence, compassion; hence our heart”.

So, if we put this in our bowl and stir it all together we see a compassion that is a very deeply felt.  This is not just a feeling but a passionate reaction to the physical condition of His people, to the sheep of His flock.  Like our Father in heaven, like a loving parent, Jesus looks to us in a way only a parent can.  As when our own children are running out the door without a coat or when we send our kids off to school, we love them deeply enough to put that coat on them or to give them their bag lunch.

The Psalmist says it well, when he says,

“For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” (Psalms 36:9 NIV84)

I am personally comforted by all this, as I want to follow a Savior who I know cares about me; who feels deeply for me.  I may not know what’s around the corner in life, but this I know.  That I am following a loving Savior, who cares not only for my soul, but also for my sanity.  A parent who loves me and cares for me deeply.  A friend who weeps for me.  I am in good hands.  I am in His hands.

He loves me, He really Loves Me!

January 10, 2013

Jesus’ Last Words

ESV Matt 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…

In the western world much is made of being present when someone issues their last words. We want to know what the final words were from politicians, authors, great military men and preachers.

The first time my father was hospitalized with a heart attack, he pulled me close to his hospital bed and said, “I want you to know, I have always been very proud of you.”  You have no idea how much I needed to hear that. My father worked in the world of finance, dealing with budgets, financial forecasting and investments. I have only once in my life — a very brief time working with InterVarsity — had anything resembling a regular, normal salary. I’ve always felt like that by the standard he would measure achievement, there wouldn’t be much to be proud of.

But he said he was, and although it was twelve years later when he finally passed away, I have always regarded that sentence as his ‘official’ last words to me; his blessing.

Famous Last Words

So what were Jesus’ last words to his disciples?  Ask most people, and they will say, “The Great Commission;” the command to, as The Message bible puts  it, “Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you.”

But another phrase follows that,

(ESV)20 … And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

It’s a promise of his ongoing presence and comfort.  You have no idea how much you and I need to hear that. We live in a world where it is so easy to lapse into the mindset that, as a song once said, “God is watching us, from a distance.” But the scriptures teach that God is very close, very present, very much at hand.

While Luke doesn’t reiterate the exact words, he mentions this blessing.

(NIV) Luke 24:50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.

This was Jesus’ benediction to us.

Matthew Henry writes:

Two solemn farewells we find our Lord Jesus giving to his church, and his parting word at both of them is very encouraging; one was here, when he closed up his personal converse with them, and then his parting word was, “Lo, I am with you always; I leave you, and yet still I am with you;” the other was, when he closed up the canon of the scripture by the pen of his beloved disciple, and then his parting word was, “Surely, I come quickly. I leave you for awhile, but I will be with you again shortly,” Rev. 22:20. By this it appears that he did not part in anger, but in love, and that it is his will we should keep up both our communion with him and our expectation of him.

Many of you will find this verse echoing in your minds as you’ve thought about this:

Hebrews 13:5b God has said,

“Never will I leave you;
    never will I forsake you.” (NIV)

The writer of Hebrews is recollecting several passages including Deut 31:6, Deu 31:8, Joshua 1:5  and 1Kings 8:57  Again, Peterson renders this:  God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,”

You have no idea how much the world needs to hear this. Maybe that’s why it’s paired with the command to go out into the world…

PW

November 25, 2012

The Importance of Preaching

Being Sunday, many of you experienced preaching at some point in the last 24 hours. Here is a blog post — currently the only blog post — at the blog Inspired Preaching which is mostly a video collection of today’s popular Bible teachers from a variety of doctrinal perspectives. The title is What is Preaching; be sure to click through and then explore the rest of the website.

 

Without question, preaching is the most powerful form of communication on the earth. 

Why? Because it is a supernatural activity prescribed by God himself.

“God said,” and there was. Mankind, made in God’s image and likeness, possesses the same power to speak life into darkness and create tangibility from the unseen world.

And so it is with the power of preaching, a gift on select men and women by God’s divine choosing; to ignite the hearts and minds of people; to save, liberate and propel believers into their God-given destiny.

Since the days of Noah, faithful men have preached the uncompromising gospel with power and conviction to whoever will listen.

Jesus of Nazareth – God in the flesh – launched his ministry from a pulpit and the Book of Isaiah…

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised… Luke 4:18

From that point, Jesus ruled his world with his Word, turning society upside down in the process…

And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John… Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it. Matthew 11:12-13 & Luke 15:16

Some received the Word. Some didn’t. But only by the Word were they saved and set free.

After Christ’s ascension, the apostle Peter preached the first church into existence. And as Peter preached to the Jews, Paul unleashed on the Gentiles, establishing Christ-centered local churches through the gospel of peace. Said Paul…

How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! Romans 10:14-16

Strong’s translates preaching as the Greek word, Eaggelizō, which is to…

  • Proclaim good news
  • Announce glad tiding of the coming kingdom of God and of the salvation to be obtained in it through Christ. And of what relates to this salvation, and to instruct concerning the things that pertain to Christian salvation.

And so it is today, that there has never been a more important time to spread the gospel (in its preached form) to the ends of the earth, and to whoever will hear it, for the saving of souls and to build the church Christ died for.

Through this website, Inspired Preaching is dedicated to that purpose.

Do you know Christ? Watch this 2-minute message right now.

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

November 19, 2012

The First Recorded Words of Jesus

One of the books in my possession is an early copy of what would later become The Message of Luke in “The Bible Speaks Today” series from IVP. My copy has a larger title, Savior of the World.

In the section dealing with chapter two — appropriate to the season of the year we are approaching — author Michael Wilcock notes that there are three stories presented revolving around three key characters:

  • the angel
  • the prophet
  • the child himself

and also three sayings from each of them:

  • “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
  • 29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
    30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
    31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
    32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.” …
    34 …“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
  • 49 “Why were you searching for me? … Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

On the latter, Wilcock writes:

…So the first recorded words of Jesus are a statement about himself, and a claim to a relationship between himself and God different from, and deeper than, anything that has been known before. Furthermore, it is a relationship into which he is going to bring all others who are prepared to put their faith in God through him. He will teach them to address their prayers regularly to their ‘Father’ (11:2), and they will learn to use the affection, intimate name of ‘Abba’ (‘Daddy’) which he himself uses. Thus early in his Gospel, Luke introduces the great object of the divine plan of salvation, just as John does, in his own way, at the beginning of his story of Jesus: “To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become the children of God.”

Both these truths, that he is the son of God, and that he has come into the world so that others might become sons of God are implied in his words in 2:49. For to be “in my Father’s house” really amounts to the same thing as to be “about my Father’s business”: where  my father is, where he centers his activity, there I am always to be found as well. (Again, this is Luke’s equivalent of some of the great sayings in John: “I and the Father are one…” “The Son can do nothing of his own accord but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does that the son does likewise… I always do what is pleasing to him.”) But the Father’s work, as we have seen, is the work of salvation; so this is the work in which the Son also “must” be engaged. Thus, early in his career, does Jesus express the compulsion that is upon him to be at one with his Father in the saving of men.

So we have Luke essentially including this passage as to offer a parallel to what we normally refer to as John’s prologue.


Yesterday at Thinking Out Loud, I reviewed a Bible study resource that I believe will be especially useful for people engaged in student ministry, Christian education or who just want to be focused when leading small groups through some of the narrative OT and NT stories. You can read that review here.

 

November 12, 2012

Jesus Could Have Kept On Multiplying Bread and Fish, But…

Today’s reading is from a blog titled The Cross Alone is Our Theology (love that) the daily devotional blog of Pastor Mark Anderson, Lutheran Church of the Master, Corona del Mar, California. This appeared on his blog a few days ago.

John 2:23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs which he did; 24 but Jesus did not trust himself to them, 25 because he knew all men and needed no one to bear witness of man; for he himself knew what was in man.”

It was every politicians dream come true. The groundswell of support was rising. People were abuzz with admiration for Him. The benefits He provided suggested a bright future. If only he were king. He would distribute prosperity to all. They were ripe for the picking.

Sound familiar? Some things never change. Later, John’s gospel reports the incident of the feeding of several thousand people. They came back the next day for more of what they saw as a free lunch program. Jesus was not impressed. “You are only here”, he said, “because you ate your fill.” There is no deeper biblical insight into human nature.

At one point during His earthly ministry the people actually wanted to take Him by force and make Him king. They saw in Him the one who would really deliver the goods. Jesus, sensing the threat to His mission, eluded them.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus consistently refused the adulation of the crowd? After all, wasn’t that what He was after? All he had to do was keep giving away the goodies and they would follow Him anywhere.

 If Jesus had given in to the appetites of the herd everything would have been lost. But Jesus knew what is in us. That’s what John observed. Jesus knew that we will seek to make anyone king who promises to keep the free lunch programs going. For what is in us, Jesus knew, is the insatiable appetite of the self – sin. And the sinful self will happily, willingly enslave itself to the highest bidder.

So Jesus rejected the chronically restless masses and the invitation to fulfill their utopian dreams. Instead He went to the Cross.That is why He alone is worthy of our love and faith. For knowing the sin that is in us, knowing our deepest need, our sickness unto death – He did not pander to our grievances and grudges like some scheming power seeker. He did not give us want we want. He gave us what we need. He gave His life for us.

So to all those who think the latest version of the messiah will bring heaven on earth and the flowering of peace and justice, here is the hard truth; the dreams of the politician will not save you. They may, in fact, impose a nightmare of utopian tyranny. And when they die all we are left with is the burdensome residue of their plans and schemes. The ancient psalmist recognized this truth ages ago when he wrote,

 “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.”

The authentic work of peace and justice that Jesus and His Father accomplished happened on a bloody Cross two thousand years ago. That peace comes even now through a living faith in the Crucified One; and the justice of God is fulfilled when sinners are reconciled to God, declared righteous, forgiven and free, by grace through faith, in a life of trust that begins now but will only be perfected in the life to come. 

 “May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

~Mark Anderson

HT: Steve Martin’s blog

October 30, 2012

Andy Stanley on Practical Teaching

This is from the recently released book, Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love To Attend (Zondervan, hardcover) in which Andy Stanley, writing primarily to church leaders, shares the behind-the-scenes secrets of North Point Community Church in north Atlanta, Georgia.

It’s unfortunate that someone can grow up hearing sermons and Sunday school lessons, yet never be captivated by the Scriptures. But, unfortunately, that seems to be the rule rather than the exception. And this is not a twentieth- or twenty-first century problem.

When Jesus finished what we commonly refer to as the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew records the crowd’s response:

Matthew 7: 28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

All teaching and preaching is not the same. The first-century teachers of the law were teaching from the same script Jesus would refer to throughout his earthly ministry. But there was something different about his presentation. He spoke with authority. Apparently he had a passion the other teachers lacked. More specifically, he wasn’t satisfied to simply say what was true. He want his audience to act on what they heard. As you may recall, he closed that particular message with a specific call to action along with an emotionally charged promise and warning:

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock … 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.

Jesus taught for a response. He taught for life change. He didn’t come simply to dispense information. We rarely find him chastising people for their lack of knowlede. It was almost always their lack of faith evidenced by a lack of application. “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” he asked the disciples in the midst of a terrifying ordeal on the water (Matt. 8:26). Jesus wasn’t after mental assent to facts. Jesus was after active, living, do-the-right-thing faith. And when he taught, he taught with that in mind.

…Practical teaching that moves people to action is one of the primary things God uses to grow our faith.

…Our messages and lesson preparations are not complete until we know what we want our audiences to do with what they are about to hear. To grow our congregants’ faith, we must preach and teach for life change.

Andy Stanley, Deep and Wide, pp. 112-114

September 21, 2012

What Jesus Began to Do Was Just The Beginning

Jim Foreman is the pastor of Sedley Baptist Church in Sedley, Virginia. This appeared on his personal blog, On the Brink of Something Large under the title Jesus Began To Do And Teach.

Acts 1:1 says; The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teachThinking about verse 1, we see a key word for understanding the book of Acts and that is the word “began.” Luke in the gospel dealt with all that Jesus began to do and to teach until after his resurrection and his ascension into heaven. The gospel of Luke ends with the ascension of Jesus into heaven and in Acts he starts just before the ascension of Jesus into heaven and moves forward. Luke shares that this was the beginning of the teaching ministry of Jesus. Jesus’s earthly ministry was just the beginning of the teaching and actions of Jesus.

I want you to understand what Luke says here. What Jesus did on the earth was only the beginning of His doing and teaching. The clear implication is Jesus had just started. Right now, Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, He is not finished as we so often think, but is He is continuing. He is not done and not dead as some think but He is alive and He is present and He was and is and will continue to do and teach until His return. What is seen in the life of the Son of God in human flesh, is the sacrifice of Himself for our sin on the cross, His mighty resurrection and His ascension to the Father’s right hand and that is just the beginning. One of the main points of the book of Acts is that Jesus is not dead and done but He continues. The book of Acts is not just the Acts of the Apostles; but it is also The Acts of the Risen and Living Jesus. Jesus began doing and teaching and He will continue his doing and teaching until the Father sends Him back for the Church.

Let me explain it like this. Whatever Paul accomplished for the kingdom, it was Jesus doing and teaching. Paul in Romans 15:18-19 says: For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. Note the same pair of words: Christ worked through me “by word and deed.” Jesus is speaking and acting through Paul. He is alive and building His church. That is what the book of Acts is about and that is why it is relevant for us today. Jesus is still alive and He will always be alive! He is still speaking and working and building His church and saving souls. How is Jesus doing this? He is doing this through us and we need to avail ourselves to Him so he will work through us!

« Previous PageNext Page »