Select Page
10 Reasons Why Many Christians Rarely Experience True Worship

10 Reasons Why Many Christians Rarely Experience True Worship

The ladies in our church are going on a women’s retreat in a couple of weeks and the theme of their study will include the abundant life found only in Christ and the idea of true worship.  And, as would happen, just today I discovered a blog post by Jeff Kinley that addressed some of the issues I have personally struggled with when it comes to true worship (as compared to the lame stuff we call worship today).

I pray this will be a blessing to you as you prepare this Sunday morning to worship our Sovereign God.


Read ‘Em and Weep

The following are 10 reasons many of us rarely experience true worship.   See if you can relate to a few of these.

1.   While most Christians struggle with the challenges of life, many live defeated lives, never achieving the “more than conquerors” victory that Scripture claims is the normal experience of those who have been redeemed.

2.   Many professing Christians simply stop growing after an initial burst of interest and enthusiasm.  Bibles gather dust and heart-fires start burning out.  As a result, the process of sanctification (becoming like Jesus) is often short-circuited, fueled by sin, Satan or self.  These people end up as spiritual children living in adult bodies.  Churches are FULL of these folks.

3.   Many have never taken the time to really understand salvation— studying what actually took place at the cross, contemplating their dark, sinful condition and future outside of Christ, and learning to regularly bath in the infinitely deep ocean of God’s grace and love.  Understanding how and why God saved you is the key to contentment and joy in life.

4.   Most Christians have little clue about how great their Lord is.  I mean, how could they?  They rarely, if ever, crack open the only Book God wrote to reveal Himself to them.  Ignorance of the mind-blowing truths in Scripture concerning who God is and how amazing His attributes are is a guaranteed one-way ticket to Bland Land.  Bank on this: true theology and doctrine is never, ever boring.  Rather, it infuses our hearts with awe and wonder, inspiring pure, explosive heart-worship.

5.   Face it.  We like comfort and often choose the path of least resistance when it comes to our faith.  Living for Jesus is hard, and few American believers have the lungs for the long, uphill race.  So we rest comfortably by the wayside, occasionally admiring those “Super Christians” who run by on their way to maturity.

6.   We refuse to exercise faith in the daily challenges of life, and almost never branch out and trust God for something truly supernatural, especially if it could cost us a bundle.  We treat sacrifice and suffering like tax season— with a sense of dread and avoidance.  Fear rules many of our life decisions, not faith.  Safety and security becomes our style, influencing everything from friends to finances.  And that makes Heaven yawn… and grieve.

7.   We love the idea that God is loving and compassionate, but fail to grow past those sentimental attributes.  Godly discernment, on the other hand, may lead us to actions that others may interpret as unloving.  So we continue enabling people in their immaturity and sin— and do it all in the name of love.  But in reality, hidden behind this “love” is simply a weak and impotent heart. Boring.

8.   We ignore the direct application of God’s Infinitely-Wise Word where it really matters— on the job, at home, in our marriage and in our parenting.  And we wonder why we’re so screwed up.  We trust in ourselves because having faith seems to be complicated and intangible.  We settle for “what works”— expediency, pragmatism and peace.  And when we do look for advice and counsel, it’s usually from someone just as messed up as we are.  Logical?

9.   The average American Christian checks into church 2x a month, way too little for it to ever have any real, life-changing impact on their lives.  Like working out 2x a month, there is never any real progress or growth.  Truthfully, there’s always a “good reason” to prioritize something else over gathering with your spiritual family – sleep, work, friends, fun, movies, sports on TV, etc.

10.  Honestly, we want a God who entertains and serves us.  We prefer that He act like we want Him to and at the time of our choosing.  And when He fails to deliver or meet our expectations, we lose interest and become bored with His “ways”.

big_lines

Do any of these resonate with you?  They do with me.  Ask our Lord to give you His “living water” and teach you to be the kind of worshipper He seeks.  And remember these wonderful words of Jesus to the Samaritan women He encountered at the well:

“But the hour is coming, and now is, when (who) the true worshipers will worship the Father (how) in spirit and truth; (why) for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must (what) worship in spirit and truth” – John 4:23-24.

Strive to become the worshiper the Father actively seeks to worship Him.  Because that, my dear friend, is the abundant life in Christ (John 10:10).  And begin that faith journey with Him today.

big_lines

You can find more about Jeff and his writings on his blog.  You can also read the rest of Jeff’s post here.  And rest assured, Jeff is one of the “good guys”.

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

Profiting from the Holy

Profiting from the Holy

In Exodus 30 the Lord gives Moses, in great detail, instructions about how to make the holy anointing oil (Ex. 30:22-33) and the incense (Ex. 30:34-38) to be used in temple worship.  And He gives specific commands about each.  For the anointing oil He said:

Exodus 30:25-30 – “And you shall make from these a holy anointing oil, an ointment compounded according to the art of the perfumer.  It shall be a holy anointing oil.  With it you shall anoint the tabernacle of meeting and the ark of the Testimony; the table and all its utensils, the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense; the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the laver and its base.  You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy; whatever touches them must be holy.  And you shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister to Me as priests.”

God then tells His people the importance of what He has just commanded them to do.

Exodus 30:31 – “And you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘This shall be a holy anointing oil to Me throughout your generations.’ “

But there’s a warning.  What has been deemed holy by the Lord is not to be used for personal pleasure or gain.  Man is not to benefit from what is reserved for God alone.  He said, “This shall be a holy anointing oil to Me (not to you) throughout your generations” (Ex. 30:31).

The Lord knew then, as He knows now, how easily we can turn worship into something we like and forget about the One it’s designed to honor.  We play the worship music we enjoy, preach the sermons that make us feel good, and anoint anything we feel like anointing.  Our times together to worship the Lord often digress into something that makes us feel better about who we are and not about Who we belong to.

Listen to the warning God gives about making a profit from what belongs only to Him.

Exodus 30:32-33 – “It shall not be poured on man’s flesh; nor shall you make any other like it, according to its composition.  It is holy, and it shall be holy to you.  Whoever compounds any like it, or whoever puts any of it on an outsider, shall be cut off from his people.”

You are not to pour My oil out on whom you desire nor make some for yourself using the recipe I have given you.  This is for Me and Me alone.  “It is holy, and it shall be holy to you” (Ex. 30:32).

God gave the same command and warnings about the incense.  After detailing the specific combination of spices He desired, God then tells His children exactly where to place the incense and why.

Exodus 30:36 – “And you shall beat some of it very fine, and put some of it before the Testimony in the tabernacle of meeting where I will meet with you.  It shall be most holy to you.”

This incense is to be placed where God has chosen to meet with His people— a most holy place.   And “it shall be most holy to you.”  It is not to be used in your home, sold on Amazon, or used in any other way God has not specifically prescribed.  Why?  Because its purpose is to prepare a place for God to meet with man— a most holy place.  And not to make your car smell better.

Again, there’s a warning.

Exodus 30:37-38 – “But as for the incense which you shall make, you shall not make any for yourselves, according to its composition.  It shall be to you holy for the LORD.  Whoever makes any like it, to smell it, he shall be cut off from his people.”

You are not to make any incense for yourself for any reason.   Why?  Because “it shall be to you holy for the Lord.”  It’s not for you, just for Him.  And what happens if we choose to ignore His warnings and commands and personally profit from what belongs for Him alone?  He says the person who does this “shall be cut off from his people.”  They will no longer be covered under His covenant.  They shall be as a foreigner, an outcast to Him.


Cut Off From His People

Take a few minutes this Sunday and watch a couple of church services online.  Especially from a mega church.  How much of what you see is designed to glorify and worship the Lord?  And how much is planned to make the congregation feel comfortable and want to come back next Sunday?

Then go look at your own service this Sunday.  How much of what is done is for the benefit of you, or for the adoration of the Lord?  Is the “special music” for your enjoyment, or for His?  And speaking of music, do you even know what kind of music the Lord enjoys?  Is it traditional?  Contemporary?  Psalms only?  With or without instruments?  Does He enjoy loud guitars and a light show?  Or is that just for us?

And the message?  Does it lift up Him and His glory and attributes?  Or is it more about you and your problems and how the Lord can “get you through to the other side?”  Are you encouraged to verbally proclaim the beauty and majesty of the Lord or to turn to your neighbor and say, “You look good today?”

What kind of worship truly worships the Lord?  What type of service would He design if we ever took the time to ask Him?

These are some questions I hope you’ll think about before you head out next Sunday for church.  Because it’s supposed to be all about Him, and not about us.

Something to think about, isn’t it?

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

Jude:  Mercy, Peace, Love, and Multiplied

Jude: Mercy, Peace, Love, and Multiplied


Mercy, Peace, Love and Multiplied

Mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
Jude 1:2

It looks like this verse presents us with a few more Greek words to define.  First, there’s the three-word salutation Jude employs: mercy, peace, and love.  In Paul’s general epistles, his opening salutation usually only involves grace and peace.1  In the pastoral epistles and 2 John, mercy is added to the mix.2  Now, in Jude, love replaces grace.  We then find the Holy Spirit choosing to amplify the blessings of mercy, peace, and love by using the word multiplied instead of given or added— which is breathtaking in its implications.  Let’s take a look at each of these.


Mercy

The word mercy (éleos) refers to “compassion, kindness or goodwill towards the miserable and afflicted; it’s a state of active pity, accompanied by a sense of piety and innate goodness.”3  It’s not getting what we deserve, which is pretty much the opposite of justice.

Some teach that mercy is just another word for grace.  But that’s not true.  There’s a gulf of difference between these two words.  Mercy is when God chooses not to punish us for what our sins rightly deserve (Rom. 6:23).  We are spared the chastisement we’ve earned.  And grace, on the other hand, is when God chooses to go a step further and bless us in spite of our sins.  One is the removal of just punishment, and the other is the pouring out of undeserved blessings.


Peace

Next, the Greek word for peace (eirḗnē) means “to be in a state of tranquility, harmony, and accord; it’s the opposite of war and dissension and arises from the reconciliation with God and a sense of divine favor.”4  Psalm 7:11 says “God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day.”  But not with us.  We are at peace with God due to the sacrifice of His Son on our behalf.

But Jesus spoke about another peace.  Jesus promised us this peace when He said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace (eirḗnē) I give to you” (John 14:27).  Note, it’s His peace.  It’s the very peace He experienced in the midst of His pain and suffering, that He now gives to us.

A few chapters later Jesus said the only peace that can overcome the tribulation of the world is found in Him (John 16:33).  And this is just a taste of our inheritance as children of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17).


Love

Then we have agápē, the Greek word for love. Agápē is the love God has for each of us and is not based on performance or perfection.  It’s a type of love that doesn’t come naturally, but is imputed to us by the source of that love, which is God.  The word means “love, goodwill, and benevolence; it’s God’s willful direction toward man.”5  It’s the highest, most unselfish, and graciously giving form of love imaginable.  Especially when compared to érōs (erotic or sexual love) or philéō (brotherly love or friendship).

And just think, Jude begins his letter by praying this trifecta of blessings on each of us, his brethren: “mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you” (Jude 1:2).


Multiplied

Which brings us to the last, and the most encouraging, truth in this short verse.  It’s the word multiplied.  Not added.  Not combined.  But multiplied— in greater, ever-increasing proportions.  The word multiplied (plēthúnō) means to “make full, increase, to have much or too much, to abound exceedingly.”6  The implication is that mercy, peace, and love will come upon the believer in waves of ever increasing blessings.  They will be multiplied upon each other, like compound interest on steroids, and grow to exceedingly abound.  It’s a hint of what Jesus meant when He said “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).  The word for abundantly refers to “more than enough, over and above, surpassing, super-abounding, much more than all.”7

The Father doesn’t say: “Here’s one for you.  Oh, let me give you another one.  And another one, which makes three.”  Instead, He says, “Here is one for you.  Then two more.  And then four, eight, sixteen, thirty-two, sixty-four”— and on the numbers go!

Jude’s prayer for the children of God is that they would find His blessings multiplied to them, in ever-increasing, super-abounding portions, regardless of what turmoil they may be suffering.  And the blessings of God are found in His mercy, His peace, and His love— which are all revealed through His Son and lavishly imparted to us by the Spirit.


How Much Does the Father Love Us?

This is where it gets so exciting it’s hard to grasp, let alone believe.  But it’s truth, nonetheless.  Jesus, in His last prayer for His disciples, prayed for unity among all believers (John 17:21-22).  He then concluded His prayer by saying:

John 17:23 – “I in them, and You in Me (unity); that they may be made perfect in one (unity), and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”

Did you catch the last part of His prayer?  Jesus wants the world to know that God the Father loves us, His children, as much as He loves His own Son.  Let that sink in for a moment.

How much does the Father love you?  As much as He loves His own Son?  What can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus?  According to Romans 8:38-39, pretty much nothing.  And when you come to grips with the reality of God’s love, in all its magnitude, intensity, and mercy, it gives you what nothing else can, peace.  It’s the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7).  This amazing peace can belong to you.  All you have to do is ask.

Rest today in His mercy, peace, and love for you.

big_lines

1. See Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Phil. 1:2; Col. 1:2; 1 Thes. 1:1; 2 Thes, 1:2.
2. See 1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; Titus 1:4; 2 John 1:3.
3. Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (pp. 564-565). Chattanooga, TN: AMG.
4. Ibid., 519-521.
5. Ibid., 66-67.
6. Ibid., 1175.
7. Ibid., 1151-1152.

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

Jude:  How Are We Sanctified and Preserved in Christ?

Jude: How Are We Sanctified and Preserved in Christ?

How are we Sanctified and Preserved in Christ?

Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James,
To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ.
Jude 1:1

There are two key words we are going to look at today.  The first is sanctified and the second is preserved.  Let’s look at what they both mean before we go any further.


Sanctified

The word sanctified (hagiázō) means “to render holy, to separate from profane things and dedicate to God, to purify, consecrate, devote, or set apart from common to sacred use.”1  It’s the condition of a believer after regeneration takes place, after their salvation.  Some Bible translators replace sanctified with the word beloved, and that is unfortunate.  It would then read, “to those who are called, beloved in God the Father, and kept (preserved) for Jesus Christ” (NASB).  Although it is true, we are beloved in Him and by Him, the essence of what Jude is saying about his intended audience is that they have been set apart by God the Father for a holy and righteous purpose.  They have been, past tense, sanctified.  Their sanctification came by way of the Holy Spirit who now lives in them and their salvation is now “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph. 1:13).

Most of the modern Bible translations remove the word sanctified and replace it with beloved.  In essence, they make the verse more about us and what we receive from God and less about who we become by God.  That seems to be the way we go today, living in the land of self-indulgence and having our narcissistic attention focused solely on us.  But to be sanctified is to be changed into something that reflects the nature of our God.  And that nature is holiness.  It was the single attribute both Isaiah (Isa. 6:3) and John (Rev. 4:8) heard the angels proclaim when they were allowed to see the throne of God.

But we are not only changed; we are changed for a purpose.  We are “set aside for a holy purpose” in much the same way the Old Testament priests would take gold and silver utensils and remove them from everyday use and set them aside to be used exclusively in the temple of God.  There was a change in their purpose and their audience.  We are to be sanctified, like God, and reflect His glory and His holiness, just like His Son.  To change that into “beloved” is to lessen our responsibility and our calling.  Are we also loved and cherished in God the Father?  Yes, without question.  But we are also created for a purpose.  And that purpose is not for our self-gratification, but to be used by the One who gave us eternal life.  We are to be like the One who saved us.  Sanctified.  Set apart.  Holy, because He is holy (1 Pet. 1:15-16).

Note also that the person of the Godhead who came to reside in those sanctified by God the Father is the Holy Spirit.  Note His name, attribute, and description: Holy Spirit.  Not loving, or forgiving, or gracious Spirit (which He is also).  But Holy Spirit. His nature is holy.  And it’s this Holy Spirit that now lives in us to do His will through us, His bondslaves.  Again, are we beloved?  Absolutely.  But more so, we are called to a deeper purpose.  We are set apart for something much more important.  We have the privilege of allowing the Holy Spirit to manifest His life through us.


Preserved

The second word is preserved.  This word (tēréō) means to “keep an eye on, to take care of, to attend carefully, to guard like a warden watches over those prisoners under his care.”2  It implies watching closely, like a doting mother or a protective father does their young child.  It’s the same Greek word used in verse 21 where the believer is to “keep (tēréō) yourself in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”  The implication is to not only “watch” or “carefully guard” but to also remain secure through obedience.

This promise is reflected in the prayer of Jesus in John 17:12 where He prays: “While I was in the world, I kept (tēréō) them in Your name.”  And now, with Christ seated at the right hand of the Father (Eph. 1:20), He keeps us in Him through the Holy Spirit who now resides in each of us.


By the Father, in Jesus Christ

One last point that involves two small words, by and in.  The passage reads we are “sanctified by the Father” and “preserved in Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:1).  Sanctification is something done for us “by the Father” and our being kept or preserved is accomplished by our position “in Jesus Christ.”  Both are gifts and blessings from our God who loves us as His beloved.  Yet, one comes as a part of our salvation and the other is the promise because of our salvation.

We are sanctified and set apart by the sovereign act of the Father.  Our sanctification is what makes us a child of His.  It’s now part of our nature.  It’s in our DNA.  And we are guaranteed not to fall or lose our salvation, our sonship, because we are found in Christ.  We belong to Him and are “joint heirs” with Him (Rom. 8:17).  Plus, we are now seated “in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6).  How?  Because we are “in” Christ.  Where He is, so are we.

And because of this— our being sanctified, beloved, and secure in Him, we can rejoice at the promise given to all who belong to Him:

Romans 8:38-39 – For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Rest and abide in this truth today.  You are truly loved by Him who “is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 1:24).

big_lines
1. Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (pp. 69-70). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
2. Ibid., 1380-1381.

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

Bring Mark for Ministry

Bring Mark for Ministry

Today, I’ve been thinking about getting older.

Sometimes, when we get older, we think it’s our time to slow down.  “After all,” we reason, “I’ve done my part.  I’ve worked hard and paid my bills and raised my kids.  I’ve done more than my fair share.  Now it’s time for someone else to carry the torch and lead.  I’m just going to kick back, relax, retire, and die.”

But that’s not the example we see from Scripture.

In AD 60, Paul was imprisoned in Rome.  He was treated well and allowed to stay in his own house at his own expense, for two full years “preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him” (Acts 28:31).  It was during this time he wrote his prison epistles: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.

Paul was in his mid-sixties.  About retirement age.

Paul was imprisoned a second and final time during the summer of AD 66.  The cause of his arrest may be found in a statement Paul made in his final letter to Timothy: “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm.  May the Lord repay him according to his works. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words” (2 Tim. 4:14-15).

This time, Paul was not allowed to remain under house arrest, but was thrown among the most vile of prisoners in the Mamertine prison or another such dark and horrid place.  This prison was more like a dungeon, or a pit that could only be reached by a ladder or rope let through a hole in the floor above.  There was little ventilation and sanitation was non-existent.  If the idea was to reduce men to mere animals before they faced trial and execution, then the Romans did their job quite well.

It was in this desperate condition, accompanied only by Luke (2 Tim. 4:11), that Paul penned his last letter to Timothy.  Paul was now in his late sixties, well past retirement age.


Paul’s Final Words

Paul begins what would be his farewell address to his beloved son in the faith, Timothy.  In these final words, Paul urges Timothy to be bold in the face of opposition, knowing his own time was short.

2 Timothy 4:1-5 – I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word!  Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. (why) For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.  But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Paul then turns to more personal matters.  He reflects on his present situation, his past ministry, and the future glory he will share with Christ.

2 Timothy 4:6-8 – For I am (present) already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have (past) fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is (future) laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

And then amazingly, in the midst of his deplorable conditions, Paul encourages Timothy to come to him, to the Mamertine prison, to help him continue in ministry.

2 Timothy 4:9 – Be diligent to come to me quickly.

Why would Paul ask that of Timothy?  What possible ministry could Paul be undertaking?  The Scriptures don’t say. But we can see that Paul clearly understands his time is not over and there’s still more work to be done.  He knows there’s no retirement plan in the Kingdom of God.  Paul’s not ready, like many of us, to kick back, relax, retire and spend the rest of his days cruising the Caribbean or watching reruns of the Andy Griffith Show.  Even in the midst of unspeakable filth, in the throes of pain and suffering, Paul realized there was still ministry to perform for his Lord.

2 Timothy 4:10 – For Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica— Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia.

The sad news is that Demas has forsaken Paul and abandoned him and the faith.  In doing so, Demas will forever be remembered as one who did not finish well and inevitably suffered the certain fate that awaits all who reject the One who came to save them.  The good news is that Paul, even in prison, seems to be directing missionary endeavors to support and encourage the churches in Asia minor.  Paul is saying that “Creschen has departed (or, has been sent or dispatched) to Galatia and Titus (has been sent or dispatched) to Dalmatia” (2 Tim. 4:10).  Paul later says he sent, or dispatched, Tychicus to Ephesus (2 Tim. 4:12).

Think about it. In the middle of Paul’s prison cell he is still ministering to others.  Paul’s physical circumstances may have changed for the worse, but not his calling nor his faithfulness to that calling.  Paul, in prison and approaching seventy, facing trial and death, in unspeakable filth, continues ministering to others.  He remains faithful even when he has every reason not to.


Bring Mark

We then have the verse that communicates more to me about the heart of Paul than any other in this passage.  Here Paul asks Timothy to bring Mark with him when he comes.  That’s the same Mark, by the way, that deserted Paul early in their first missionary journey (Acts 13:13).  And it was the same Mark that caused Paul and Barnabas to exchange such sharp words with each other that they split as a team and headed in different directions (Acts 15:36-39).

2 Timothy 4:11 – Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful (profitable, to furnish what is needed), to me for ministry (serving others, showing benevolence).

Note, Paul did not say Mark would be useful to him to meet his own personal needs, which must have been great.  Nor did he say Mark would be useful to take care of Paul, or lessen his burdens, or comfort him while he suffered and languished in the Mamertine prison.  No, Paul said Mark would be useful, or would furnish what was needed or lacking, in the lives of those Paul himself was ministering to— his fellow cell mates and possibly a guard or two.  It was always for Paul, even in this late hour, about his love for Christ manifested by his ministry to others.

He continues:

2 Timothy 4:13 – Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come— and the books, especially the parchments.

The cloak I understand.  After all, it was probably quite cold in the prison, especially for a man of Paul’s age.  But why the parchments?  What did Paul need with them?  They were for teaching, for his trial preparation, for the opportunity he saw to present Christ to those who would render judgment against him and decide his fate.  He remembered what Jesus said about him, spoken to Ananias so many years ago, “he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15).  And even in the midst of prison, at his final curtain call, Paul saw one more opportunity to fulfill his calling and faithfully serve his Lord.

At the age when most of us are tired and want to quit, satisfied and content with the memories of yesteryear, Paul urges forward.  As long as there’s breath in his lungs, he will continue to proclaim the glories of Christ to anyone, anywhere, in any situation, no matter the costs.  For Paul, his best days are from this day forward, no matter how dire this day seems.  Even if this day begins chained to a wall, standing in human excrement, facing certain death, in the bowels of a Roman prison.

Convicting, isn’t it?  Especially when you realize how we view aging and retirement today.

It’s my prayer that I will be more like Paul as the day of my departure approaches (2 Tim. 4:6).  And I also pray I will not mimic most Christians I’ve seen in church, who have worked tirelessly for their retirement and, when it comes, when they now have all the time in the world to serve the Lord they claim to love, instead choose to spend that precious time for themselves, and not for Him or for others.

That’s not the New Testament model.  Pray it doesn’t become the norm for each of us.

big_lines

            podcast-25-25

 

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