Select Page
All Dressed Up and No Place to Go

All Dressed Up and No Place to Go

For the last couple of months I have been preaching about the Holy Spirit and His gifts, focusing on John 14 and 1 Corinthians 12-14, but specifically on 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.  We have asked the Lord to show us what these gifts mean, are they all still operating in the church and, if so, what does that look like today?  That’s right, we’ve dealt with all the controversial topics that tend to divide the body of Christ: second filling, baptism of the Spirit, Cessationism vs. Continuationism, the five-fold ministry, tongues and the interpretation of tongues, the role of apostles and prophets, if any, today, what is a word of knowledge and word of wisdom, and all the other crazy, scary stuff.  It’s been quite an eye opening experience to see, not what I was taught in Seminary or grew up believing in a Southern Baptist church, but what the Scriptures actually teach regarding the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in His church back then, as well as today.

Naturally, in the course of this study on the Holy Spirit, we moved to the Acts to see how this was played out in the early church in real time.  Last Sunday we preached about Peter’s sermon (Acts 2:14-39) and the amazing results of a 297 word message, excluding Scriptures, that was empowered by the very Spirit they received a few verses earlier (Acts 2:1-4).  The Promise of the Father was given (Acts 1:4), and 3,000 people joined the 120 in faith in the risen Lord Jesus.

What an amazing day that must have been.

But now what?  How do these 3,000 new believers, many from areas outside of Jerusalem (Acts 2:5-11), grow in their new faith?  What are they to do?  Where do they go?  How do they learn?  There would be so many questions each of them had.  Where would they go to find the answers?

If they returned back home to Egypt or Rome, for example (Acts 2:10), who would disciple them?  Who would teach them truth from error?  They would be the only ones in their country that had received salvation as evidenced by the giving of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14).  No one carried the light of Christ to their families and friends but them.  No one was to speak into the darkness but them.  They were alone.  Uncertain.  Literally babes in the midst of Jewish wolves.  By returning home they were, in effect, being sent out as missionaries to tell others about the new life found in Christ— the Christ whom they knew nothing about other than what Peter had preached, and what they were just now discovering for themselves.

It was a recipe for colossal failure.  Much like sending an eight year old to convince an atheist University professor of the validity of the New Testament text.  They were vastly outgunned and woefully inexperienced in the things of Christ.  They needed a time to grow, to mature, to understand what just happened to them.  They needed time to come to grips with their faith in the Lord Jesus, and what that faith meant from that moment forward.


A New Home

So, most likely, many of them stayed.  Where else were they to go to hear about the “wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:11).

Once, after Jesus proclaimed His unpopular, politically incorrect truth about the kingdom of God that offended the half-committed, many of His followers “went back and walked with Him no more” (John 6:65).  Jesus had been telling them about the all-consuming relationship they were to have with Him.  This new life they had experienced, this born-again reality was not like going to the synagogue once a week to dance around their Jewish maypole, feel good for a moment or two, faithfully perform their religious duty, and then go back to life as usual.

This was different.

Religion tries to make us feel good about ourselves by following some man-made ritual that, at least on the outside, makes us look better than we were before— especially when we compare ourselves with ourselves or with others who are struggling like us.

But this was different.  Completely different.

What Jesus came to bring was a totally new life.  The old man, our old life, is not rehabilitated or made better, or less offensive, by Christ’s sacrifice.  He is put to death.  Dead and buried.  Just like Christ.  Jesus sees nothing in us worth bringing into the new life He’s purchased for us (Isa. 64:4).  Nothing.  So all of the old man, the pride, fear, lusts, wants, desires, religion, rights, needs, literally everything— dies.  Everything gets buried.  Everything rots.  And the new man, what Paul later called the “new creation” in Christ, is born again (2 Cor. 5:17).  Born anew.  Born from above.  Resurrected to a new life (Rom. 6:4), created in the image, or likeness of God (Eph. 4:24), and secured by the indwelling presence of God Himself— in the person of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14).

This was a message the religious crowd in Jesus’ day, and in our day, finds offensive.  So they left Him to find another guru that was willing to teach what they wanted to hear, about how to have Your Best Life Now!

Look at the question of Jesus and the answer of Peter.

John 6:66-69 – From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.  Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”  But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Exactly.  “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

This was the same sentiment those who came to faith at Peter’s sermon most likely had.  Why go back home?  Back to what?  People who don’t know what I now know, which is next to nothing.  Everything has now changed.  I’m a new man.  I see things differently.  And I now have needs I didn’t even know existed before.

“Lord, I need to grow in my faith.  I need to understand more of You who re-created me into something new.  I need to know what Your will for me is now.  Where am I to go?  What am I to do?  I need to learn how to hear Your voice and recognize when You speak.  I need to be taught how to pray?  I want my faith to grow.  I want to understand the gifts the Spirit has given me to exercise for You.  Lord, I need to spend time in Your presence and at Your feet.  There’s so much I don’t know.  So much that seems confusing to me.  Lord, if I may, these other believers are now my family.  And this, Your church, is now my home.”

And so they stayed.


They Continued Steadfast

Notice what happened next.

Acts 2:42 – And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

But there is so much more here than we read on the surface.

Do you want to know how these new believers spent the rest of their lives?  Do you want to find out what made them the kind of people that turned the world upside down in the span of a few years (Acts 17:6)?  Do you think we, as the church, can learn anything from the life they forged for us with the Spirit?

I do.  But that’s something we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to discover together.

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

393:  Right Thing + Wrong Time = Wrong Thing

393: Right Thing + Wrong Time = Wrong Thing

When Peter stands up in the midst of the 120 and declares that Judas must be replaced, he was speaking the truth (Acts 1:20).  It is true from Scripture that God intended to someday replace Judas.  But that doesn’t mean it was the right time to decide who the Lord had chosen to become part of the Twelve.  What happened then, and what often happens with each of us, is that we decide a course of action, present God with two options we have chosen, and then ask Him to choose which of our choices is His will.  And this assumes it was His will for us to do what we’ve determined to do in the first place.

The lesson from Acts 1:15-26 is that doing the right thing, at the wrong time, is the wrong thing.  Everytime. No matter how much it feels like the right thing and the right time.

And it often takes years to undo the mistakes we make for the right reason, or so we think.  Remember, spiritual maturity is asking God what His will is, and not trying to force Him to choose the lesser of two evils that we have chosen.  Do you want to know more about this classic error of presumption?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on Acts 1:15-26.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

Download this episode (right click and save)

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

Who Are These Guys?

Who Are These Guys?

Before we look at the book of Acts, let’s step back a bit and examine those chosen by the Lord to be His disciples.  Let’s look closely at the cast of unlikely characters Jesus assembled to make up His church.  Let’s see if we can determine what it was about them that He used to build His church (Matt. 16:18) and what it is about us that needs to change to be more like them.

First, unlike us today, Jesus did not spend His time building an army of half-hearted, mega-church followers whose spiritual lives were a mile wide and an inch deep. Jesus wasn’t interested in creating multi-campus institutions, church brands, best-selling books, popular podcasts, blogs, or prime-time television shows. He could care less about how many Twitter followers He had or His likes on Facebook.

Jesus focused His ministry on a handful of common men that He poured His life into, 24/7.  And He entrusted these men to faithfully share His message after He was gone.


Least Likely to Succeed

None of those Jesus chose were rich nor educated.  None of them were well-trained.  Some were fishermen, some probably merchants.  Others were common, day laborers.  One was a tax collector.  Another a closet revolutionary, a zealot.  They were just ordinary, blue-collar people from rural Galilee and the surrounding areas.  The only thing they had in common was that they had very little in themselves that would point to future success.

But Jesus called each of them unto Himself.  And as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.”1

Yet none of those chosen by Christ boasted of a strong, spiritual upbringing.  None seemed to be overly religious or pious.  Jesus didn’t draw people from the largest pulpits or the finest seminaries of His day.  For some reason He wasn’t interested in the professional clergy.  He didn’t choose those whose father, or grandfather, or great-grandfather were noted preachers, missionaries, or professors.

None of the disciples were entrepreneurs or visionaries.  They were not great orators with charismatic personalities to whom we would be naturally drawn.  There wasn’t one valedictorian in the bunch.

In addition, they weren’t necessarily a moral, upstanding lot who had a firm grip on their emotions.  Some of them wanted to call down fire from heaven on those who were different than they were (Luke 9:54).  Others wanted to be first, the greatest, even to the point of trying to secure that position for all eternity in heaven (Matt. 20:21).  And they seemed to struggle with the pecking order in Christ’s kingdom, even to the point of arguing about it at the Last Supper (Luke 22:24).

They weren’t especially brave men.  In the garden, each panicked and fled in fear for his own life (Matt. 26:56).  No one, save Peter and John, followed Jesus to the end or was with Him at the cross.  But even then, when confronted, Peter denied he even knew his Lord and fled into the darkness weeping (Mark 14:72).

And they weren’t really spiritual men either.  They were not the kind of men we would have trusted with the message of salvation.  None of them believed or understood His words properly.  They were focused on the here-and-now, the horizontal, what they could see and touch and feel, and not on life in His kingdom.  They were clueless about the Holy Spirit (as many are today) and still suffered from racial and religious prejudices (John 4:27).  They were still looking for a Messiah of their own making (Acts 1:6).  Even after the resurrection, when their fears should have subsided, they went back to their old life, like it had been nothing more than a three year mission trip or a business venture that failed (John 21).  Jesus had to go and prevent Peter from sliding back into his old, comfortable life of being a fisher of fish— and not a “fisher of men” (Matt. 4:19).


They Had Been With Jesus

Those whom Jesus chose were just common folk like many of us.  But there was a difference.  One look at them and you would know “they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).  It was their connection to Jesus that changed everything.

Paul later said of the church:

1 Corinthians 1:26-29 – For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.  But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.

That’s the good news.  Jesus, both back then and also today,  calls and empowers frail and broken people just like us. He chooses, for His own glory, what the world calls “the least likely to succeed.”

Does this sound like you?

Jesus doesn’t want us to do great things for Him in our own strength for our own glory.  He wants us to let Him do it through us, by abiding and resting in Him (John 15:4).  He wants to take our hurts and failures and turn them into something glorious, for His glory— as a trophy of His grace for all the world to see.

Don’t ever think God can only use those you deem better than you.  Don’t be deceived into thinking what you’ve done or haven’t done, or what you don’t have or never will have, determines God’s plan for your life.  If you will simply give what you have to Jesus, no matter how small and insignificant it may seem, He promises to make all things new.

After all, just like the disciples, you also “have been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

For if He can use the likes of Peter, Thomas, Matthew, James and the rest of the disciples and use them to “turn the world upside down” (Acts 17:6), then He can also use each of us.

Including you.

So be encouraged in Him today.

big_lines

1  Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. (1959). The Cost of Discipleship, New York, NY: Macmillan.

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

373:  The Love of Women and the Apathy of Men

373: The Love of Women and the Apathy of Men

This truth is never more apparent than at the crucifixion of Jesus.  There, at the foot of His cross, standing faithful with their Lord, we find several women and only one disciple, the one characterized as the disciple “whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23).  We see Mary the mother of Jesus, and her sister, Salome, the mother of James and John and the wife of Zebedee.  We see Mary the wife of Clopas who, along with Mary Magdalene, kept vigil at the tomb (Matt. 27:61) and was one of the women who tried to persuade the disciples that Jesus was alive (Luke 24:10).  We also see a larger group of women, possibly as many as a dozen, standing together “at a distance” from the cross (Luke 23:49).

But what we don’t see are the bold, self-confident men who pledged their very lives to Christ just a few hours earlier.  Nowhere is Peter, the “even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” (Matt. 26:35) disciple.  Andrew, James, Matthew and the others disciples are conspicuously absent.  AWOL.  Scattered like dry leaves in an October wind.

The men are gone.  These bastions of courage and determination fled like frightened children while the women stood faithful with their Lord to the end.  Why was that?  What was it about the quality of love and devotion found in these women that propelled them to such courage when the men, who should lead in that area, drifted off into the landscape?  What does this show us about true faith and devotion?  What does this show us about the love of women and the apparent apathy of men?  And how can that change our lives today?

If you would like to explore this further, then keep listening.

Download this episode (right click and save)

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

343:  The Spiritual Hat Trick:  Mark, Luke and Demas

343: The Spiritual Hat Trick: Mark, Luke and Demas

In the closing verses of Colossians we are introduced to a list of names, a list of those beloved and commended by Paul.  And in the midst of those names we find Mark, Luke, and a guy named Demas.  We can basically summarize their lives this way:

Mark – started out weak but finished strong.
Luke – was always growing in his commitment to Christ and others.
Demas – started out strong and finished… horrible!

And if you have ears to hear, you can find your spiritual life embedded in the lives of these three men.

Are you interested?  Maybe intrigued?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on Colossians 4:7-18 and 2 Timothy 4:9-11.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

Download this episode (right click and save)

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

340:  A Man Abandoned to God

340: A Man Abandoned to God

In our church culture the mantra is bigger is better.  Bigger churches, bigger congregations, bigger likes on Facebook, bigger budgets, bigger, bigger, bigger.  But there are some in the Kingdom of God who are faithful with small, but vital things.  These are the saints that labor behind the limelight, in the shadows, as unsung heroes, doing what a faithful servant does..

And one of those great saints is a man named Tychicus.

We find his name mentioned in only five places in the New Testament.  But oh, what we can learn from this great man of God.

The following is a study on Colossians 4:7-9.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

Download this episode (right click and save)

big_lines

            podcast-25-25