Holy Spirit

In a few days

bride and groom walking on staircase

God often synchronizes His events with those of man and those which He commanded long ago. It’s fascinating to see that God is never in a hurry, never behind schedule, and loves people enough to include them in His plans.

Celebrations

As children of Adam, it is in our nature for us to celebrate events. Birthdays, wedding anniversaries, 12-step milestones, births of nations. Consider the Lozi tribe in Zambia. Their king is very revered and influential. 

Each year, when the rains come, their lowland territory becomes flooded. The Lozi people cannot leave their flooded land until the king gives his permission, and he and his entourage are the first to cross a large river and relocate to his highland territory. It takes eight hours for the king’s boat to cross the river. His arrival kicks off a three-day celebration!

In a few days

Each event that people celebrate carries its unique pomp and circumstance. It is fascinating to see that this natural attribute comes from being created in God’s image, for God is big on ceremonies and celebrations.

A significant difference between God’s events and ours is that God never rushes, nor does He become frenetic, whereas being rushed and frenetic is part and parcel of humanity’s staged events. Notice what Jesus communicated to His apostles.

John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. – Acts 1:5

Pentecost

Why, in a “few days?” God’s plan was to birth Christ’s Church on the Jewish day of Pentecost. Jerusalem would then be teaming with Jews from both foreign and domestic lands. They would be there to celebrate the day of Pentecost. Little did they know that God would institute a new Pentecost.

The word Pentecost means “50”, so for the Jews, Shavuot (Pentecost) comes seven weeks (49 days +1) after the second night of Passover, therefore “50”. For Christians, Pentecost comes 50 days after Easter.
What better way to showcase the fulfillment prophecies in the book of Joel? With Jerusalem filled with people that spoke myriad languages, the Holy Spirit had the perfect platform to point people to the miraculous, to the birthing of the Church for the whole world, testified to by the first members of the first church proclaiming the glory of Jesus in every tongue, every language.

Coming Soon, an Extraordinary Celebration

In chapter one of Act, we find Jesus telling His disciples, hang on for just a few days more, and then you will see Me, again, in the miracles which the Father has ordained. Of course, the apostles wanted to know, “So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6) But Jesus said the timing for that event was hidden.

We love to celebrate. God loves to celebrate. I am confident that there will be an extraordinary celebration on that day when Jesus calls us home.

Our Signature

love one another chalk written on concrete floor

Jesus always shows compassion towards people that are lost or struggling. He showed compassion to Mary (called Magdalene); He cast seven demons out of her (Luke 8:2). Jesus reached out to Zacchaeus, the tax collector (Luke 19:2), and the dad that asked Jesus for help to overcome his unbelief (Mark 9:24) and the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:27). Jesus reached out to me when I was lost.

Here is something wonderful for believers: The Holy Spirit in us is God’s signature, guaranteeing we are His (Ephesians 1:13–14). Likewise, our signature – the thing that identifies us – is pointed out by Jesus in John 13:35By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

This message, “if you love one another“, is recurring from my recent posts. The turmoil in our society is a symptom, more than a “condition.” You can plug in whichever turmoil you wish. Still, all of these symptoms radiate from a single, underlying disease. It is a disease that lives in the flesh of every child of Adam:

to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.Ephesians 4:22-24

Here’s R.C. Sproul’s commentary on this passage:

Belonging to Christ involves repudiating an old life and embracing a new one. The image is that of taking off fraying clothes and putting on new ones.

The Root of the Problem

The root of the world’s travails is a double-headed monster. Mind you, it’s one monster, but it shows up in both the “old self” and the “new self.” Let’s first consider the old self.

One Head is the Old Self

Before you or I accepted Jesus’ salvation, we were convicts awaiting our sentencing. We were under condemnation (John 3:18), we were spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1), we lived and breathed rebellion against Jesus (Isaiah 30:9), the Righteous One (Acts 3:14). Integral parts of our old self were wickedness, greed, jealousy, and more. Our reprobate selves were diseased and decaying. Nothing good resided in us. So no one should expect anything good to come out of us (Job 14:4). Not brotherly love, not selflessness, not fairness, kindness, gentleness, love, and so forth. Certainly, there were occasional acts of love and kindness, but these were always fleeting, and if the real heart of any reprobate person were to be exposed, only evil would be found (Romans 3:10).

Therefore, with regard to a world bursting at the seams with death, it is hardly surprising that any number of heinous laws, systemic sins, personal wrongdoing, and more were perpetrated upon people. The ideas espoused by people like Karl Marx are lunacy for those ideas stand upon the belief that good can be found, if not in the individual, then in some collection of peoples. How utterly misguided are these theories and philosophies for they are born in sin and doomed for destruction.

The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant.Isaiah 24:5

The Second Head is Sin in the New Self

If you scroll back up to God’s Word from Ephesians 4:22-24, notice that the apostle Paul wrote this letter to Christians. He wrote it, not to the city council in Ephesus but to the church in Ephesus. Even after we are born again, our old self still lingers. You and I know this, empirically, because we have sinned after being saved. Maybe that’s too much of an assumption. I confess: I have sinned, more than once, after being saved. Therefore, I know that a battle exists between the Spirit and the flesh (Galatians 5:17), not in the “me” that is now seated with Christ in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6), but, in vain, it fights against my new self. Also, I have not fully been transformed into the likeness of Jesus because my mind, though improving, has not been fully renewed (Romans 12:2). And here’s where the monster comes in.

The Monster

Just as Eve was seduced to sin in the Garden, every Christian has been seduced by God’s enemy at one time or another, resulting in sins of commission or omission. For in whatever areas of our lives we are weak, those the places where we are attacked. When a weak Christian finds solace with other Christians that are weak in the same aspects of character, then the local church starts down the path of heresy. That heresy finds “itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:3) in other churches, and soon the society undergirded by Christians becomes reprobate, espousing lies and passing laws firmly grounded in death, not life.

Our Signature

What can we do? If Christians never sinned there would be no reason for:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:9

Yet, we are warned with passages such as:

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. – James 4:7

And we are warned:

No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.1 John 3:6-8

How can we nullify that dead and decaying old man who keeps trying to cling to us, to pull us under, to steal our joy, to steal our witness, to steal our hope, to collude with weak and false believers that spew out heresies? Jesus has given us soul-medicine, the Good News that protects us from our old self. And what is our protection? John 13:35: By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. Love is how we are recognized, it is our signature. It costs us everything that is worth nothing.

You may like: Spiritual Heritage

Faith Comes Through Revelation

Woman pointing up.

There is a general revelation and a supernatural (special) revelation. (for more information click here) Maybe we’ll discuss general revelation sometime, but today I would like us to consider this statement:

Faith comes through revelation. Without the latter the former is impossible.

That may seem like an odd statement. Let’s verify its veracity.

God Revelation

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 16:16-17 (CSB emphasis added)

What happened in Peter that was exceptional? Several people already knew that Jesus was the Son of God before the apostle Peter. 

The angel Gabriel told Mary, Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end.”  –Luke 1:31-33 (CSB)

An angel told the shepherds, Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord.Luke 2:11 (CSB)

The apostles told Jesus, When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those in the boat worshiped him and said, “Truly you are the Son of God.” – Matthew 14:32-33 (CSB)

God-faith

So, what was special when Peter said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” – Matthew 16:16 (CSB)? Peter received a supernatural revelation. Peter believed. The Father revealed this truth to Peter so had God-faith. Others heard the news, and some spoke this truth, but Peter had a supernatural revelation from the Father, which gave him the faith to believe in Jesus.

Let’s jump over to the book of Galatians. The apostle Paul wrote: I only want to learn this from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by believing what you heard? Galatians 3:2  (CSB) The obvious answer is by believing what they heard.

Now let’s go to the book of Ephesians. For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (CSB emphasis added) 

The Galatians were saved by grace through faith, which was a gift from God. In this miraculous process, they received the Holy Spirit. Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers has this comment: And that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.—This attribution of all to the gift of God seems to cover the whole idea—both the gift of salvation and the gift of faith to accept it.

Faith Comes Through Revelation

When a truth is unfolded by God it most naturally becomes a power in man, who then finds himself able to believe. Faith comes through revelation. Without the latter the former is impossible. This explains why many do not have faith, for though they mentally understand they do not have God’s revelation. –Watchman Nee (his bio)

God-faith doesn’t stop after we are saved. That’s just the beginning! Each person that God calls, He calls for a purpose. In Christ Jesus, you have a purpose, but you can only correctly fill that purpose if you pray in faith, act in faith, and partner with fellow believers in faith; that faith is born from God’s revelation to you. As Solomon wrote in Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.


Does anyone else remember pointing like the woman in the picture is doing? Think 1960s, 1970s.

Photo by Raychan on Unsplash

You may like: 1 + 1 ≠ 2

Citizens of the Household of God

round ceramic bowl with lighted candle

If you have received Jesus as your Savior, “then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19).

As citizens of God’s household, we have the privilege and responsibility to represent Jesus to the world. With our citizenship comes the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. That presence of God within us affects the people around us. To the lost, they feel conviction. We are the smell of death. To the saved, we radiate life and hope. We are the fragrance of Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:15-16)

God’s Presence Goes With Us

Many years ago, a dear missionary couple told me that they became aware of an unusual thing that happened when they entered a store or restaurant. No matter how empty the business was when they entered the establishment when they left, there would be people in the store. God’s blessing upon them went with them and blessed the places they entered. My wife and I have experienced this, too.

Now you may say, “Whoa, you’re starting to get weird.” That started a long time ago, and it has nothing to do with what I’m saying. 😉 If the Holy Spirit is in you, then you’re not normal. Normal people are under God’s judgment. They are spiritually dead. They cannot understand the things of God.

As citizens of God’s household, we do affect people, but not always in pleasant ways. We can expect people to become angry at us, to try to humiliate us, and, even, to harm us. As the Apostle Paul wrote, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “In fact, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12)

For Humanity’s Sake, Let Your Light Shine

We may all be getting tired of hearing, “We are living in unprecedented times.” Whether our unprecedented times are different from the unprecedented times of other generations is not relevant. What is relevant is for us to be aware that God’s presence is within us and, regardless of whether it’s well-received or not, we must let the Light shine from us to those around us. We must not hide it. (Mark 4:21-24)

You may like: Got a light?

Building Our Brands

orange BMW i8 coupe

John the Baptist said, “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. 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.(Matthew 3:11-12 NLT)

Building Our Brands

John was quite clear that he was doing the work that God had assigned him, but he was not the Good News. He was called by God to identify and announce the Israelite’s Messiah. He wasn’t the one.
A problem we, as Christians, wrestle with is how to carry out God’s assignment while not becoming the focus from those to which we are ministering.

Many years ago, my wife took a down and out couple under her wing. She helped them with transportation, with food, with other assistance. All of her actions included guidance to truly commit their lives to Jesus, attend church, and embrace the Christian walk. They did not.

They didn’t embrace Christ; instead, they looked to my wife to supply their needs. She became the focal point of their faith. When it became evident that they did not desire Jesus, then my wife removed herself from their lives.
For each of us that are believers, we must always ask ourselves, “Am I pointing to Jesus? Am I calling others to see Jesus instead of me, or am I building my brand and implying that they need me to gain access to Jesus and all the blessings of God? Am I a Christian Home Shopping Network, or am I like John the Baptist, calling the lost to repentance and pointing to the Messiah?

Are We Fulfilling the Reason That God Called Us?

Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, Children, do you have any fish?They answered him, “No.” He said to them,Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some. So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. (John 21:3-6 ESV)

I’ve seen so many Christians with great intentions begin “branding and marketing” themselves. They have a unique pair of glasses that distinguish them or a distinctive hairstyle or a memorable “tag line” with which they always open. None of these things, in themselves, are sin. But when we begin using our abilities to promote ourselves to “catch fish” then we’ve gone off the tracks. If we are to gather those whom God has given into our hands, we must place our trust in the Holy Spirit to use us for the purpose which God called us.

Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

You may like: Faith is like breath

Marketplace of Ideas

A Roman stadium

Key Verse  

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;   

Psalms 19:7

Engaging in the Marketplace of Ideas

There is an excellent Christian radio talk show titled, “In the Market with Janet Parshall.” She usually has guests that focus on a specific aspect of our Christian life. It is always truly relevant to things happening in the world that have a moral aspect. The apostle Paul’s ministry, too, focused on the marketplace of ideas.

 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 

Acts 17:16-19 (ESV)  

In Athens, Paul preached the good news about Jesus and His resurrection. In Paul’s message, we find three responses from the Greeks:

1- “What is the babbler trying to say?” 
Ridiculer: Demeaning what they do not know.  

2- “He seems to be advocating foreign gods” 
Dismisser: What is being taught does not fit their world view.

3- “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?
Debater: They do not fear the ideas of others. 

We May Fear

I have no doubt that each of us is challenged in at least one of these three human responses. We may fear an aggressive dialogue, one where people attack you personally and ridicule you. We may fear a dialogue with one or more people that simply dismiss what you are saying. Perhaps we grew up being dismissed so these kinds of conversations dredge up old emotions. Finally, we may feel inadequate to engage in conversations with people that are deeply educated, extraordinarily successful, or have great authority. Because of their “high” position they will “entertain” foreign ideas, but give little credence to them. 

Our Key Verse for today is a promise from God to us, which will help us when we witness to others.  

1- “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving our souls.
We need not fear the despiser or ridiculer for what we say is not us. We represent Jesus when we witness, and His doctrine is true. We have no reason to fear. 

2- “The testimony of the LORD is sure.
Those that dismiss our testimony are not rejecting us, but the testimony of the LORD, and His testimony is certain; it is sure. 

3- “Making wise the simple.
The debaters are people that rest on their education, their personal successes, or their institutional authority; their “houses” are built on sand. We will speak true wisdom despite our inferior education, social position, or humanistic authority. When we have hidden God’s Word within us, we can cast our trust upon the Holy Spirit. 

Personal Testimony

I can personally attest to what I have just written. Many years ago, I found myself in a car, in the wee hours of the morning, with a highly educated and brilliant president of a remarkably successful company; he was an atheist. God turned our conversation to Jesus. For three unbroken hours he assailed me with worldly reasoning and beguiling ideas. God gave me the wisdom and stamina to keep our dialogue upon Jesus.

At the end of our trip we still had a good relationship, but he did not yield to the Holy Spirit’s call. However, I later learned that his wife began attending church and I am confident that he accepted Christ before he died. God gave me the wisdom for this conversation.  

Wrap-Up

The media streams the sins of the world into our homes, into our streets, and into our leaders from the gods of the despiser, the dismisser, and the debater. But I have Good News! “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4

Photo by Briana Tozour on Unsplash

You may like: Letting Go

The monotheistic “We”

Wailing Wall, Jerusalem, Israel

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 

2 Corinthians 13:14 (ESV) 

A while back, I watched a documentary produced by Jews about Jewishness. The show was fascinating but sad. Oh, how we “goy” (i.e., Gentiles) have persecuted the Jews since their dispersion.

If you know someone that is Jewish, consider apologizing to them, for surely somewhere in your ancestry “you” (and I) have badly mistreated Jews. Anyway, in this documentary a Jewish leader affirmed that Islam is monotheistic but implied that Christians are not monotheistic because we believe in a triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He then made a remark that has been rolling around in me ever since. He said, “Three? Why not four or five?” 

My human response to his comment was a desire to meet him and explain that the God he serves is the true monotheistic “We.” While it is true that God did not openly reveal His triune nature until the New Testament, it is also true that once revealed, we, by the leading of the Holy Spirit, have been able to go back to Old Testament Scriptures and discover the truth of the Trinity in passages that previously were opaque to this truth (see Daniel 3:25). When Jesus came into the world, the trinity of God was revealed. 

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us. Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?   

John 14:8-9 (ESV)

In Christ’s reply to Philip we find the monotheistic “We.” Jesus tells Philip that He is God and God is one. Notice that Jesus does not say that “Father” is another name for Himself. It is clear that Father God is unique. In fact, when Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, He started with, “Father, hallowed be your name.” (Luke 11:2) So, obviously, Father God is not Jesus, but Jesus said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Jesus is teaching Philip that there are not gods, only “God,” but God is a monotheistic “We.”  

To drive the point home that Jesus is man and Jesus is God and God is trinity, let us consider one more passage of Scripture, John 8:50-58

Jesus said in John 8:50Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. Notice that Jesus declares that His Father’s motive is to glorify Jesus, His Son. 

In John 8:54, Jesus answered the Pharisees, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ Notice that Jesus openly declares that God is His Father. Jesus plainly says that God fathered Him.  

Then in John 8:58, Jesus declares, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” From Strong’s Concordance’s Greek 1510, “am” means “exist.” So, Jesus said, “I exist.” No beginning or ending, 

This is a clear reference to Jesus’ eternal preexistence. Since this is an attribute of God alone, this text is a forceful statement of Jesus’ deity. The present tense of the verb suggests the eternal present of God’s eternity. “I am” is also reminiscent of God’s name in Ex. 3:14 (vv. 24, 28).

R.C. Sproul, Reformation Study Bible 

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4) And, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Corinthians 13:14) Amen!  

Photo by Dave Herring on Unsplash

You may like: Creeds

Truthful lips endure forever

sign post with Truth and Lie

Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment.

Proverbs 12:19 ESV

The fruit of a lie is always bitter. Marriages can be destroyed by a single lie. Friendship can be shipwrecked by a single act of deception. Relationships built with lies are like houses built upon sand, they never survive hard times.

Truth Has Been Redefined

The odd thing about truth is that it appears to be so simple, so unassuming, so innocuous. Still, Jesus told us to boil the truth down to even less than what we know. He said, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” (Matthew 5:37 ESV)

I’ve discovered that within my lifetime the meaning of “truth” has been redefined. Several lengthy conversations with people from younger generations have confirmed to me that “truth” is no longer recognized as a “factual thing”. Rather, truth is now believed to be subjective, situational, and malleable. However, I’ve also discovered that there is a hunger within most people for unambiguous, unaltered truth. That’s good news.

Truth Is A Liberator

The personification of truth is Jesus. He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 ESV) Truth is the device by which holiness is attained. Jesus prayed to His Father, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17) Holiness should be the material from which our moral character is built “since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16)

Truth is a liberator. So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32) As we just read in John 17:17, God’s word is truth, and we see the Divine power of God’s Word in Hebrews 4:12For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Ten things we learned about Truth

  1. Truth appears unassuming
  2. When answering binary questions (yes/no, true/false, etc.) we should answer simply. We should not try to bolster or expand upon the truth.
  3. When we talk with other people we need to understand that our definition of truth may not be the same as their definition.
  4. Truth finds its genesis within Jesus Christ.
  5. It is God’s requirement for us to be holy. The only means by which we can become holy is through truth.
  6. Truth sanctifies us (sets us apart), and this truth is found in the living Word of God which includes the Old Testament.
  7. Speaking to Father God, Jesus said, “Your word is truth.”
  8. If we live in God’s Word then we are truly disciples of Jesus.
  9. If we do remain in Jesus then the Holy Spirit (i.e., the Spirit of Truth) will reveal truths to us that are in God’s word which will set us free from “the sin that so easily entangles.” (Hebrews 12:1)
  10. We learned that the Word of God is living and active, discerning the thoughts and intentions of our hearts.

Prayer 

Father, thank you for sending the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, John 14:26), who leads us into all truth. Thank you Jesus for communicating Your will and intent to us through the Holy Spirit (John 16:13), and making Your Word alive, active, and powerful. Spirit, thank you for abiding in us, teaching us the truths of the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 2:13) as well as coming along side us (John 14:16-17) to guide and provide for us. And, Holy Spirit, thank you for filling believers who ask you for more. Oh, my God, how marvelous you are.

Father, I ask that you keep us, Your children, aware of the danger that lives inside every lie. Remind us continually that even though truth may appear inadequate, Your power is contained in truth, and Your power is released by Jesus when we ask within your will. Guide us into holy lives I ask. In all of these requests, I pray in the name of Your beloved Son, Jesus. Amen.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

You may like:
Truth can be hard but lies live forever

Brave New World

a man holding an open Bible in a crowd

Acts 4:32-37 (ESV) 32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

This passage of Scripture is, perhaps, the most threatening in the whole of the New Testament. Over the years, I have heard innumerable Pastors and Evangelists manipulate or even desecrate God’s message contained in these few verses. And I understand why. They appear to fly in the face of Capitalism and they most certainly cut the legs out from under any leader in God’s kingdom that has set their heart upon constructing a magnificent edifice (building).

I’ve been praying to understand what God is doing in the world today and I think I see three things. I’ll save the best for last.

One

Christians were first, and horribly, targeted for persecution as a group by the emperor Nero in 64 AD. A colossal fire broke out at Rome, and destroyed much of the city. Rumours abounded that Nero himself was responsible. He certainly took advantage of the resulting devastation of the city, building a lavish private palace on part of the site of the fire.

Perhaps to divert attention from the rumours, Nero ordered that Christians should be rounded up and killed. Some were torn apart by dogs, others burnt alive as human torches. Over the next hundred years or so, Christians were sporadically persecuted. It was not until the mid-third century that emperors initiated intensive persecutions.

From a BBC article by Dr Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe titled Christianity and the Roman Empire

Note that the date is 64 AD. This persecution occurred after Acts, chapter four. What God did for the early Church, He has repeatedly done for the Church down through the ages. He gives times of rest and refreshing and then He leads the Church into battles where many die a martyr’s death – the greatest growth is during the battles.

Therefore, my first point is that God gave the Western Church a respite but we turned it into a lifestyle.

Two

No doubt, for the early Church, it was from the wealth of the members selling their possessions that funding for the great dispersement provided. This dispersement was triggered by the stoning of Stephen. We find this in Acts 8:1, And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 

There are no times when we can be cruise-control Christians. If God is building the Church’s wealth then a battle is just around the corner.

Three

Throughout all of the history of Adam, God has used peculiarity (i.e. set-apart) to draw the attention of God’s elect to Himself. God’s people have prepared for a flood when none was visible, prepared for a baby when age cried “Impossible!”, birthed a nation from a baby floating in the Nile, trusted God when surrounded and vastly outnumbered by their enemy. Yes, I have Scripture for this and it’s best seen in the KJV, 1 Peter 2:9, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;” (emphasis added)

God’s people don’t try to be peculiar, it’s just what happens when we follow God. Peculiar doesn’t mean crazy. As I wrote, it means “set-apart” but being set-apart often makes a person seem peculiar. A good example of peculiar was “Mr. Rogers” on PBS. As an ordained Presbyterian minister, he was certainly peculiar within the staff of PBS. Fred Rogers is quoted as saying,

“I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there was some way of using this fabulous instrument to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen.” My guess is that we have rarely, if ever, taken a job because we thought we could turn the employer from bad to good.

We, as true believers, are peculiar people. That is God’s way. People living in the world must notice us, and notice that there is something different, a good difference, between the children of God and the children of the world. As true believers, we quickly surrender our possessions, surrender our rights, surrender our lives, to demonstrate the character of Jesus to people who remain under God’s curse.

A missionary once told me that every missionary had to able to do any one of five things at a moment’s notice: 1) preach 2) pray 3) teach 4) sing 5) die. We all should hold our lives as a gift of service to Jesus our Savior.

However, for decades now, while we’ve been living the lifestyle of Christianity, we have continually moved the Church closer and closer to the world. We justified these actions as attempts to remain relevant in a changing world. 

It is Christ Jesus who makes His Church relevant; it’s never within our ability to accomplish this.

God Stopped the Whole World

Never in my lifetime has the whole world stopped. Until now, the closest it came was in 1969 when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon. If you are old enough to remember that then you remember how TV networks cut to locations all across the globe, showing people gathered around TV sets, all gobsmacked. 

Well, this pandemic is more profound than Neil’s history-making step. Trust me on this, God did this out of His great love. You may ask, “How could God allow this to happen to good people?” The answer is simple and painful; there are no good people. And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18)

God stopped the world so we all would consider what life is about. For His Church, we face profound changes, not in the Gospel but in our lifestyle. Comfortable Christianity is not God’s intent. Jesus said, “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:38)

Yes, we are told by the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:11, “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.” We are to have this goal but we are also told to “take up our cross” and told by the Apostle Peter that we are a peculiar people. These messages are from the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit. These messages do not conflict. We are not faced with a dichotomy. So, what does God want from us? 

What does Obedience Look Like?

What Jesus said to His disciples is that He wants us to be obedient, and if we are, then our joy will be full. (John 15:9-11) So, obedience is not something we can choose. Our decision is to either be a Christian, or not. Choosing not to obey is choosing not to love Jesus. (John 14:15)

The Point

I’ve written a lot of words to lead us to the following thoughts, and they are: 

  1. God has prospered the members of Western churches for one hundred years. And countless churches own behemoth buildings that, overnight, have been rendered useless. This is not a mistake, rather it is God’s “bank account.”
  2. God’s blessing of an accumulation of wealth has not been for “us” to look like the world. That wealth is not ours.
  3. God’s people do not overcome the world by being a twin of the world. “And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.” (Revelation 12:11)

No revival, no world movement by God, can start or continue without the Holy Spirit moving and igniting souls. When we are full to overflowing of the Spirit within us then the oil of God’s anointing splashes into the fire of the Holy Spirit and we burst forth with power, testifying to the world the things of God.

What will the Church look like, now that we’re in a post mega-church building era? Perhaps, in cities, we will be those peculiar people that sold our cars and gave the money to churches in Syria and Egypt.

Perhaps we will now flood mass transit systems – and the world will take notice. Perhaps, in the new world, the Church will unwaveringly speak what we know as true even if our testimony costs us our homes, our liberty, or even our lives. Perhaps, we, as God’s children, will choose Truth over political correctness, and not allow God’s Truth to be bridled by godless people.

Brave New World

I don’t know what this new world holds of us. I don’t know if we have the will to rise to the occasion of becoming peculiar to our family, our friends, our workmates, our employers, our community, our country. Will we be a “Fred Rogers?” Will we carry Jesus into places we hate? I just don’t know. However, I do know that God is watching to see how we respond to this brave new world.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

You may like:
Make No Provision For Sin

Receive What is Given

girl giving a gift

There are so many needful things, all demanding our attention. Does God not hear them? Of course He does, still, if we’re going to cast ourselves into the fray, it helps to know if we’re in the right “fray.”

Corrie Ten Boom was a Christian survivor of the Holocaust, Hitler’s “final solution.” She had this to say about working for Jesus:

Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.”

Corrie Ten Boom

You or I may pray, “Bless me in this work I’m doing.” But, if we are in the wrong place at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing, then we will find ourselves waiting a long time for God’s blessing. It’s not a matter of doing “good things” or even “great things,” rather it is a matter of doing the “right things.” How else can Jesus say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23)

To this John [the Baptist] replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven…” (John 3:27) From my walk with Jesus, the only works that will hold up under God’s inspection are those assignments that I received from Him and did under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Receive What is Given

Take a moment and inspect the work you’ve done. Does it withstand our Lord’s scrutiny?

Many of the works for which I’ve been commended are just chaff that will burn up. Many of the accomplishments which I hold dear will not survive the fire of God. Thankfully, there were times when I didn’t hinder Jesus.

There have been times when a garden of peace sprung up from the work Christ gave me to do. Times when I’ve received a phone call from a long forgotten workmate telling me that they finally accepted Jesus as their Savior. These will withstand God’s inspection; they will not burn up.

“A person can receive only what is given to them.” It’s fruitless to frenetically try to create a ministry. Rather, we must walk in the Spirit, then we will receive the assignments which Jesus calls us to. “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” (Philippians 2:13)

Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

You may like:
Come and Dine

%d bloggers like this: