Embracing Forgiveness. Choosing only to Embrace the Grace, the Embrace of ABBA, our Father God. Matthew 6:14-15

Matthew 6:14-15Amplified Bible

14 For if you forgive [a]others their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins], your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others [nurturing your hurt and anger with the result that it interferes with your relationship with God], then your Father will not forgive your trespasses.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

I believe most people have arrived at the conclusion that it is utterly impossible as human beings to avoid somehow and, in some way, offending others by our words, or lack of words and being offended by others, when we are still alive.

And, while we do not have the ability to control how others feel or act when they somehow feel offended by us, we do very much have free will over our own lives to decide how we will react or will not react when allegedly offended by others.

Our making the choice – Forgiving others wholeheartedly is the definite secret of a happy and prolonged relationship in all facets of life: in our family, in our work, at school, in Church, community, neighborhoods, mission and ministry.

It is definitely not easy to forgive others, but it’s what Jesus commands us to do.

Even if the other person is not really sorry, even if we are not very sorry about our actions, we still have to forgive sincerely in order to fulfil the will of God.

Matthew 6:14-15Easy-to-Read Version

14 Yes, if you forgive others for the wrongs they do to you, then your Father in heaven will also forgive your wrongs. 15 But if you don’t forgive others, then your Father in heaven will not forgive the wrongs you do.

Jesus’ teaching here at the end of the Lord’s Prayer might be confusing.

It almost sounds as if we have to earn God’s forgiveness by forgiving others.

So, we definitely need heavy dose of a different kind of thought process here.

Ephesians 4:30-32Amplified Bible

30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God [but seek to please Him], by whom you were sealed and marked [branded as God’s own] for the day of redemption [the final deliverance from the consequences of sin]. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor [perpetual animosity, resentment, strife, fault-finding] and slander be put away from you, along with every kind of malice [all spitefulness, verbal abuse, malevolence]. 32 Be kind and helpful to one another, tender-hearted [compassionate, understanding], forgiving one another [readily and freely], just as God in Christ also forgave [a]you.

I envision about any kitchen sponge that has not been used for a long time.

When you put it under the tap, at first the water runs right over the sponge.

But if you set that old sponge in a bucket of ­water for a few minutes, it will gradually and inevitably transform, will soften and becomes usable again.

Our own hearts and our souls and our spirits can be, can become like that too.

When we hold onto new resentments and old bitterness’s, nursing our anger, hugging old grudges close to our chests, hearts can become as hard as a rock, and God’s grace for us will be like water running over a rock – it won’t soak in.

At this point – someone needs to get on our case – come into our throne rooms and disrupt our lives, disrupt our dysfunctional patterns of behaving, thinking.

We are not hiding anything from God – but we are trying to – and this will most definitely get big time God’s attention – God will send someone – guaranteed!

That moment of confrontation will inevitably occur – someone will arrive and will get up inside our personal space – then we will have to make some serious choices – push that other person back out the door they entered or “get God!”

Reckon ourselves with our actions – then reckon, reason things out with God:

Psalm 51:1-12English Standard Version

Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

51 Have mercy on me,[a] O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
    and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
    and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
    and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right[b] spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.

But when we are “pried” open by our remembrance of God’s forgiveness of us, we are “exposed” to forgiving others, we become soft like a moistened sponge.

God, our Father’s boundless and bottomless grace soaks in and saturates the entirety of our hearts, and we become abundantly available to share his grace.

Just as a wet sponge moistens other things when it touches them, we can share grace, the blood of Christ helping to wipe others’ dirt away as we forgive others.

Dying to our accumulated resentment, anger, and bitterness softens our hearts to receive God’s all-encompassing amazing grace, to share it freely with others.

Psalm 103:11-13English Standard Version

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
    so, the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

Why should any of this matter – of what relevance – of what significance to me?

The question of genuine forgiveness is one of eternal importance and relevance.

And why is it, you may ask, so crucial that Christians forgive?

For starters, Jesus’ statement in today’s text is quite a compelling reason, for “if you do not forgive others…neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Suffice it to say then, we had better make sure we are forgiving “our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

Here’s the bottom line: forgiveness is such a central element to Christianity that it is an indicator of salvation!

Not that we are saved by any works of our own, such as forgiving others, but that when we are reconciled to God through the lifeblood of our Savior Jesus Christ, our new life will be eternally marked by grace giving and forgiveness.

Remember, our unrighteousness was exchanged for Jesus’ righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21), our wrong for His 100% right, our injustice for His justice.

God meets our enfeebled efforts at rebellion and pride with His matchless grace in and through the person and work of our only Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Those to whom grace is extended should also extend grace, and those to whom forgiveness is extended should also extend forgiveness.

Forgive as you have been forgiven.

Not because it’s easy, but because it’s at the very exact core of who you are in Christ.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Dear Lord, search my heart. Reveal to me any remaining burs of hurt where I have attempted to forgive apart from You. I pray You would cover these hurts in Your healing grace, and through Your strength, empower me to forgive others as wholly and completely and utterly as You first forgave me. In Savior Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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How Jesus Viewed Ministry Success: Focus on God’s Purposes. Luke 4.43

Luke 4:40-44Common English Bible

40 When the sun was setting, everyone brought to Jesus, relatives and acquaintances with all kinds of diseases. Placing his hands on each of them, he healed them. 41 Demons also came out of many people. They screamed, “You are God’s Son.” But he spoke harshly to them and wouldn’t allow them to speak because they recognized that he was the Christ. 42 When daybreak arrived, Jesus went to a deserted place. The crowds were looking for him. When they found him, they tried to keep him from leaving them. 43 But he said to them, “I must preach the good news of God’s kingdom in other cities too, for this is why I was sent.” 44 So he continued preaching in the Judean synagogues.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Ministry success is easily attributable to Jesus.

He captivated thousands because he taught “as one with authority” (Mark 1:22). He was utterly unique, like no one they had ever seen nor heard before.

Each Child of God is utterly unique, like no one else anyone has seen before. We all uniquely offer a unique diversity of God given gifts to God’s unique kingdom.

He made himself available to people when they needed a presence – (verse 40)

He did something incredible positive with His availability – healing – (verse 40)

He did something incredibly powerful with His availability – rebuking demons with an unheard-of authority (verse 41).

He was incredibly available and incredibly flexible, would preach to thousands, heal the sick, and spend time with the untouchables. At one point, his renown, authority was so great that people tried to make him king by force (John 6:15).

He took time for himself – to make himself available to His Father in Heaven. (Verse 42) How frequently do we honor our Father by honoring His Sabbath?

How often do we prioritize making ourselves available to God and his healing? Do we value “setting ourselves apart” and permitting God to Minister unto us?

Rabbi Jesus recognized that his ministry was ever changing according to the purposes set aside by His Father in Heaven and he needed to be flexible in his ministry – keeping his focus on the purposes of his Father God knowing when to move onto the diversity of needs, addressing the needs of people elsewhere (verses 43 and 44).

Rabbi Jesus could have stayed where he was and regularly had large crowds gather in his presence. But what did Jesus do with this “ministry success?”

Did he set up headquarters, hang up signs, pass out flyers, and increase seating capacity? Did he get hung up on denominational differences, and divisiveness?

Did he stay with the people begging him to remain and bask in their adoration?

Praise God! Absolutely not. That’s not how Jesus defined ministry success.

Real Ministry Success

Rabbi Jesus focused only on his God ordained purpose: to teach the truth. Jesus repeatedly says this in passages like John 18:37 and Mark 1:35–39, as well.

Jesus did not look to boasting of the crowds as proof of his success in ministry. He did not withhold his identity from people flocking to hear, see, touch him.

His sole focus? He did and said only what the Father led him to do (John 5:19).

For what purpose of His Father God was His Son, Rabbi Jesus led to do?

Preach the Gospel — Announce the Good News to all people.

Luke 4:14-19Common English Bible

Jesus announces good news to the poor

14 Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news about him spread throughout the whole countryside. 15 He taught in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

16 Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been raised. On the Sabbath he went to the synagogue as he normally did and stood up to read. 17 The synagogue assistant gave him the scroll from the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to preach good news to the poor,
    to proclaim release to the prisoners
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
    to liberate the oppressed,
19     and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.[a]

For what other purposes did God send His Son?

Offer the people an everlasting connection to God.

Offer the people an everlasting relationship to God.

Offer the people an everlasting Koinonia – fellowship with God.

John 3:16-17English Standard Version

For God So Loved the World

16 “For God so loved the world, [a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Luke 19:10English Standard Version

10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

John 10:14-18English Standard Version

14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So, there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

A thought. It can be tempting to look at success in ministry as a numbers game.

Our logic?

The more people that come to our church or ministry, the more successful we are in the kingdom.

Except numbers never define success – God defines success by relationships.

Steadfast and Immovable, Faithful under all circumstances, Connections, Koinonia, Fellowship, Relationships with Him, His Son and the Holy Spirit.

God defines success in relationships by His Son’s understanding of Success:

Mark 10:42-45English Standard Version

42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great one’s exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, [a] 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave[b] of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

God’s Servant Leader Rabbi Jesus is a great example for what success looks like.

Jesus teaches us that success is not merely defined by popularity or crowds, but by our steadfast and faithful obedience to God and to his purposes for our lives.

Faithfulness is the key to ministry success.

But don’t misunderstand me. I don’t define faithfulness as merely plodding along, barely making a ripple for the Kingdom of God…

…not even close!

What’s the root word in faithfulness? Faith!

Jesus didn’t simply bumble along.

He had absolute faith in what the Father had called him to do.

So much faith that he bet his entire life on it.

To faithfully pursue God’s purpose means two things:

  1. To desire his will infinitely more than our own finite and temporary glory.
  2. To believe he will accomplish his mission in us and through us for His sake.

Are we faithfully Pursuing God’s Mission?

So, are we pursuing God’s mission for us?

So, are we aware of God’s purpose for us?

Our ministry and mission fields might be:

  • Our family, both biological and church families
  • Our workplace,
  • Our schools,
  • Our communities and neighborhoods,
  • Our vocational ministry – inside the church, missional outside the church,
  • Our volunteer work,
  • Or anywhere else God ordains us to be (Isaiah 6:8-11).

Define your mission field.

Refine your measurement of ministry success.

And above all, have a steadfast and immovable faith – God always accomplishes his will— God will always fulfill His purpose for me, and he will do so through you, too.

Psalm 138:8English Standard Version

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
    your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
    Do not forsake the work of your hands.

Individually, how well do we, in our contemporary 2022 context, understand our God (not ourselves) fulfilling His singularly unique purpose for our lives?

Individually, how well do we, in our contemporary 2022 context, understand faithfulness to God’s fulfilling of our singularly unique purpose for our lives?

Individually, how well do we, in our contemporary 2022 context, understand faithful obedience to God’s fulfilling of our singularly unique purpose for us?

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Sovereign God, You have authored my life, have ordered each of my steps and opened this door to success in my life. With this new path comes a new uncertainty that tempts me to fear. Make me strong, Mighty God! Make me courageous, God of Heaven! In the face of new challenges, I will trust You. For from You comes Your Spirit which empowers me to be Your witness in all circumstances. In Jesus’ name. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

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Blessed Assurance! God HAS got My Back! Will I trust God to “Be There?” Will I fall Backwards into His Hands? Isaiah 6:8-10.

Isaiah 6:8-10ESV

Isaiah’s Commission from the Lord

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

“‘Keep on hearing,[a] but do not understand;
keep on seeing,[b] but do not perceive.’
10 Make the heart of this people dull,[c]
    and their ears heavy,
    and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
    and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
    and turn and be healed.”

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

It is that old familiar scene on any playground populated by young kids and their parents – the young child closes their eyes, turns their backs to their moms or dads and suddenly out of the blue they yell out: “Catch Me” as they lean out their arms as far and wide as they can and then free fall backwards.

Hopefully that young child hears their Mom’s or Dad’s voice: “Here I Am!”

And prayerfully, Mom or Dad is quick enough to catch their free-falling child.

We trust our parents to be there when we need them.

We need to not just hear of that trust but to actually feel that trust for ourselves.

We need to experience that trust then we can give that trust back to them.

Whether we fall forward or backwards, we need to know someone will catch us.

Not just catch us – some of the time (pranking us) but absolutely all the time.

So, here in our text from Isaiah chapter 6, God has just empowered Isaiah for a mission of who knows what kind of magnitude and God’s knows what purpose.

Without question, Isaiah utters these “famous first and last words” ….

“Here I am! Send me.”

These words are among the most famous of Old Testament texts.

Often, they are taught in a motivational light in an attempt to inspire people to completely leave behind whatever they were doing and to step up, to serve God.

Sadly, what is frequently left out is the mission that Isaiah was volunteering for.

But God did not try to hide His mission and message from Isaiah before he sent Isaiah back; he was straightforward.

However, behind and underneath all of that were these unwritten, but certainly implied questions and statements by God,

– “In this exact moment, I need to know how much you trust me, Isaiah?”

– “In this singular moment of your life, how far does your trust of me extend?”

– “Exactly right now, Isaiah, do you completely trust me with your whole life?”

– “Will you free-fall backwards into my arms when not having a good day?”

– “Will you always move forwards – even in those most very uncertain of days?”

– “Even when distrust of Me becomes your first desire, will you still go for Me?”

– “Even if it means Me getting behind you, subtly or not so subtly, pushing you forward against your will, into places we both know you would rather not go?”

“Think about these things, Isaiah. take what time you need. I will still be here!”

Now, ask yourself this question- How much time elapsed before Isaiah said:

“Here I am! Send me.” 

An hour? A day? “A week?”

An immediate response – no time lapse at all?

What can be implied by Isaiah’s apparent and immediate response?

Isaiah’s Immediate and Unconditional and Unquestioning Trust in the Lord?

The unsaid, immediately understood – “Yes! Lord! I know you have my Back?”

“Yes! Lord! I absolutely trust that You WILL have my Back 100% of the time?”

Do you somewhere believe maybe Isaiah had crossed fingers behind his back?

Or that his expression of ““Here I am! Send me.” was utterly unconditional?

If you had been the one called away by God in such a moment as Isaiah’s, would there be “every available finger crossed” behind your back – toes crossed too?

Immediate, Unquestioned and Unconditional Trust – given to God on the spot?

“Just like that?”

Is that exact, exacting magnitude of trust really somewhere in human nature?

Consider what we are not considering nor even aware of in that exact moment:

Sadly, what is frequently left out is the mission that Isaiah was volunteering for.

Blindly, Deafly, and Boldly, moving forward in some direction through the ages with a very specific mission known only but to God message to who knows who?

Are we really so prepared to be that trusting with what Isaiah was trusted with?

Isaiah was called to be an unpopular preacher with an unpopular message.

Despite the enormous risks – that Scripture never really specifically identifies?

For a God no one’s ever personally seen – Jesus will be born in about 800 years.

Isaiah 6:8English Standard Version

Isaiah’s Commission from the Lord

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

Just what indescribable magnitude of trust did Isaiah possess in those days?

Just what undeniable magnitude of trust did Isaiah just communicate to God?

Essentially, God instructed Isaiah:

“{consistently, continuously, constantly} Tell your countrymen,
Listen, but the words will go in one ear and out the other.
Look, but you’ll never realize what you’re looking at, never get it.
Your hearts are going to be hard, your ears shut, and your eyes blind.”

Isaiah 6:9-10 ESV

The commentator Matthew Henry wrote of this passage, “there are many who hear the sound of God’s word, but do not feel the power of it.”

There are a few hard lessons for us to be learned here.

For starters, God’s word does not only soften us, it also hardens us.

Those to whom Isaiah was called to speak God’s words to were going to be willfully obstinate and oppositional and therefore hard toward the truth.

Considering such a magnitude of obstinance and opposition, how easy or how hard was it for Isaiah to maintain his covenant promise of unconditional trust?

If this passage of Isaiah were transplanted into 2022, how easy or hard would it be for Isaiah (for us) to maintain his covenant promise of unconditional trust?

What do you think his conversion rate was then?

What do you think or believe his conversion rate would be in 2022?

By our standards today would we hold Isaiah up as a picture of ministerial success or nothing but his wasted time, effort and money and resources?

Or would we declare him irrelevant for the times we are living in and with a brush of our 2022 theology cast him aside as unloving and non-anointed?

What this encounter with God should teach us, is that first and foremost our success should be gauged by our actual unconditional trust and obedience.

Such a magnitude of unquestioning trust and obedience to God will most certainly produce fruit, but we may not always be able to see it right away.

Still, we must ever be unconditionally prepared to fall back into the trusting arms of our Savior Jesus Christ – knowing He WILL always be there to catch us.

Isaiah’s work and message may have seemed to him incessantly grim, and a burden which grew heavier and heavier, more and more impossible to bear.

Our work and message in 2022 are not that much different from Isaiah’s and undoubtedly bear the same magnitude of burden – still we bear it up for God.

Will we be there for each other as God is always there for us in Christ Jesus?

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Loving Heavenly Father, Author and Solemn Protector of my life. You have loved me with unconditional, immeasurable love. You are love. My life is wide open. I pray that I will be strengthened in my inner being – in my soul – with the love and trust that is wider than I can understand, deeper than I am able to imagine, and greater than I could ever know. As You encourage and embolden me, may I more fully know and trust the mystery of the Gospel as revealed in my life. In the love of Christ, I pray. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

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Sometimes it Takes a Crisis to Know we Belong and are Connected to God.

John 15:4-5Amplified Bible

Remain in Me, and I [will remain] in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit by itself without remaining in the vine, neither can you [bear fruit, producing evidence of your faith] unless you remain in Me. 5 [a]I am the Vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him bears much fruit, for [otherwise] apart from Me [that is, cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Do we BELONG anywhere or to anyone at any time in any one singular place?

Are we CONNECTED to anything or to any one which transcends ourselves?

Are we IN CONNECTION to anything or to anyone which transcends ourselves?

One of the most striking paradoxes of our current Internet, Broadband, WIFI, social media crazed culture today… is the crisis, believe it or not, of connection.

Never has our world experienced the level of connection that has become possible in just the last 10 years.

It’s become the world of social media globalization … an unlimited potential connection… What has emerged is the quite literal ability to be connected to anyone on the planet at any time …. and Time Zones do not seem to matter.

Yet never have people felt so disconnected….so alienated…so alone.

Sociologists and psychologists are describing the growing and deepening and darkening crisis of social alienation that is plaguing modern life.

Not just an issue of lacking popularity or social success…

Actress Winona Ryder Finds Fame Lonely

“When I was 18, I was driving around at two in the morning, completely crying and alone and scared. I drove by this magazine stand that had this Rolling Stone that I was on the cover of, and it said, ’Winona Ryder: The Luckiest Girl in the World.’ And there I was feeling more alone than I ever had.”

Citation: Winona Ryder, cited from Plugged In, Vol. 6, no. 4 (April 2001); submitted by Van Morris, Mount Washington, Kentucky.

There is a very simple premise to this journey…

The search for connection… is a search for the common.

• The very root of the word “community” is “common.”

Here lies the challenge –

The loss of some transcendent connection gives rise to a tendency to find identity through distinctions that prove destructive.

From niche marketing and clothing styles… to social cliques and gangs… to ethnic rivalries and nationalism…

we are so hungry to find ourselves…to belong … that our identify is often simply reduced to that of identifying with some sub-group over and against others.

And those connections prove not only destructive… but dissatisfying…. far too fragile to really provide the deep and long-lasting connection we all long for.

The desperate alternative is to try and simply diminish our differences… forge ahead with “out of thin air,” elusive ideas of common identity… communism, “new” and “untried” tendencies of ‘social tolerance’ and spiritual relativism.

Our Need – to discover the common in the midst of the unique… not a bland conformity… but unity amidst diversity without socio-cultural divisiveness.

The question of equality and inequality, checks and balances. Differences don’t divide when they are centered and secured in the commonalities that connect.

Everything everywhere comes across or is aggressively marketed to us as being “deliberately, catastrophically, maliciously” (politically) unbalanced, unequal.

What part of our daily existence is not being presented as the “ultimate crisis of inequality” requiring some manner of socio-economic, socio-political answer?

Is genuine “equality” even achievable?

Biblically – Absolutely Not! …. when the assessment, evaluation, planning and application and definition of “genuine equality” is left in the hands of mankind.

Everyone has their own personal vision of what “genuine equality” means and how it should be addressed in the grand scheme of things – whatever that word and phrase “grand scheme of things” implies, means to whoever is in charge.

And thus, our greatest crisis is …… which drives everyone it seems into a frenzy,

So, who is in charge?

From our Gospel Narrative, the man, Master Rabbi Jesus simplifies it for us ….

John 15:1-5 Amplified Bible

Jesus Is the Vine—Followers Are Branches

15 “[a]I am the true Vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that continues to bear fruit, He [repeatedly] prunes, so that it will bear more fruit [even richer and finer fruit]. You are already clean because of the word which I have given you [the teachings which I have discussed with you]. Remain in Me, and I [will remain] in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit by itself without remaining in the vine, neither can you [bear fruit, producing evidence of your faith] unless you remain in Me. 5 [b]I am the Vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him bears much fruit, for [otherwise] apart from Me [that is, cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.

God Himself set the Eternal Record straight before mankind was even around.

Genesis 1:1-5Amplified Bible

The Creation

1 In the beginning God ([a]Elohim[b]created [by forming from nothing] the heavens and the earth. The earth was [c]formless and void or a waste and emptiness, and darkness was upon the face of the deep [primeval ocean that covered the unformed earth]. The Spirit of God was moving (hovering, brooding) over the face of the waters. And God said, [d] “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good (pleasing, useful) and [e]He affirmed and sustained it; and God separated the light [distinguishing it] from the darkness. And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was [f]evening and there was [g]morning, one day.

Crisis of any kind is tough.

Crisis of Leadership in a Crisis is …… never for the faint nor the weak at heart.

“Leadership Vacuum” crises are definitely considered tougher than most.

Who does one turn to for answers when there is no one “standing tall?”

In that Upper Room, the man, Master Rabbi Jesus, is preparing his disciples for the crisis which is about to befall them – His coming crucifixion and his Death.

The disciples must learn who will be in charge in the coming chaos – and it will not be them – after Jesus they must become secure in their connection in God.

He tells them clearly; the coming crisis is unavoidable -it must come for them to move on, it must come so the Holy Spirit should be sent to help them out.

The disciples have to be in a whirlwind of all different manners of thought.

Everything was going very well; life was good and abundant – but in a short span of hours, all that would suddenly come crashing down around them.

All things being equal in one moment, suddenly thrust into inequality.

Going back to the ways things were before Jesus and before his resurrection?

The reality of his resurrection they and nobody else had any concept of?

Why would God allow this?

What would become of all the promises of God, given to them by Jesus?

In the fog of a crisis, it can be hard to see anything good that God might be doing.

Whether your finances are at risk through a job loss, or you have a relationship that’s threatening to implode, or you’re experiencing some other devastating event, it’s heart-breaking to see your world turned upside down.

Eventually you wonder whether God might be punishing you for something.

But the fact is, we often seek to connect with God in our crises in ways that we wouldn’t ordinarily consider.

We are only one short moment from our worst crisis: One rumor of lay-offs or one unexplained result on a medical test or car accident can change everything.

Suddenly being thrust into crisis, suddenly life cannot about us anymore, it must become about something or someone infinitely greater than yourself.

A major crisis can persuade us to do anything, negotiate anything with God.

Except in the end, we must realistically ask ourselves: is that really so bad?

Obviously, reality is crisis and suffering are indescribably, undeniably painful.

But Master Rabbi Jesus’ point in John 15 is that the only way we can thrive in life is by surrendering, being naturally connected to him, like branches to a vine.

That means our lives will still be in a crisis, but they will be made far richer, by being connected to his grace in a crisis, than if we are drifting off on our own.

The point is not that crises aren’t bad; it’s that being connected to Jesus Christ is greater. Sometimes God uses the blinding fog of a crisis to help us find him.

Has he ever done that with you?

When the storms of a life in crisis are raging around you right now ……

Is He, perhaps right in this exact and exacting moment, revealing His Presence?

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Lord God, Author of my Salvation, I look to You right now. Your Word says that You are the door of the sheep. So, Father, we place our trust in You because You will open doors for us that are closed. I pray for Your divine guidance through these doors and thank You for opening them. With You, there is always a way, but alone we will remain stagnant. Thank You for being the eternal door, Gloria! Alleluia! Amen.

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Is Jesus Influencing, Making, Any Measure of Difference in our Life? Colossians 1:1 – 8

Colossians 1:1-8Amplified Bible

Thankfulness for Spiritual Attainments

Paul, an apostle (special messenger, personally chosen representative) of Christ Jesus (the Messiah, the Anointed) by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To the [a]saints and faithful [b]believers in Christ [who are] at Colossae: Grace to you and peace [inner calm and spiritual well-being] from God our Father.

We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, as we pray always for you, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus [how you lean on Him with absolute confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness], and of the [unselfish] [c]love which you have for all the saints (God’s people); because of the [confident] hope [of experiencing that] which is reserved and waiting for you in heaven. You previously heard of this hope in the message of truth, the gospel [regarding salvation] which has come to you. Indeed, just as in the whole world the gospel is constantly bearing fruit and spreading [by God’s power], just as it has been doing among you ever since the day you first heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth [becoming thoroughly and deeply acquainted with it]. You learned it from [our representative] Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf and he also has told us of your love [well-grounded and nurtured] in the [Holy] Spirit.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Today we are going to examine some important questions.

Is Jesus making a difference in your life?

Does Jesus have any degree or meaningful measure of influence over your life

The answer to this question is important because the answer to this question will tell us where we are at with Jesus and just how important He really is to us.

This devotional message is not intended to beat anyone down; it is meant to “stop our world from spinning off into the depths of “who knows where and why and when,” to challenge us to soar to greater heights with our great God.

How many times have we seen a person in athletics not reach their potential?

The NFL is getting ready to kick off its 2022 season.

Each of the teams started training camp with 90 players on their roster.

Now, before the season starts next Sunday, teams must get down to a roster of 53 players who “made the team by their efforts to meet “what it takes to win.”

That means that a whole lot of players of all experience levels will not be on the playing field – they “did not reach their potential, did not make the teams cut.”

How many times have we seen students of all ages go through their schooling and never reaching their potential?

It is a sad experience to read of the scandals of students just being “passed.”

Parents, Educators and Teachers and Coaches losing influence over that child’s life and witnessing then the growing and maturing influence of the “streets.”

Belonging to “families” becomes belonging to “drugs, guns and street gangs.”

It is a sad sight to see isn’t it.

People around them whisper about the waste of talent and potential they see.

• I believe the 21st century church is at a critical crossroads; this church is at a crossroads.

Individually, we must all decide how much we are going to let Jesus be our Lord, we all have to determine if we are going to totally give ourselves over to Him or are we just going to barely influence, scratch the surface, to be happy with that.

Corporately, we must all decide how much and IF and HOW and WHEN and WHY we are going to let Jesus be our only INFLUENCER our ONLY SAVIOR.

• Where we are at with Jesus is where the church will be at with Jesus.

Are we going to be “Christian?

Are we going to be a church that is absolutely sold-out on Jesus or are we going to be a church that is happy with scratching the surface of what GOD can do?

• I hope that as we delve into, through the book of Colossians, we will all learn something, some things that will help to challenge us to go deeper with Jesus.

Apostle Paul is writing this letter to a church that is struggling with some false teachings that were prevalent at the time.

This letter is written with three major purposes in mind;

these purposes are still absolutely valid today.

o To encourage the readers not to go back to their former way of life.

o To direct the people’s attention to Jesus and to get them to fully trust and worship Him and to fully recognize who He is.

o To emphasize the influence and virtue of Christ’s forgiveness and kindness.

Today we are going to look at four indicators that prayerfully will tell us if we are letting Jesus be our primary influencer, the primary difference in our lives.

Colossians 1:1-8New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

Salutation

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father.[a]

Paul Thanks God for the Colossians

In our prayers for you we always thank God, the[b] Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on our[c] behalf, and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

I. IS JESUS THE CENTER OF YOUR FAITH?

I love the way this letter starts out.

It starts with the Apostle Paul in verse 2 saying that he is writing to the FAITHFUL brethren at Colossae.

Then he moves to telling the readers he is thankful for them and that he is praying for them always.

• Then he moves to what he is thankful for.

• He is thankful that he has heard of their faith in Jesus.

• When you think about it, this is an impressive statement.

The faith of the Church at Colossae is so great that it is known all around.

• Notice too that their faith is in Jesus; it is centered and based on Him.

• Their faith in Jesus made such an impact on the lives of those in the church that they gained a reputation for their faith.

• I wonder what people would say about the church as they walked around Colossae.

• I wonder what people say about the 21st century Christian Church when the subject comes up?

What are we known for?

If culture is the primary influencer, making the difference in our lives ….

• If Jesus is the primary influencer, making the difference in our lives,

will we then be known for our faith in our Master Rabbi, and Savior Jesus?

• The only way that our Master Rabbi Jesus, our Lord and Savior Jesus will be our influencer, the difference in our lives is if we have an undying faith in Him.

• I have seen too many people over the years play the church game.

We can get so caught up in things to the point that Jesus is not really the center of our faith.

For many the center of their faith is the status quo, it is their jobs, family or entertainment.

• Paul was not thankful for the church at Colossae because they had a really nice and diverse, inclusive, influential, politically correct and welcoming building.

He was not faithful because they sang a certain type of music or had a certain order of service, he was thankful for them in part because of their faith in Jesus!

• Faith means in part to trust.

Who do you trust?

Into whose hands do we really put your salvation?

Who do you turn to in times of trouble?

Who do you give the glory to when things go well?

• If Jesus is the center of your faith, your life will be different.

I hope that our church is known for our faith.

That will not ever happen unless two things happen.

First, our faith has to be evident in our lives and secondly, we need to be involved in the lives of other people so they can see our faith in action.

II. IS YOUR LOVE FOR THE BRETHREN EVIDENT?

The second thing Paul is thankful for is the love the church had for the brethren and for all the Saints (Christians)!

• Is Jesus making a difference in your life?

If He is, He will be the center of your faith.

The fact will manifest itself in how much love you have for your brothers and sisters in Christ.

• We have talked a lot about love in the past and we will continue to do it in the future.

This is an important issue.

IF you cannot love the most unlovely of us, then Jesus in not exerting any meaningful influence or making any measurable difference in your life.

• Jesus loved Judas?

He had plenty of reasons not to, but He did.

What is your excuse for NOT loving Judas?

• We cannot ask lost people to come in and love those we will not love.

If Jesus is influencing you, making a difference in your life, it will show by how you are able to love ALL of the brethren – WITHOUT EVEN ONE EXCEPTION!

1 John 2:9-11New American Standard Bible

The one who says that he is in the Light and yet hates his brother or sister is in the darkness until now. 10 The one who loves his brother and sister remains in the Light, and there is nothing in him to cause stumbling. 11 But the one who hates his brother or sister is in the darkness and walks in the darkness and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

We can say how much we love Jesus all we want, tell Him how sold out we are to Him all we want, but if we do not love one another, they are empty statements.

• If Jesus is making a difference on our life, we will love the brethren!

III DOES YOUR FAITH REST IN YOUR HOPE IN HEAVEN?

• In verse 5 we find out why and how the Christians at Colossae had such a great faith.

because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel

• Their hope was focused on what was laid out for them in heaven.

• If Jesus is making a difference in your life, you will be able to realize there is a big picture.

You will not want to get even or take vengeance on every injustice done to you.

• Paul is thankful for their hope; faith and hope are always tied together.

Faith is based in hope.

• There has to be a pot of gold if you will at the end of the rainbow.

1 Peter 1:4-5GOD’S WORD Translation

We have been born into a new life which has an inheritance that cannot be destroyed or corrupted and can’t fade away. That inheritance is kept in heaven for you, since you are guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed at the end of time.

If we have no hope of heaven, then we will not be able to persevere when we need to.

The things of the world will look too attractive to pass up if our faith does not rest in hope.

One of the blessings of hope is it allows us to sacrifice the present on the altar of the future (Reverend Dr. John MacArthur Jr.)

• That runs contrary to human nature.

Young children, for example, have a difficult time waiting for something they want.

The world wants it and wants it now.

• The Christian has a different perspective.

He is willing to forsake the present glory, comfort, and satisfaction of this present world for the future glory that is his in Christ.

In contrast to the “buy now—pay later” attitude prevalent in the world, the Christian is willing to pay now and receive it later.

What makes Christians willing to make such sacrifices?

Hope, based on faith the future holds something far better than the present.

Romans 8:18-21GOD’S WORD Translation

God’s Spirit Helps Us

18 I consider our present sufferings insignificant compared to the glory that will soon be revealed to us. 19 All creation is eagerly waiting for God to reveal who his children are. 20 Creation was subjected to frustration but not by its own choice. The one who subjected it to frustration did so in the hope 21 that it would also be set free from slavery to decay in order to share the glorious freedom that the children of God will have.

If Jesus is influencing, is making a difference in our life, our hope in the future will truly allow us to sacrifice the present things for the future gain of heaven!

IV. IS GOD’S WORD PENETRATING YOUR LIFE?

because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel

• Where did they get this hope, faith, and love?

Look at verse 5, they heard the word of truth, the gospel.

• They did not get their faith, hope, and love from the bottom of a cereal or Cracker Jack box; they believed it because they heard the word of God!

Romans 10:15-17New American Standard Bible

15 But how are they to preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who [a]bring good news of good things!”

16 However, they did not all heed the [b]good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word [c]of Christ.

CONSTANTLY BEARING FRUIT

• Wherever the gospel seed is sown, fruit grows. If the gospel has penetrated your life, your life will be fruitful for God. The fruit production will never stop.

• I absolutely love strawberries!

Every summer, a farmer plants acres and acres of strawberry plants and every year I can remember from my youth I can remember the farmer said they would get so many strawberries off them throughout the season we would get sick.

• With the strawberry plant, there would come a season when it would quit producing fruit.

For the one who has had the gospel penetrate their life, they will produce fruit in every season of life!

• Paul says for those at Colossae, that the Word has been bearing fruit from the day they heard and understood the word!

• Maybe some are not producing fruit because they are do not understand the Gospel Word.

The more you read it, eat it, the more understandable it becomes!  

Psalm 34:8-10New American Standard Bible

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
Fear the Lord, you His saints;
For to those who fear Him there is no lack of anything.
10 The young lions do without and suffer hunger;
But they who seek the Lord will not lack any good thing.

CONSTANTLY INCREASING

• Not only will our lives produce fruit, but it will be in the increase all the time! As you grow and mature, you WILL produce more and more fruit for God!

• The spiritual growth of individuals will lead to new converts being won to Christ.

That was the easily observable pattern of the early church. (Acts 2:43-47)

Acts 9:31New American Standard Bible

31 So the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria [a]enjoyed peace, as it was being built up; and as it [b]continued in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it kept increasing.

You do not need some fancy program in order to grow; you need Jesus to make a difference in the lives of each one of us in the church!

• Part of the reason a church stops’ growing is because individuals within that church stop growing!

• If Jesus is making a difference in your life, the word of God will be penetrating your life and you will produce fruit for Him.

• Are you withering in the vine or are you feeding yourself with the Word daily?

V. ARE YOU AN EPAPHRAS?

because of the [confident] hope [of experiencing that] which is reserved and waiting for you in heaven. You previously heard of this hope in the message of truth, the gospel [regarding salvation] which has come to you. Indeed, just as in the whole world the gospel is constantly bearing fruit and spreading [by God’s power], just as it has been doing among you ever since the day you first heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth [becoming thoroughly and deeply acquainted with it]. You learned it from [our representative] Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf

We do not know a lot about Epaphras except for the couple of times Paul mentions him in the letter and once in Philemon.

• He is called a fellow bondservant who is a faithful bondservant.

He was most likely an evangelist.

• Notice in verse 7 we are told they learned the gospel from Epaphras! He was producing fruit. He was not going to leave it to someone else to teach people.

• You cannot teach what you do not know, and you cannot know what you do not study!

We are told in Colossians 4:12 that he was one who labored hard for Jesus.

• If you were mentioned in the Bible, what would Paul say about you?

• I hope we could all strive to be like Epaphras.

He was most likely nothing special; he was just willing to let God use Him!

• If Jesus is making a difference in your life, you will be a changed person!

Colossians 1:4-6Amplified Bible

for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus [how you lean on Him with absolute confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness], and of the [unselfish] [a]love which you have for all the saints (God’s people); because of the [confident] hope [of experiencing that] which is reserved and waiting for you in heaven. You previously heard of this hope in the message of truth, the gospel [regarding salvation] which has come to you. Indeed, just as in the whole world the gospel is constantly bearing fruit and spreading [by God’s power], just as it has been doing among you ever since the day you first heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth [becoming thoroughly and deeply acquainted with it].

It’s wonderful when someone comes into the kingdom of God.

That person receives God’s gift of grace through faith in Jesus, and they begin a new life of walking with the Holy Spirit.

The new believer realizes that their old life of selfish pursuits offers nothing that will ever satisfy.

They have turned their back on the darkness and are enjoying the light of the world, Jesus.

Praise God for his love!

Paul is filled with thanks to hear that the people of Colossae have come to faith in Christ Jesus and are showing their love for all God’s people.

He even says, “We always thank God . . . when we pray for you . . .”

They have become wonderful examples of living by faith in Jesus.

They believe and trust, they love, and they hope in what God has already stored up in heaven for them.

Drawing all this together, we can say with Paul that the faith of the Colossian believers is rooted in Jesus Christ.

Friends, my prayer is you will have faith in Christ Jesus; my hope for you is that in Jesus’ name you are loving others, giving yourself up for them, and growing in hope in all that God has promised and is storing up for you in heaven.

Stay rooted in Christ,

Anticipating the immeasurable reality of God’s kingdom on earth as it most definitely and decisively is in heaven.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Faithful Father, thank you that you have plans for your church that are for our good and your glory. The Bible says the church is your house, you dwell in the midst of your people. Let us be built on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ. Let us be built together in a way that honors you. May Christ dwell in our hearts through faith so that we, being rooted and grounded in love, may have the strength to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Savior. Amen.

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Covenant Obligation: To be Sharing our Faith Story Where Jesus Christ Is Not Known nor even Necessarily Desired. Romans 15:17-22

When I listen to the radio in my car, I often skip past music that I don’t like.

Some of it I simply don’t understand.

Some of it – based upon my age and upbringing, I would never call it “music.”

It spends far too much time glorifying a lifestyle which is fosters violence and counter cultural behaviors such as street gangs and illicit use of illegal drugs.

Yet even at my age, trying to understand the background of rap music or the anger of a Metallica song can give me helpful clues into the culture around me.

Paul learned how to take the cultural events and ideas of his day and connect them with the message of Jesus so that people of other faiths could understand.

If you have been a Christian for a long time and you are worshiping with others today, you can expect that the message you hear will be one you understand.

But is it a message that will also relate to guests who come for the first time?

In our churches are we speaking the language of the communities around us?

Many churches have become skilled at speaking the language of their culture.

They know that each Wednesday night or Sunday morning some people might show up who won’t understand all of their words, rituals, and ways of worship.

These churches try very hard to reach out, to be welcoming and also inclusive.

If you remember your first experience at being a first-time guest in a church or your own church, or you are a longtime believer, or whether you are a cradle to the grave member, remember that we do not need to understand everything.

We do not really need to know everything there is to know about everyone who is inside. We do not really need to know the denomination on the church sign.

We do not need to “google” the area churches for their consumer ratings.

We need to know if our experience in that Church will reveal God in Christ Jesus.

To know if our experience in that church only reveals the Gospel of our Culture.

There is no mystery in knowing and experiencing what influence culture has had on our church, on the message of Christ which “tickles our funny bones.”

There is always mystery in knowing what God has done, is doing, in the life of His church on a street corner, which is about tickling funny bones everywhere.

What we do understand, is the message of the Gospel of God truth though, is the language of welcome, acceptance, love, and grace but also of repentance.

We are covenanted by God with a holy and sacred obligation to preach the Gospel of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, a sacred duty to share our faith, influence the culture around us, not the other way.

It opens us up to the message from the Word that God wants us to hear today.

Romans 15:17-22Amplified Bible

17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have found [legitimate] reason for boasting in things related [to my service] to God. 18 For I will not [even] presume to speak of anything except what Christ has done through me [as an instrument in His hands], resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles [to the gospel], by word and deed, 19 with the power of signs and wonders, [and all of it] in the power of the Spirit. So [starting] from Jerusalem and as far away as [a]Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel [faithfully preaching the good news] of Christ [where it had not before been preached]. 20 Accordingly I set a goal to preach the gospel, not where Christ’s name was already known, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation; 21 but [instead I would act on this goal] as it is written [in Scripture],

“They who had no news of Him shall see,
And they who have not heard [of Him] shall understand.”

22 This [goal—my commitment to this principle] is the reason why I have often been prevented from coming to you [in Rome].

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

The problem with many worldly Christians, and perhaps some of you in this blog room, is that to you, your Christianity, your “Christiana-lity” is just such an incredibly intimate and personal thing; you do not ever desire to share it.

You have your ticket to heaven, you have your eternal fire insurance, and frankly, you don’t really care whether anybody else goes to heaven or not.

Sometimes Christians remind me of the lady who was taking a CPR and first aid course with me and several other healthcare professionals several years ago.

In the process of the class, the students were asked to give examples of how they had already been able to use their CPR or first aid training.

One day this young lady said, “I got to use my first aid training the other day. I heard a terrible crash in front of my house. A car had run into my yard, hit a tree, and the car doors had flown open, and there were some injured people on my front lawn. Because I had taken this first aid class, I immediately knew what to do. I sat down and took breaths, put my head between my knees, so I wouldn’t pass out.”

That’s the problem.

With our Christianity, we are like a bunch of people using first aid on ourselves.

When there are hurting people all around us, we are seen or acting like we need to take several deep breaths, then finding any quiet, non-descript place to be alone, tucking our heads between our knees to keep ourselves from fainting.

If your intent is not to faint in public at the slightest possibility of sharing the Gospel, if you’re content to hang on to the gospel and not share it with anybody else, you probably don’t share the zealous missionary heart of the Apostle Paul.

19 with the power of signs and wonders, [and all of it] in the power of the Spirit. So [starting] from Jerusalem and as far away as [a]Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel [faithfully preaching the good news] of Christ [where it had not before been preached]. 20 Accordingly I set a goal to preach the gospel, not where Christ’s name was already known, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation; 21 but [instead I would act on this goal] as it is written [in Scripture],

“They who had no news of Him shall see,
And they who have not heard [of Him] shall understand.”
(Isaiah 52:15)

22 This [goal—my commitment to this principle] is the reason why I have often been prevented from coming to you [in Rome].

Did you notice the three locations there?

Jerusalem was the beginning point of the Christian church.

Then he said, “I preached the gospel all the way from Jerusalem to Illyricum.”

Now we would call that modern day Yugoslavia, all the way over to that part of Eastern Europe.

Then Paul says, “I’m probably going to come see you guys in Rome, but it’s only on my way to Spain.”

Had you looked at a map of the civilized world when Paul, in Corinth, wrote these words in about 56 or 57 A.D., you wouldn’t have found Spain on the map, because it was such an utter end-of-the-earth at that time.

In those days, they thought the earth was flat.

If you sailed much past Spain, you were going to drop off the end of the earth.

Paul says, “My heart’s desire is to go where Christ has never been preached, even if I have to go to the very ends of the earth.”

Fully Proclaiming the Gospel of Christ—Romans 15:17-19

“Therefore, I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done- by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So, from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.”

What a marvelous thing to be able to exclaim that everywhere you went you fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ without even one ounce of reservation.

What a great feeling to know that your life was given for the good news of Jesus, which has the power to save (Romans 1:16).

This was the theme and mission of Paul’s life.

He boldly taught Christ, faced all opposition to the message and ran the race set before him unto a glorious finish.

What is most amazing about this declaration is that Paul would not boast in anything except what the Lord Jesus accomplished through him.

His mission was to “go to the furthest reaches” to lead the Gentiles to Christ, he was the apostle set apart from his birth for this specific purpose (Romans 1:1).

Nowadays, that might be to go into an inner-city church for the first time to see and experience for yourself whether our prejudices and biases are reality based.

Everywhere, every culture where Paul went people came to the Lord because of the Living Word he taught, the demonstration of power that accompanied him.

The Holy Spirit verified by signs and wonders that he spoke on behalf of God.

Paul was the willing participant and the instrument God used to herald His amazing news to the world.

This is a critically important truth to understand; God confirms his Word by demonstration of power through the Holy Spirit.

Jesus established this truth throughout the gospels. When people cornered him asking if he was the Messiah,

he would answer them like this, I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me” (John 10:25).

He never answered them by his own testimony, because the works he did, did all of the testifying to exactly who he was (see John 5:36; John 10:38; Matthew 11:4; John 2:23; Matthew 13:17).

To answer them plainly would not have satisfied Jesus, because the works that Jesus did were the evidence and necessary credentials that he was indeed the Messiah promised and sent by God.

Every miracle, sign and wonder that Jesus preformed was a fulfillment of what the prophets had foretold about the promised Messiah.

They testify that he came on behalf of God.

Even in the Old Testament, the prophet of God demonstrated that he was God’s spokesperson by performing miracles. 

Consider Moses as an example; he told Pharaoh to let the children of Israel go and demonstrated his command with the plagues because of Pharaoh’s hardness of heart.

When Pharaoh finally let the Israelites go,

Moses parted the Red Sea,

he produced water from a rock, and

he led the Israelites through the desert following the pillar of fire and stood by while God fed them quail and manna for those many years.

This was the proof that Moses spoke on behalf of God alone, because the Lord alone verified His word by these signs and wonders.

Elijah the Prophet had similar experiences.

To prove that He was the prophet of the One and only true God, he challenged the prophets of Baal to a battle.

He drenched the alter in water and asked God to send fire down from heaven to consume the offering.

Immediately fire came down and burned up everything.

He also prayed that it would not rain, and it didn’t for over 3 years.

Then when he prayed again, the heavens opened up and poured down rain upon the earth.

This is the proof of the prophet, the words spoken were confirmed by miracles.

There are countless others who experienced the same verification; Joshua, Abraham, Elisha, Isaiah, Daniel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jonah, just to name a few.

This is a great reminder for today.

Paul experienced many people coming to the Lord by the gospel he preached and the work of the Holy Spirit present to confirm that the Word was true.

We too are ministers of the good news of Christ Jesus.

We should also expect confirmation by the Holy Spirit of the words we speak in preaching the good news of Christ. 

It is my hope at the end I will proudly boast of what has been accomplished by Jesus ALONE living through me.

I will always be ready to share the gospel with anyone who has an ear to hear, and I know that Holy Spirit will confirm the word spoken, because the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).

Apostle Paul’s Ambition to Preach the Gospel Where Christ Was Not Known.

“It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. Rather, as it is written: “Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.” This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you” (Romans 15:20-22)

Paul’s desire to share the gospel with people who previously had no knowledge of it, fueled three missionary journeys across the known world at that time.

Everywhere Paul, companions went they faced fiery, fierce, violent persecution because of the good news message of Christ as well as overwhelming response to it.

Paul acted upon the principal of what was written in Isaiah, 

“For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand” (Isaiah 52:15).

His desire was to share Christ where this message was previously unknown so this foundation would not be built upon anything thing else but grace.

Paul’s revelation of grace was unmatched by anyone.

He received it by direct revelation from Jesus (Galatians 1:11-12).

He understood the finer points of the Law because of his background as a Pharisee and Jesus showed him how each one was fulfilled and accomplished by His life, death and resurrection on the cross.

Paul understood the complete gospel and the grace of God toward mankind in the person of Jesus Christ, so naturally his desire was to reveal this knowledge to the rest of the world.

It is interesting to think how Paul alone was the apostle to the Gentile nation.

The Jews had the twelve’s apostles specifically set apart to share the good news of Christ with them and show them how he was their promised Messiah.

But Paul was the only one sent for the Gentiles.

He not only wrote most of the New Testament, but the details and accounts of his life and missionary journeys where incredible.

This is because Paul was able to share the good news of Christ Jesus to those who had no preconceived notions about who the Messiah would be.

Most of the time, they didn’t even recognize that one had been promised, let alone identify their need for a Savior.

When he shared the gospel in these areas, Paul didn’t have to combat doctrines or fight against the teachings and traditions of men.

He didn’t have to overcome inflexible ideology and tear down philosophy in order to build on a new foundation of Christ.

What is awesome is that he went to areas that had never heard of Jesus and was able to share the good news on his revelation of grace.

In this sense, the good news was too good to pass up and multitudes believed in Jesus and learned about this amazing grace under the apostle to the Gentiles.

This is an amazing truth, when we open our hearts to the Living Word of God without bringing in traditions, doctrines and preconceived ideas of what it means to follow Christ then we will also get such an indescribably powerful revelation of grace by the Holy Spirit, that our entire lives will be affected.

Not only ours, but those around us will be impacted as well.

So many times, in too many ways, our ‘religion’ gets in the way of relationship.

Search the Gospels, Jesus never spoke well of religion.

He told the disciples: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6)

He was speaking against the established system that was corrupt and enslaving the people by rules, regulations and traditions that were meaningless.

These teachings kept them from God and finding true reconciliation with him by faith.

This is why, like Paul, our faith should be built on a revelation of grace through Christ Jesus.

Grace is what combats our meaningless traditions so that our lives stem out of relationship with Christ instead of “our connectional obligation” to religion.

The grace and mercy of Jesus is the cornerstone that holds it all together.

It is a firm foundation that cannot be shaken or removed by persecution or opposition to this message.

I am so thankful for Paul’s revelation of grace and his desire to share this great news to everyone who had an ear to hear it.

I am so thankful he wrote this amazing book of Romans inspired by the Holy Spirit so that we can understand the grace that we were called into through Christ Jesus. And to share our faith and live this grace all the days of our lives.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Mighty God, your Word is living and active. Help me to listen carefully to your voice as you give me wisdom and guide me through life. Your word is a lamp for my feet. When I don’t know where I am going, help me to look to you for understanding and follow the path that you show me. You are a light shining in the darkness. When I don’t know which way to turn, shine the light of your love into every corner of my life. Bring clarity to my thoughts. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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My Duty and Covenant obligation to You is this: I do not want you to be unaware of God’s Words for Me and You unaware of God’s Words for You too. Romans 1:13-15

Romans 1:13-15Amplified Bible

13 I do not want you to be unaware, [a]brothers and sisters, that many times I have planned to come to you, (and have been prevented so far) so that I may have some fruit [of my labors] among you, even as I have among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I have a duty to perform and a debt to pay both to Greeks and to barbarians [the cultured and the uncultured], both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So, for my part, I am ready and eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

If you were to ask or have someone, ask, “For whom is God’s Word written?” someone will usually reply, “For quite literally everyone who has a birthday.”

But when you enter into those moments of “insufficiency,” ask a few more poignant questions and specifically dig deeper into the deeper issues which make you who you are, you probably begin to see an answer is not so simple.

Is the Bible written for people who say, act: “I could or could not care less?”

Is it written for people who cannot read Hebrew or Greek or Latin or English?

Is it written for the aware and the unaware, the agnostics or the atheists?

In this techno driven age, is it written just for people with or without a Wi-Fi, an internet connection, an IP address, social media, an email, a ‘smartphone’?

Is it written for those individuals who cannot unglue themselves from their smart phone screens or hopelessly, zealously lost in “intense” video games?

For example,

if I took all the letters I wrote to my wife while we were dating, and made them into a book, and then asked for whom it was written, what would the answer be?

Paul’s letter is for Greeks and non-Greeks, wise and foolish. rich and poor, the healthy and the unhealthy, the educated and the uneducated, believer or non.

But somewhere in that mix I too am included. God’s “letter” is for me too—not based on my gender, skin color, ethnicity, nationality or amount of wisdom.

It is for me, and you because God loves us and calls us to belong to him in Jesus.

Here’s what this means:

If I lean toward the foolish end,

God’s Word is for me.

If I am already wise and seasoned,

God’s Word is for me.

Why? Because God is not interested in simply teaching me theology.

God wants me to know him and hear him and love him.

That’s the whole point of the Gospel.

And that is why God’s letter through Paul to the Romans is for you.

God’s desire, as with any letter, is that you open it and read it

—and to do so more than just once or twice or a few times in your life.

Obligated to Proclaim

Romans 1:14-17New American Standard Bible

14 I am [a]under obligation both to Greeks and to the [b]uncultured, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed [c]from faith to faith; as it is written: “[d]But the righteous one will live by faith.”

These verses in Romans are a powerful introduction to this Book.

As Paul says, I am in absolute love the Gospel of my Savior.

As Paul says, I am in absolute love with my Savior Jesus Christ!

I’m not the least bit ashamed of it, this the “absolute greatest possible” good news Jesus Christ came for me, has died on the cross and risen from the grave.

I absolutely positively, love the Gospel.

I absolutely, positively, want to proclaim it boldly in the world around me.

But then he says right before that, “Not only do I want to; I have a duty to God! I’m under covenant obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both the wise and the foolish, the rich and the poor, the healthy and the unhealthy, to preach this gospel. That’s why I’m eager to preach to those of you who are in Rome.”

As a Pharisee, I’m sure Paul felt obligated to give instructions on how to live.

In fact, the Pharisees of his day were well known and thoroughly despised for preaching, teaching, heaping, a lot of extra obligations onto the Jewish Law.

So much so, the people were being “spiritually immobilized,” at a prolonged “spiritual standstill” and stood virtually little, no chance, of keeping the Law.

Even Rabbi Jesus commented on their behavior by saying, “You nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down” (Mark 7:13a).

This is why I find it so amazing that after only one encounter with Jesus, Paul exclaims, “I am obligated—to people—to everyone—to preach Jesus!

What a complete turnaround! Instead of insisting on rules and making the people miserable, Paul wanted everyone to know the person of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel of Jesus changed Saul from a zealous persecutor of the followers into Apostle Paul, from someone who had every reason to be confident in his righteous actions to someone who discounted it all for the sake of Christ.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote,

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith” (Philippians 3:7-9).

This is the power the gospel has in our lives.

It changes us from trying and coming up short to surrendering and gaining all.

On that Damascus Road, Jesus acted, changed Saul and renamed him Paul.

Understanding the gospel also transformed his passionate nature into a force in the early Church.

In the very same way, he zealously felt obligated to uphold the law, he was then obligated to preach about Christ to everyone, especially to those at the margins.

The beautiful thing is that we, too, can zealously let the gospel change us.

No matter where we start, the gospel has the power to transform us into new creations (2 Cor. 5:17). The rest of this letter is about this wonderful discovery.

These Verses from Romans Emphasizes our Need to Share the Gospel with all.

Zealously and Without Exception or Purpose of Evasion ……

Ownership of the Gospel creates a covenant obligation with the Gospel.

Acts 8:25-35New American Standard Bible

An Ethiopian Receives Christ

25 So, when they had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.

26 But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Get ready and go [a]south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” ([b]This is a desert road.) 27 So he got ready and went; and [c]there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of [d]Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and he was returning and sitting in his [e]chariot and was reading Isaiah the prophet. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this [f]chariot.” 30 Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this:

“He was led like a sheep to slaughter;
And like a lamb that is silent before its shearer,
So He does not open His mouth.
33 In humiliation His justice was taken away;
Who will [g]describe His [h]generation?
For His life is taken away from the earth.”

34 The eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself, or of someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.

We cannot pretend we do not have the Gospel.

We cannot pretend we have not heard it for ourselves.

We are under a duty and covenant obligation to preach and teach the Gospel to all the nations – Matthew 28:16-20, Acts 1:8

And then Paul gets later in the book. He says, “I’m eager to get this gospel to Spain,” but he says these words, “I am under obligation.” (Romans 15:22-25)

Apparently in Paul’s mind, ownership of the gospel creates an obligation with the gospel because he knows the gospel; because he knows the good news of God’s grace in Christ, he owes it to God to make it known to all other people.

And so, I do pray! I want to encourage each of us to ponder and meditate about making the “genuine” effort to faithfully fulfill this sacred duty and obligation in each of our lives, for the souls of the uncountable billions who haven’t heard.

Romans 10:14-15New American Standard Bible

14 How then are they to call on Him in whom they have not believed? How are they to believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? 15 But how are they to preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who [a]bring good news of good things!”

Now, we have the Gospel.

We have the good news of God’s grace in Christ.

We possess the Gospel.

It creates in us a duty, a holy and a sacred obligation unto God, with the Gospel, because we have knowledge of Christ, we owe knowledge about Christ to others.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

King of Kings, Lord of Lords, thank you that you are great and abundant in power, your understanding is beyond measure. In your wisdom, you have created the church, described as Christ’s body. May we work together as members of one body, using the gifts and abilities you have given us to faithfully love and serve one another. Would we find our strength from Jesus, the head of the body. May the Lord make us increase and abound in love for each other. May you establish our hearts as blameless in holiness before you. Through Jesus Christ, our Savior, Amen.

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Choose this Day What Riches You Will Pursue and Serve! Pray! Choose this Day Whose Righteousness You Will Pursue and Will Serve? Proverbs 11:1-11

What is the true meaning of righteousness?

morally right or justifiable

1: acting in accord with divine or moral law: free from guilt or sin. 2a: morally right or justifiable a righteous decision. b: arising from an outraged sense of justice or morality righteous indignation.

What is the spiritual meaning of righteousness?

Righteousness is the quality or state of being morally correct and justifiable.

It can be considered synonymous with “rightness” or being “upright”.

It can be found in Indian religions and Abrahamic traditions, among other religions, as a theological concept.

What are the principles of righteousness?

Righteousness is a composite of all that is good.

Righteousness embraces the principles of heavenly power and law by which all things of God are handled and controlled and governed.

In righteousness there is great simplicity. In every case that confronts us in life there is either a right way or a wrong way to proceed.

Who is a righteous person according to the Bible? (Psalm 1)

Bible says that a righteous person is someone who does not live in the counsel of the wicked and who leaves between his desires and God’s commands.

The one who drives himself to do good even when he does not feel like it, who will wait for justice rather than turning away from it- this man has integrity.

I continue my search of God’s Holy Scriptures so to compare and contrast, explore and also strive to understand: My Righteousness against My God’s.

Proverbs 11:1-11Authorized (King James) Version

11 A false balance is abomination to the Lord:
    but a just weight is his delight.

When pride cometh, then cometh shame:
    but with the lowly is wisdom.

The integrity of the upright shall guide them:
    but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them.

Riches profit not in the day of wrath:
    but righteousness delivereth from death.

The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way:
    but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness.

The righteousness of the upright shall deliver them:
    but transgressors shall be taken in their own naughtiness.

When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish:
    and the hope of unjust men perisheth.

The righteous is delivered out of trouble,
    and the wicked cometh in his stead.

An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour:
    but through knowledge shall the just be delivered.

10 When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth:
    and when the wicked perish, there is shouting.

11 By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted:
    but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Before standardized weights and measures, and a government department to enforce them, merchants were responsible for accurate scales and weights.

You bought and sold most of your commodities and foodstuffs by weight.

This was no small matter, as the integrity and prosperity of the nation’s economy depended on trustworthy transactions.

Business integrity is part of godliness.

God counts economic cheating or compromise to be an abomination.

This word means a combination of disgust and hatred, abhorrence, detestation, and loathing.

If you want to get ahead, then be careful in all your transactions, even making sure your motives are just and pure (Proverbs 11:3; 19:1; Proverbs 20:7,14),

and looking out with special care for widows, orphans, and the poor (Proverbs 23:10-11; 22:9). It is far better to be generous and liberal than to be cheap and stingy (Proverbs 11:24-27; Ecclesiastes 11:1-6; Isaiah 32:8).

The omniscient God, seeing and knowing all things, takes very close interest in the ounces and pounds, liters and pints, dollars and cents, of your daily life. Let every greedy and stingy thief beware! He does not watch from a distance

You will never get ahead cheating.

It is far better to pay and perform beyond expectations, than to cut corners or shortchange anyone.

Generosity is far superior to frugality.

It is a very small mind, motivated by a dead soul, which thinks cheating is how to get ahead (Proverbs 11:24-26; 28:8).

A large mind, directed by a loving and generous heart, is God’s delight. He will bless the righteous.

Godly men are perfectly honest.

They never take advantage of others.

They go beyond bare duty; they pay more than their share; they keep every term of a contract; they tip generously; they pay debts on time; they despise small thefts; they never lay out sick, when they are well; they disclose all problems with things they sell; they do not barter down a price, then call it a great deal; they communicate promptly and openly.

The Lord avenges any defrauding (1 Thessalonians 4:6; 1 Corinthians 6:8).

He measures every relationship and transaction with His holy and divine scales of perfect righteousness.

Have you been found wanting?

Your prayers will stop at the ceiling (Proverbs 15:29; Psalms 66:18);

He will blow against you (Proverbs 13:15; Psalms 34:16);

and you will never get ahead (Proverbs 13:11; 20:21; Jeremiah 17:11).

The Lord delights in honest men (Proverbs 12:22; Psalms 11:7; Luke 6:37-38).

What a glorious blessing indeed to have the Most-High God delighting in you for your daily integrity!

Watch every trade!

Owe no man anything! Be void of offence before God and men! Let the pure honesty and generosity of the Lord Jesus Christ be seen in your every action.

God is fair and right, and He expects you to be fair and right.

He is perfect, He hates cheating or compromise in your dealings; He loves honesty and integrity. He will ruin you professionally, if you cheat; but He will bless you abundantly, if you are just and fair. Solomon taught this lesson to his son more than once (Proverbs 16:11; 20:10,23).

Proverbs 11:2Authorized (King James) Version

When pride cometh, then cometh shame:
    but with the lowly is wisdom.

The proud hypocrite deceives himself into ignoring realities in the conduct of his life the meek and humble person quickly recognizes and takes into account.

The proud person’s vanity pushes him into conduct that will end in shame.

The humble person’s attitude stands in vivid contrast, for his wisdom prevents him from pursuing the same conduct.

This produces even more wisdom when good fruit is produced from good trees because it positively reinforces his right decision.

This pride seen in Proverbs 11:2 literally means “boiling up,” or we might say, “puffed up.”

https://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/pro/11/2/t_conc_639002

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h2087/kjv/wlc/0-1/

It can mean “to overstep the boundaries.”

The proud person has an inflated opinion of himself and/or his possessions, abilities, powers, and accomplishments.

This exists because pride has deceived him about his importance.

He is the center of the world! The day is coming soon when everyone’s proud ego will be deflated, and man’s haughty self-regard will be stripped away.

There is a safe way to live – obey the bible.

And there is a dangerous way to live – do what feels good and sounds good.

By committing to only obey the bible at all times, you will have clear direction for every situation, but they are not easy choices to make or to try to live by.

But living your life by your own feelings and choices will often lead you to confusion and difficulty, and it will certainly put you on a destructive path.

Now what is integrity?

It is the glorious character trait of always doing what is right, regardless of difficulties or consequences.

It is the upright who have integrity.

What is perverseness?

It is turning away from what is right to act contrary to law or nature.

It is transgressors, or sinners, who are perverse, for they choose to reject moral restrictions.

The upright always do what is right – they have integrity.

Their confusion in life is minimal, for they have chosen to follow what is right in every choice and dilemma.

They have a constant guide.

Transgressors do whatever they want – they are perverse.

They have no standards or parameters for their actions, and their perversity will surely lead them down a destructive path of moral and ethical confusion.

What is right?

Whatever the Bible says is right!

Anything to the contrary is perverse and wrong.

The Bible should be exalted on every subject, and all other opinions should be hated (Psalms 119:128).

Such a rule defines Bible Christianity.

It does not matter what a religious leader thinks, what is socially acceptable, what is traditional, or what will win you a promotion.

The wicked, perverse in their rejection of God’s word, are confused about the simplest matters and end up in destruction.

The rule of wisdom is to live by integrity – always obeying the bible – which gives a constant and continuous and decisively sound moral and ethical guide.

The blessed Lord Jesus Christ always did those things that pleased His Father.

He had perfect integrity and prudence in obeying the word of God and living a perfect life.

For those who confess Him with their whole hearts and believe on Him, He is the Source and Means of everlasting righteousness.

Proverbs 11:4Authorized (King James) Version

Riches profit not in the day of wrath:
    but righteousness delivereth from death.

If you asked most people if they would rather have riches or righteousness – most likely most would answer that they would like riches sprinkled with a pinch of God here another pinch of Jesus, there and a smidgeon of Holy Spirit.

That is due to two facts.

First, I believe it is related to the fact that mankind is lost and ignorant of their true position before God.

Second, I believe it is related to the fact that the rich man in the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man – has not yet had his message broadcast out to the world as he himself would have wanted it written by himself with his own pen, in his style.

Proverbs tells us that riches do not profit us in the day of wrath.

If riches are all that we have – we are seriously in trouble.

Note that we read here of the day of wrath.

This refers to the day that God releases His wrath on those who have rejected His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

That will be a sobering day indeed for the rich.

They have stored up their wealth when they should have used it for the glory of God and the advance of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

On that day, their riches will mean nothing. Honored on earth among men – riches are despised in heaven – unless they have been used for the glory of God.

Two men would love to testify to this fact. The first is the rich man who did nothing to alleviate the pain and suffering of a poor beggar named Lazarus.

Lazarus lay at the rich man’s gate; his only ministers were dogs that licked his sores. He longed to be fed with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.

He received nothing from him.

Both died and the rich man was cast into hell and Lazarus was taken into Abraham’s bosom.

– The rich man – suffering miserably – asked that someone be sent to tell his brothers of this place.

He knew that riches would not deliver him from hell – only righteousness would do.

The second man who would love to testify would be the rich farmer who thought he had it made because he had a bumper crop.

Faced with filled barns already, he wondered what to do with his bountiful harvest.

He decided to build bigger barns, fill them and then say to himself that he was set for life.

He trusted riches, not righteousness.

He lost.

The Lord called this man a fool and told him that he would die that night – and what would he do for his own soul.

Riches will not profit us in that day when we face the judgment of God.

Only righteousness will do.

Actually, only a certain kind of righteousness will do too.

That is the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

That alone will stand in that awful day.

Nothing else will matter except we’ve repented, turned in faith to Jesus Christ.

What He did on the cross will pay for our sins – what He did will allow us to be credited with a perfect righteousness, will cause us to be accepted before God.

Only what He did – only His righteousness will matter.

It will save us from death.

In light of this truth – what are you trusting in on the day of God’s wrath?

You may think it is not coming – that God is too nice to judge anyone.

The fact of Scripture is to the contrary.

God will judge – He will call us to an accounting – and He will accept only one thing on that day to make us acceptable in His sight.

Only the blood of Jesus to cleanse us of all unrighteousness. Only the blood will help us to escape the wrath of God. Now let me ask the question . . . On the day of God’s wrath what do you want to have – God’s riches or our own righteousness?

In Psalm 90, as Moses meditates on his own life’s shortness, he asks God,

“Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath (Psalm 90:11)?”

Death is the debt owed to God’s justice, not to nature.

Since God made man in His image, to be loved and to love, death is not “a part of life,” as materialists’ prattle, attempting to quiet their own fears. Because of sin, death unnaturally ends life, so that since sin entered the world, “It is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).”

When one stands before God as our appointed judge (Acts 17:31), riches which he or she has accumulated in their lifetimes will not help at all.

In this life, riches command respect, buy the best lawyers, and may even bribe the judge.

But in the day of wrath, riches will not sway the Judge, nor remove the sting of God’s wrath.

The only help in the day of wrath is righteousness.

If God is for us, then who will be against us (Romans 8:31)?

The second death will not hurt us, so the judgment presaged by the first death will not alarm the righteous, whose goodness will deliver them from death.

Here the proverb ends, but since “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)” and “there is none that does good, no, not one (Romans 3:10, Psalm 14:1),” the proverb provokes within us a deep and serious question.

How can anyone be righteous before God and survive His Wrath and Judgment?

Jewish animal sacrifices ended when Rome destroyed the Jerusalem Temple in 70 A.D., and wherever news about Jesus Christ has gone, animal sacrifices for believers and non-believers alike have ceased.

Nevertheless, the Bible assures us often that God will mercifully forgive sin, or how could anyone stand before Him (Psalm 130)?

Only by the death of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The news about Christ, proclaimed by the Church since the Day of Pentecost, announces the victory of the Son of David over sin and death.

As the Hebrew Scriptures prophesied, Jesus voluntarily died on a cross, the Lamb of God given for the sins of His People.

After three days, He rose to life again, appearing to many chosen witnesses.

His sacrifice on the cross bought us forgiveness for all who have repented and believe in Him. and also, they are imputed with righteousness, not ours, but Christ’s imputed righteousness was imparted as a free gift by faith alone.

This righteousness delivers from death on the day of wrath, when riches will be of no use.

Proverbs 11 Verse 5: “The righteousness of the perfect (the blameless) shall direct his way: but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness.”

The “perfect”—those who are morally upright—better translated “blameless,” will live by the standards of integrity and honesty.

A “blameless” person is one who is above reproach.

It does not mean that he must be sinless, but his life must be lived so nobly that there won’t be any loopholes for others to latch onto and criticize.

There are some irresponsible people who will accuse.

We might be unjustly blamed for wrong, but there must be nothing in our lives that could truthfully be used to bring minimal shame to the cause of Christ.

The “wicked” (those who have no respect for God and holy things) will fall beneath the load of their sins.

Proverbs 11 Verse 6: The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires.

One of the great principles of wisdom is the certain and sure consequences for both righteousness and wickedness.

Solomon repeated this rule many times to get the attention of his son and citizens. In this chapter alone, compare this proverb to others very similar in their wording, their lesson –Proverbs 11:3,4,5,7,8,10,12,19,20,21,23,27,28,31.

The repetition is not wasted.

Check your heart, dear reader.

Is there a tendency within us to think or believe Solomon’s proverbs like this one are boring or worse – irrelevant to our contemporary times and seasons?

Would you or I rather read and consider one about love, business, relationships, or wealth? Pray! Let’s be careful. The density and distribution of these proverbs are also by divine wisdom. The repetitions of the rule above are 100% necessary.

Love, business, relationships, and wealth will take care of themselves, if you live a wise life of righteousness.

Your heart is cold toward righteousness due to sin that is in your body.

And the devil himself suggests anything he can to distract you from learning and growing in righteousness.

Furthermore, the world only suggests and sells naughtiness; it never promotes righteousness. These foes conspire to destroy you. Solomon was not redundant.

An upright person does what is right, as defined by God, all the time, and with all the necessary and required zeal.

This is righteousness.

They are delivered or saved from the pain and trouble of sin, both in this world and in the next.

A transgressor is a person who breaks God’s laws, and he wallows and eventually drowns in the misery of their choice, in this world and the next.

Consider this world.

The upright man learns and applies the righteous laws of God to his life.

God and men favor him, and he is delivered from the delusions and dysfunction of others (Proverbs 3:1-4; Joshua 1:7-9; Psalms 1:1-6; Luke 2:52).

But the transgressor, blinded and deceived by his evil ways, falls into all sorts of avoidable trouble, for God, men, and natural laws are set together to crush him with its consequences (Proverbs 1:31; 8:36; 13:15).

Consider the next world.

The honorable and upright man, with good fruits of righteousness proving his regeneration and salvation, gains their entrance to heaven by God’s free grace in their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:2-4; 2 Peter 1:5-11).

But the unrepentant transgressor, wishing he had never been born, faces the dread sovereign Judge of the universe to be punished during an eternity in the lake of fire (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; Revelation 20:11-15; 21:8).

Learn to relate, learn to connect the dots in your life, where the dots are the choices and events of your life. If you rebel against Bible wisdom and foolishly follow the world, you will surely suffer painful and punishing results. If you fear God and live by the Bible, you’ll be certainly protected and blessed by the Lord.

Joseph made many wise choices regarding his father, brothers, Potiphar, Potiphar’s wife and Pharaoh.

There likely were sometimes that he wondered if his straightforward honorable righteous living was worth it when he was sold into slavery by his brothers, and even more so when he was thrown into prison because of Potiphar’s evil wife…

But if you connect the dots, where did they end for Joseph?

He was made ruler of Egypt and able to save and provide for his whole family.

Samson was a young man like Joseph, but he would not listen to his parents and marry a girl from Israel.

He wanted a Philistine girl instead.

He had several providential victories in his life by his great strength.

He may have thought God was turning a blind eye to his sexual sins.

But if you connect the dots, where did they end for Samson? He was betrayed by his last Philistine lover, had both eyes put out, and then he committed suicide.

You are placing dots on the map of your life today.

If you reject God’s wisdom and the instruction of authorities in your life, your future will most certainly be painful and decisively, directly, full of trouble.

But if you are upright and live righteously today, there is an expected end for you that will be your honorable righteous living and the blessings of our God.

When a wicked man dies, his expectation will perish, And the hope of the unjust perishes… Proverbs 11:7 NKJV

The true test of a man and his choices is how he dies.

More accurately it is what happens to him after he dies.

That is what this proverb addresses today.

When a wicked man dies – everything dies with him.

He has no expectations beyond this world.

During his life he lived for the things of this world – and now that he is dead – he has to face the fact that he lost everything at the moment he died.

You leave it all behind. The wicked man’s expectation was centered in this world. He bet his entire life that this was all that there is – that there is no afterlife. He figured that all he did will adequately speak for him on that day.

All that he can look forward to from that moment on is the wrath of God.

In the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus Abraham spoke to the rich man who was in torment in flame after death.

He reminded him that he received his good things in this life.

He rejected God – rejected serving God

– and rejected living for God rather than for his own selfish agenda.

He thought that God did not exist – that heaven was just a state of mind

– that judgment day was just a device used by Christian preaches to get people to walk down the aisle during an altar call at church.

He was radically wrong!

God is real – and He is holy and just.

The strong man and the complete weakling are identical before the throne of God. The strong man does not want to humble himself before the Lord. But no matter what he does – his hope and his expectation perish before the Lord.

Proverbs 11 Verse 8: The righteous person is rescued from trouble, and it falls on the wicked instead

Let the wicked suffer instead of you! God will save you from trouble and punish the wicked instead, if you live righteously. He makes a difference among men by protecting those who live godly lives and judging the wicked in their place.

There is a reward for a righteous man (Psalms 58:11).

Psalm 58:11Authorized (King James) Version

11 So that a man shall say,
Verily there is a reward for the righteous:
verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth.

God delivers him from trouble. When a righteous man is saved out of a calamity, God redirects the judgment, trouble against wicked men (Proverbs 24:15-16).

The Lord loves the righteous, He sacrifices the wicked for him (Proverbs 21:18).

What is the lesson?

God blesses and favors those who obey Him, and He judges and punishes those who do not.

If you are on the Lord’s side, He will bless you, but He will despise and destroy His enemies.

This is the God of the Bible, though most do not know Him.

The crucial point is that you are convicted to live a godly life for Him.

The Lord has not promised the righteous will not have troubles, but He has promised to deliver them from those troubles (Job 5:17-27; Psalms 34:4-7,17-19; 50:14-15; 66:12; 91:14-16).

You can see Jacob, Joseph, David, Job, Daniel, Paul, and others delivered out of trouble (Genesis 39:1-3; 48:15-16; 2 Sam 22:1; Job 42:10-17; Daniel 1:17-21; 2 Timothy 4:17).

Pharaoh and Egypt thought they could abuse the Israelites living in their nation.

He tried to kill their children; he overworked them without compensation; he mocked Moses and Moses’ God.

What happened?

God moved Israel to Canaan, ravaged the nation by a variety of plagues, killed Pharaoh’s firstborn son the firstborn in every Egyptian family, confiscated the nation’s wealth for Israel’s back pay, and drowned the army in the Red Sea.

Haman plotted in hatred to hang Mordecai on gallows he had built for the purpose, but God delivered Mordecai, and Haman was hung in his place (Esther 7:9-10).

Instead of Mordecai twitching with a snapped neck, it was Haman.

Understanding Christians have rejoiced with smiles at this reversal of fortune for centuries. But that was not all; before he got to hang, Haman was ordered to lead Mordecai through the streets of the city for special honor.

Wicked Medes in the government of Darius conspired and had Daniel thrown in a den of lions for his faith in God and daily prayers.

But they and their families ended up being ravaged and eaten by the same lions that the previous night had no interest in Daniel (Daniel 6:24).

This is redirected violence perfectly suitable for families of the wicked.

Nebuchadnezzar’s best soldiers were burned alive by the very flames they had prepared for Daniel’s three friends (Daniel 3:22).

They overheated their furnace for capital crimes, and it burned them to death while not even singeing the hair of the three. The Hebrew youth had purposed they would not participate in false religion, and God delivered them for it.

Sixteen Roman soldiers died instead of Peter by the Lord’s glorious deliverance of him from prison (Acts 12:18-19).

The angel of God woke Peter during the night and saved him from his planned execution the next day, but the foolish soldiers loyal to Rome died in his place.

The proverbs being placed before us are very true.

Are you and I one of the righteous?

The righteous are so precious in God’s affections that He will gladly sacrifice the wicked for them (Isaiah 43:3-4).

Israel was very sure they were doomed when trapped against the Red Sea by Pharaoh’s armies (Exodus 14:10-12), but the LORD delivered them gloriously through it and drowned Pharaoh’s army in it (Exodus 14:21-31).

Consider the celebratory song and dance of Israel in light of the fulfillment of this proverb (Exodus 15:1-21).

There is a reward for the righteous.

There is no need to fret because of the prosperity or the persecutions of the wicked.

They do not see their day coming, but the righteous do.

The Lord laughs about what He will do to the wicked (Psalms 2:1-12; 37:12-13),

and the righteous should laugh with Him (Psalms 52:1-7; 58:6-11).

Are you one of the righteous?

Proverbs 11:9Authorized (King James) Version

An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour:
    but through knowledge shall the just be delivered.

When words fly like daggers through the air you can be assured that you are dealing with a godless man.

The godless man is the one who destroys his neighbor with his mouth.

The term godless here refers to a man who is impious, filthy, and godless.

The root of this word speaks of how he turns away, wants nothing to do with God.

As a result, we see in Scripture where one who is like this is morally unclean (Job 13:16) and whose character lacks any of the positive aspects of godliness.

Consider the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

This man, this transgressor has none of these qualities.

We also read in Scripture that because of this the transgressor often clashes with and is in almost constant and continuous conflict with the righteous.

We read here that the righteous will be delivered through knowledge.

I believe this deliverance is two-fold.

First, we will be delivered from the godless who want to destroy us with their words.

Several times in the New Testament we are urged to let our behavior be such that when the wicked seek to destroy us with accusations and lies – our actions and lifestyle will be such that it will answer their lies.

The way we live consistently will be a rebuke to them.

We will not have to answer or come back with our own attacks, because those around us will laugh them to scorn.

They know us – and they will reject such attacks.

That deliverance comes through “knowledge.”

Knowledge means not just a head-knowledge, but one that truly results in discernment, insight, and wisdom.

We get such knowledge from God’s Word – and from a life spent seeking Him and walking with Him.

The second way I believe we will be delivered is that we will not be led into “the fight.”

When someone tries to destroy you with their mouth – the natural thing to experience is a strong desire to launch a counterattack.

They throw stones – we throw knives.

They shoot bullets – we drop bombs.

You can imagine where this all leads.

The righteous is delivered in part by “killing your opponent with kindness.”

Matthew 5:43-48Authorized (King James) Version

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

You do not respond in kind – you respond in kindness!

This changes everything.

They may continue to attack, and often will (sometimes kindness drives a person who is seeking to destroy you even crazier with anger).

But as those around us watch the proceedings – they see clearly the one who is acting godly – and the one who is spinning out of control.

In the end, we are delivered from our greatest foe – and that is not the one attacking us.

We are delivered from ourselves. Something deep within wants to rise up and take control – and by the way – that is our flesh.

Instead, we need to have Christ in us respond.

He will grant us power to respond with kindness and love – with mercy and forgiveness.

Know this – respond like this and two things will happen.

First, you will be delivered from your own worst aspects of your flesh.

Second, you will win in the end. Jesus was led like a lamb to the slaughter – and as a sheep before His shearers is silent – so He did not open His mouth.

That response, dear saints, won in the end.

It did at the cross – it most assuredly did when He walked out of His tomb!

And it will for everyone who embraces Him responding like that in their lives through His Holy Spirit now.

Proverbs 11:10Authorized (King James) Version

10 When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth:
    and when the wicked perish, there is shouting.

King Solomon’s astute political observations and wisdom reveal that cities and nations much prefer policies which benefits godly men more so than those than those which benefit wicked men.

Exceptions to this general rule do not matter.

Support for godly leaders and policies will cause joy, and when wicked leaders, policies, or men die, there is also good reason for celebration.

There are two ways to improve the spirit of a political entity or an organization.

Either favor the cause of righteousness by helping and protecting good men or punish the way of wickedness by exposing and destroying evil men.

Any person in authority must remember both rules to enact and enforce policies that help the righteous and hurt the wicked.

Should good people celebrate the destruction of the wicked?

Should they rejoice at the promotion of the righteous?

Yes, and yes!

The difference between righteous and wicked men is enormous, and even citizens with little nobility or religion can appreciate the difference.

But God’s people know the difference even better and celebrate accordingly.

A nation’s citizens appreciate a benevolent, faithful, and wise ruler; they mourn a foolish, oppressing, and selfish ruler (Proverbs 29:2).

Egypt rejoiced to have Joseph, and Babylon to have Daniel.

Shushan, the capital of Persia, mourned when wicked Haman was promoted, but they rejoiced when Mordecai replaced him (Esther 4:15; 8:15).

Israel celebrated their great blessings to have David and Solomon as kings (2 Samuel 6:14-19; 1 Kings 4:20-25).

When King Asa initiated a revival in Judah, many left their homes in Israel and moved to be under such a good king (2 Chronicles 15:8-19).

It was the same under good King Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 30:21-27).

Therefore, wise citizens will pray for their leaders, for in the prosperity of good rulers they will obtain their own blessing (Jeremiah 29:4-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-2).

Vengeance is the Lord’s; He will repay (Romans 12:19).

Both destruction, promotion come from the Lord (Psalm 75:6-7; Isaiah 13:6).

Those who fear the God of heaven know there are no accidents, coincidences, or acts of nature. They know He uses whirlwinds, hurricanes and tornadoes, and He uses waves, tsunamis and hurricane surges (Nahum 1:3).

When calamities and disasters strike the enemies of God, the people of God rejoice.

Israel danced at the Red Sea, when the bodies of Pharaoh and his army washed up on shore (Exodus 14:30-31; 15:1-21).

The psalmist wrote about the happy event of seeing Babylon’s children dashed against rocks (Psalms 137:8-9).

And the apostles and prophets of God also rejoice over the destruction of spiritual Babylon (Revelation 18:6,20).

Godly men make a difference between personal enemies and God’s enemies.

You have no right to rejoice when a personal enemy is in trouble (Proverbs 24:17-18; Job 31:29-30; Psalms 35:11-14).

Instead, you should pray for him and do what you can for him (Matthew 5:43-48; Romans 12:17-21).

You can only justify hating God’s enemies (Psalms 52:6-7; 139:22-23).

By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, But by the mouth of the wicked it is torn down. Proverbs 11:11

The upright and the wicked have a way of affecting the cities in which they live.

The upright are said to exalt a city by the way they speak.

They bless the city.

The word for bless means to bestow favor upon something or speak well of it.

What is interesting about this word is that its root form has the idea of kneeling and blessing.

What I see here is that the upright man doesn’t just speak blessings over his city – he primarily blesses it when he falls to his knees and prays for it.

The blessing here is when a city has many praying, godly men within it.

The wicked though, have no such blessing.

They only tear a city down with their actions and words.

It is telling what this passage calls these people. They are called, “the wicked.”

The term refers to the wicked – and one of the ways they are described it as the “criminally wicked.”

These men not only do not bless the city – they are violently taking from it – and promoting a criminal and lawless lifestyle.

No wonder that the city is torn down by their actions. Their actions promote people disobeying the law and living a selfish and self-centered lifestyle.

The Indescribable Richness and Genuine Value of Righteousness

Jeremiah 23:5-6Authorized (King James) Version

Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our righteousness.

It will always give a Christian the greatest calm, quiet, ease, and peace to think of the perfect righteousness of Christ.

How often are the saints of God downcast and sad!

I do not think they ought to be.

I do not think they would be if they could always see their perfection in Christ.

There are some who are always talking about corruption and the depravity of the heart and the innate evil of the soul. This is quite true, but why not risk it all and dare go a little bit further and remember that we are perfect in Christ Jesus.

It is no wonder that those who are dwelling upon their own corruption should wear such downcast looks; but surely if we call to mind “Christ Jesus, whom God made . . . our righteousness,” we shall be of good cheer.

What though distresses may afflict me, though Satan assault me, though there may be many distressing things to be experienced before I get to heaven,

those are done for me in the covenant of divine grace; there is nothing wanting in my Lord–Christ has done it all.

On the cross He said, “It is finished!” and if it be finished,

then am I complete in Him, can rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory,

“Not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” (Philippians 3:9)

You will not find on this side of heaven a holier people than those who receive into their hearts the doctrine of Christ’s righteousness.

When the believer says, “I live on Christ alone; I rest on Him solely for salvation; and I believe that, however unworthy, I am still saved in Jesus,”

then there rises up as a motive of gratitude this thought: “Shall I not live to Christ? Shall I not love Him and serve Him, seeing that I am saved by His merits?” “The love of Christ controls us,” “that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” 

If saved by Christs’ imputed righteousness, we shall greatly value imparted righteousness. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

King of Kings, Lord of Lords, thank you that you are great and abundant in power, your understanding is beyond measure. In your wisdom, you have created the church, described as Christ’s body. May we work together as members of one body, using the gifts and abilities you have given us to faithfully love and serve one another. Would we find our strength from Jesus, the head of the body. May the Lord make us increase and abound in love for each other. May you establish our hearts as blameless in holiness before you. Through Savior Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.

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We are all Intentionally Called by God! Intentionally Set Apart for Christ Jesus by our Water Baptism. Matthew 13:13-17

Matthew 3:13-17Amplified Bible

The Baptism of Jesus

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan [River], to be baptized by him. 14 But John tried to prevent Him [vigorously protesting], saying, “It is I who need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” 15 But Jesus replied to him, “Permit it just now; for this is the fitting way for us [a]to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John permitted [it and baptized] Him. 16 After Jesus was baptized, He came up immediately out of the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he (John) saw the [b]Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him (Jesus), 17 and behold, a [c]voice from heaven said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased and delighted!”

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Each Baptism brings a special Joy.

This morning, our Pastor is dedicating an infant

This morning at the Pentecostal Church of which my wife and I are members, is baptizing seven individuals by complete immersion – so it is going to be a truly joyous and an exceptionally special time of magnifying our Savior, Jesus Christ.

The dedication of an infant as Christ was dedicated at the Temple.

Seven people placing Jesus Christ into the direct center of their lives.

Oh, what a day of rejoicing and celebration it will certainly be for many.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit!

There are many days when I consider my own baptism and its deeper meaning.

It is a complicated subject for me because my faith upbringing is a complicated one – born into the Church of the Brethren and I believe baptized as an infant.

Converted to the Jewish faith when I was 8 years old – Mikvah at 9 years old.

Came back to the Methodist Church at 41 years old, “conditionally baptized” by the sprinkling of water over my head.

Now, a member of the Pentecostal Church which does not baptize infants and baptizes with full immersion as Jesus was in Matthew Chapter Three.

I have considered being baptized by immersion in the Pentecostal Church.

But I am not sure of the theology – One God! One Baptism is how I was taught.

I am not sure that being Baptized in the Pentecostal Church would not be taking God’s Grace for granted – as God said,

“Thou shalt not test me as you did at the Waters of Meribah ……” which cost Moses dearly – being able to look at the “promised land” FROM A DISTANCE! and NOT BEING ABLE TO ENTER IT!

So, I am in kind of a quandary – seeking scriptural guidance and my Pastors.

And today, with the joy of the Holy Spirit before me and 7 baptisms about to unfold before me today at worship …. I am pondering “my Baptism” again.

Untold thousands of churches around the world consider the story of Jesus’ baptism every year.

That helps people reflect on their own baptism.

Maybe you were baptized because of your own decision.

Or maybe your parents presented you for baptism.

What might change if we thought of baptism as the defining reality of our life?

What does the Bible teach about water baptism?

• Is it necessary for salvation?

• Who’s it for?

• Is it optional?

• How important is it?

• What does it mean?

• Is any mode of baptism, whether sprinkling, pouring or full immersion, acceptable?

I’ll seek to answer each of these questions today from our only authority—the Bible.

Let’s explore six truths about baptism, each beginning with an “I” to remember more easily.

I. FIRST, I WOULD LIKE TO EXPLORE – BAPTISM IS INSUFFICIENT

What I mean is that water baptism is insufficient to save you from sin.

Baptism does not impart to us any grace, merit, or goodness before a holy God.

It does not take away original sin.

Jesus was the perfect Son of God who never sinned, so He certainly did not need salvation from sin, but in our text, we see that He came to John to be baptized.

The Bible is very clear that the only way to be saved is by believing in Jesus for our salvation, not by anything WE do, even if it’s religious in nature.

There are only three verses in the Bible that SEEM to imply that baptism is necessary for salvation, but a closer examination of the context and the original language clears up every one of them, as any good commentary will do.

On the other hand, there are scores, if not hundreds, of Bible verses that teach in unequivocal terms salvation is obtained by faith in Jesus for your salvation.

If baptism were necessary for salvation, Jesus and these writers of Scripture would have been grossly negligent to say that we’re saved by believing in Jesus Christ for our salvation without mentioning the co-condition of baptism!

Add to this the fact that the thief on the cross simply BELIEVED in Jesus, but obviously had not been baptized—yet a dying Jesus assured him that by his believing on Him: “Today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43).

And what do we do with John 4:2, where John tells us that “…Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples.” or 1 Corinthians 1:17, where Paul says, “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel…”

– If baptism were a condition of salvation, is it even remotely conceivable that Jesus and Paul would have delegated this soul-saving responsibility to others?

—I do not believe it would be so.

Obviously, as important as baptism is, it is INSUFFICIENT to save.

II. SECOND, EXPLORING THAT BAPTISM IS ILLUSTRATIVE

In Romans 6:3-4, Paul says, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

In New Testament days, symbols were very important.

Christ instituted two ordinances for the church to follow, and both of them are extremely and visually rich symbols expressing the core truths of God’s Gospel.

1. One was communion, or the Lord’s Supper.

We are all familiar with the fact that the bread is symbolic of Jesus’ body that was given for us, and the juice symbolizes the blood Jesus shed for our sins.

That is indeed, a potent and a powerful visual picture, isn’t it?

2. From Romans 6, Paul teaches that baptism pictures the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, which Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:1-7 is what the Gospel is.

Now there’s only one mode of baptism that can symbolize death, burial and resurrection, and that’s immersion.

There are other reasons why we might come believe that only baptism by complete immersion is biblical water baptism:

1. First, the Greek word for baptize is ‘baptizō’ which literally means “to dip, submerge, plunge.”

Matthew 3:11 KJV …… 11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

https://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/mat/3/11/t_conc_932011

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It was the word used by cloth sellers for dying cloth and fabrics.

They would COMPLETELY SUBMERGE the fabric into the dye.

The command to be baptized was literally a command to be SUBMERGED.

2. Another line of evidence is that in many instances of baptism in the Gospels and Acts, we are told that they went “DOWN INTO” the water to be baptized or that they “CAME UP OUT OF” the water after baptism.

–We see that in our text, Matthew 3, in verse 16: “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water…”

–In the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8:38, Luke says, “And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.”

Question: Why go “down into” the water and have to “come out of” the water just to be sprinkled or poured on?

Wouldn’t it make more sense for the baptizer to get a bowl and enough water from the river and pour it over the head rather than having to go down into the water, dunk and get your clothes soaking wet just to be sprinkled or poured on?

3. Other evidence is the fact that the early church only practiced immersion, a fact admitted even by the Roman Catholic Church, Reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin and many additional prominent Anglican scholars …… —

Baptism by immersion ILLUSTRATES something—the death, burial and resurrection of our Savior for our sins.

III. THIRD, I WOULD LIKE TO EXPLORE THAT BAPTISM IS IDENTIFICATION

Historically baptism was how a person publicly IDENTIFIED himself with Christ and the core teachings of the Gospel.

Reverend Dr. M.R. DeHaan put it this way:

In the early days of the church…, baptism was a declaration that the believer was definitely identifying himself with that group of people who were called Christians and were despised and hated.

To be a Christian meant something. To identify yourself with those who were called Christians meant persecution, maybe death; it meant being ostracized from your family, shunned by friends.

And the one act, the final declaration of this identification was BAPTISM.

As long as a man gathered with Christians, he was tolerated, but when once he submitted to baptism, he declared to the world, I BELONG TO THIS DESPISED GROUP, and immediately he was persecuted, hated, and despised.

In baptism, therefore, the believer entered into the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ. A person might be a believer and keep it strictly a secret and thus they avoid unpleasantness and suffering, but once he submitted to public baptism, he had burned his bridges behind him. . .”

When we are baptized, we are publicly confessing our allegiance to Christ.

Jesus said, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32)

By identifying with Christ and God’s Gospel message of His death, burial and resurrection, we are, most decisively, publicly, taking our stand with Christ.

You and I are saying, “I belong to Christ and I’m signifying so with the symbol of baptism,” much the same way a person who wears their wedding ring does.

When I wear my wedding ring, I’m saying to everyone out there, “I belong to someone, and I am not in the very least bit ashamed to let everyone know it.”

The person being baptized is saying the same thing: He’s saying,

“I belong to Jesus Christ, and I am never ashamed to let everyone know it.”

IV. I WOULD LIKE TO EXPLORE THAT BAPTISM IS INTENTIONAL

Every instance is a person being baptized AFTER his salvation—choosing intentionally to obey Christ’s command of his own free will to be baptized.

Acts 16:28-31 Amplified

28 But Paul shouted, saying, “Do not hurt yourself, we are all here!” 29 Then the jailer called for torches and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, 30 and after he brought them out [of the inner prison], he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

The Jailer Converted

31 And they answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus [as your personal Savior and entrust yourself to Him] and you will be saved, you and your household [if they also believe].”

In this passage, the Philippian jailor asked Paul and Barnabas in verse 30, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul didn’t miss a beat and his answer was simple in verse 31: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”

Paul didn’t mean that if this jailor trusted in Christ, his whole household would be saved by proxy, but if he and his household would be saved, they must each [intentionally] believe on [that is, “rely on” or “trust in”] the Lord Jesus Christ.

Then verse 32 says, “And they spoke unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.”

Why would this be emphasized?

To show that the household heard the Gospel so, with intent, they could believe.

Verse 33 continues: “And he took them [with intent] the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.”

Nope—Luke lays the matter to rest once and for all in verse 34 where he says:

“And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.”

Did we get that? —He and all his house BELIEVED!

Lest you’re unsure that’s what Luke meant, the Greek scholar, A.T. Robertson, says this ……

“The whole household (family, warden, slaves) heard the word of the Lord, believed in the Lord Jesus Christ…and were baptized, and rejoiced.”

Baptism is for believers, and since he and everyone in his house BELIEVED, they were acceptable candidates for baptism.

V. FIFTH, I WOULD LIKE TO EXPLORE THAT BAPTISM IS IMITATION

Matthew 3:14-15 Amplified

14 But John tried to prevent Him [vigorously protesting], saying, “It is I who need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” 15 But Jesus replied to him, “Permit it just now; for this is the fitting way for us [a]to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John permitted [it and baptized] Him.

Our text tells us that Jesus was baptized.

He explained the reason in verse 15 – “…to fulfill all righteousness.”

By being baptized, we are doing something righteous because God has now commanded it.

Jesus wanted to set an example for us because He always did what was righteous.

In 1 Peter 2:21 Peter said, “For even hereunto were ye called…that ye should follow his steps.”

Jesus commanded all believers to be baptized in Matthew 28:19, and He was always obedient to the Father.

You should follow His example by obeying His command to be baptized.

VI. LASTLY, PLEASE NOTE THAT BAPTISM IS IMPORTANT

In verse 13 of our text, we read something significant, where Matthew says,

“Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.”

Mark’s Gospel tells us that the city in Galilee Jesus came from was Nazareth.

A quick look at a map shows that Jesus walked 60 miles ON FOOT to be baptized.

It must have been very important to Him, and it should likewise be for us.

Being baptized is important because we’re COMMANDED to be baptized.

JESUS commanded us to be baptized once we have believed.

Well, do we need any other reason than that?

It’s a serious thing to intentionally disobey the Lord’s commands.

The APOSTLES also commanded baptism.

In our modernized, “comfort zone Christianity,” believers tend to take God’s commandments too lightly, and that’s increasingly true of believers’ baptism.

But where Christianity shines brightest and strongest, the opposite is true.

As Chuck Colson points out in his book, The Body: Being Light in Darkness:

“Most Westerners take baptism for granted, but for many in the world the act requires immense courage. Countries like Nepal, it once meant imprisonment. For Soviet or Chinese or Eastern bloc believers, it was like putting their own signatures to their own death warrant.” (The Body: Being Light in Darkness by Charles Colson and Ellen Santilli Vaughn, 1992, Word Publishing, page 137.)

Folks, obeying the Lord in believer’s baptism is IMPORTANT!

Search the book of Acts—the history book of the first century church—and you’ll find one consistent pattern

—believers uniformly followed the Lord in believer’s baptism.

It was so important in the early church, that even those who had already been baptized under John the Baptist’s baptism were re-baptized in Jesus’ name to publicly declare their maximum allegiance to Jesus Christ and their maximum expression of their complete faith in His life, death, burial and resurrection.

It was so important in the book of Acts believers didn’t go through discipleship classes before submitting to baptism or wait to make sure they were “ready.”

Every instance of baptism in Acts was IMMEDIATELY after they believed in Christ for salvation.

If we have placed our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for our salvation and have the assurance that we are saved, we don’t need to understand fully its meaning, or wait till you feel worthy, or feel you have to prepare in some way.

If you and I have an obedient heart to your Lord, you and I will intentionally obey His command and to follow His example and be baptized without delay.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Dear heavenly Father, we give you thanks and praise that in your mercy you brought us to baptism, and there gave us Jesus’ holiness in exchange for our sin and impurity.  Thank you for our parents who brought us up in the faith and to our baptism, thank you for those other people whom you used to bring us the complete Gospel truth, and thank you for our pastors and teachers in the faith.

We pray for the baptized people of God, that we may hang on to the fullness of your promises in true faith, especially when we experience the wilderness of sin and the evil within, and temptations and trials from outside. I Pray, strengthen us with your Holy Spirit so that our Savior Jesus’ victory may be our victory. Alleluia! Amen!

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Believers are “Set Apart,” “Called and Sent and Commissioned” for Mission – A Challenged, Changing Church for our Changing and most Challenging Times. Acts 13:1-4

We are called. We are sent: Taking our Savior’s Gospel to the end of the world requires us to change as well as requiring the Church to change. God has given each of us has the opportunity to change and grow until our very last breath.

Every living thing must change to survive and fulfill its purpose.

Change is absolutely necessary to life.

If we choose or decide we are unwilling and we steadfastly refuse to change, what we do is we elect to live the balance of life in stagnation.

Many lives could be drastically improved if people would only embrace change.

To change, first there must absolutely be a change of heart, body, soul, mind, a change attitude, an acceptance of change of lifestyle and a change of direction.

The church at Jerusalem had begun a good work but were slow to embrace change.

Yes, they willingly sent representatives to Samaria and then to Antioch, but control was limited.

The church at Jerusalem was basically a Jewish congregation whose background limited their vision for expansion.

Yet the church with a vison for worldwide ministry, must embrace a broader vision.

The book of Acts can be divided into three areas: The ministry of the church at Jerusalem, the ministry of the Church at Samaria and Antioch, and the ministry of the church to the world.

In today’s devotional lesson, we see the early church in transition. This is the beginning of missionary ministry to spread of the gospel message around the known world. Paul now replaces Peter as the central figure in the book of Acts.

This lesson begins the first of the Apostle Paul’s three missionary journeys.

After delivering the famine relief money to the elders at Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch.

They took with them John Mark, a cousin of Barnabas.

The Church at Antioch now became the base of operation for Paul’s missionary ministry.

Jerusalem was still the mother church, but the missionary church was Antioch.

The Mother Church was basically Jewish, but the Missionary church was filled with men of diverse background.

Two things stand out about this diverse church.

First, they were people committed to the leading and working of the Holy Spirit, and secondly, they were Spirit gifted prophets, teachers who gave themselves to humility, prayer and fasting, seeking God’s will for the next move of the church.

These prophets and teachers disciplined themselves, were actively seeking out God’s will for their callings, Ministry plan, Missional direction for the Church.

What is the plan?

What is the next move?

Read Acts 13:2

While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul (Paul) for the work to which I have called them.”

The Holy Spirit of God was preparing people, getting people ready to take His Church and their calling their ministry and their mission unto the next level.

“Take it to the Next Level!”

Today that phrase has become a common expression.

What does it mean?

What does it require?

Do we have the right stuff to take ministry to the next level?

The church at Antioch was positioned to take the gospel to the next level.

Acts 1:8 Amplified Bible

But you will receive power and ability when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be My witnesses [to tell people about Me] both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth.”

In the book of Acts, Chapters 1-7 deals with the gospel in the city of Jerusalem.

Chapters 8-12 Learning whom God has “Set Apart,” “Called and will be Sent.”

Being introduced to who the “major players” of the early church, tasked with the Mission and Ministry, taking and proclaiming and teaching the Gospel of our Savior Jesus Christ “into, unto the whole world”- into Judea and Samaria.

Chapter 13 marks the beginning of Mission and Ministry taking the gospel unto the utmost part of the world, the whole earth.

Chapter 13 marks a clear change in the direction of the church.

They had one Message – the unchanging truth of the Word of God.

The church at Antioch were willing to take that unchanging truth into the “known world,” to communicate change, embrace Christ, embrace change.

Many of us realize that change inevitable.

Growing and maturing things must inevitably embrace change.

The Church must embrace change to survive and fulfill their purpose.

Embracing Christ, embracing change is necessary for the life of the church.

If the church is unwilling to embrace their Savior Jesus Christ, embrace change, she elects to embrace the world, live the balance of her existence in stagnation.

Many Churches could drastically improve their outreach, if only they would embrace their Savior Jesus Christ and embrace the change, He gave His life for.

Embracing real change means really embracing a change of mind, a change of attitude, a change of style and sometimes even their environment or location.

The early church at Jerusalem had begun a good work, it would always be the foundation, they were embracing their Savior and God was now on the move.

Now once again, the church must embrace change because God is on the move.

Remember unchanging, relentless God is always and forever is on the move.

God still on mission and His church still has a mandate.

In the early days of Christianity, Jerusalem was the center of operations.

But now God is moving his center of operations to Antioch.

Why would God move the headquarters, his center of operations?

Many historians and Bible scholars say that the Church at Jerusalem were narrow and restrictive in its focus.

They were unsure about the limitations of the gospel message.

They were perhaps too reluctant to move too fast because they were unsure of what it meant, how mightily it would genuinely impact their personal futures.

God simply moved on. God always moves on when a church loses its missions mindedness and compassion for souls.

Many today have lost their mission mindedness, thinking only of themselves, pursuing self-gratification.

Many “pew warmers” fail to realize that the fulfilment they seek, the joy they hunger for is found is found beyond the dust in their pews, in obeying the call of Holy Spirit, giving instead of receiving. That’s another lesson for another time.

Antioch was a newly formed nimble church, so God choose to use it as the launching pad to take ministry to the next level!

Throughout history, God’s mission has been to take the Gospel message to the whole world that all could be saved.

The book of Acts reveals God’s pattern for advances His mission and expanding His Church.

God had “set apart” and chose to use these men – Paul, Barnabas, Mark, Peter.

God began at Jerusalem with a small group of men, but they became narrow in their focus and God moved on.

Then a fresh move of God began at Antioch with a small group of multicultural, multiracial, multiethnic men, “Set Apart” “Called and Sent” to be His servants.

God selected men who accepted the call and embraced His mission.

There are several things that positioned the Church for missionary ministry.

First, they were called out by God.

Not every believer, follower in the church at Antioch would or could be used for this special kingdom Expansion.

Acts 13:2Amplified Bible

While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul (Paul) for the work to which I have called them.”

God selected Barnabas, a Levite from the island of Cyprus, cousin to John Mark.

The name Barnabas means “son of Consolation” or “son of exhortation.”

When we first learn of him, Barnabas had moved to Jerusalem, and acquired property there.

He sold “a field,” and contributed its price to the support of the poorer members of the church at Jerusalem.

His unique gifts would be extremely valuable in carrying gospel to unknown regions of the world.

Then God selected Rabbi Saul, a brilliant scholar and Pharisee fully devoted to God, maximumly zealous for the Word of God, for God’s full, complete truth.

On the Damascus Road, the Resurrected Jesus Himself touched Saul’s eyes.

Completely blinded and helpless, Saul rested, fasted and prayed for three days.

Jesus himself called and sent his servant Ananias to Saul/Paul, to touch his eyes and release him from his sudden condition of blindness. (Acts 9:10-17)

10 Now in Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called [a]Straight, and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul; for he is praying  [there], 12 and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come in and place his hands on him, so that he may regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many people about this man, especially how much suffering and evil he has brought on Your saints (God’s people) at Jerusalem; 14 and here [in Damascus] he has authority from the high priests to put in chains all who call on Your name [confessing You as Savior].” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is a [deliberately] chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; 16 for I will make clear to him how much he must suffer and endure for My name’s sake.” 17 So Ananias left and entered the house, and he laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came [to Damascus], has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit [in order to proclaim Christ to both Jews and Gentiles].”

Saul became Paul the apostle to the Gentiles who speaks several languages.

Acts 9:18-25 Amplified

18 Immediately something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized; 19 and he took some food and was strengthened.

Saul Begins to Preach Christ

For several days [afterward] Saul remained with the disciples who were at Damascus. 20 And immediately he began proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “This Man is the Son of God [the promised Messiah]!” 21 All those who heard him continued to be amazed and said, “Is this not the man who in Jerusalem attacked those who called on this name [of Jesus], and had come here [to Damascus] for the express purpose of bringing them bound [with chains] before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased in strength more and more, and continued to perplex the Jews who lived in Damascus by examining [theological evidence]  and proving [with Scripture] that this Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed).

Paul was a visionary Christian statesman and strong evangelist with the shepherd heart.

Paul grew up as a prominent citizen of Tarsus.

The city of Tarsus surpassed all other universities, such as Alexandria and Athens, in the study of philosophy and educational literature.

Paul was a well-educated, free born Jew with an expanded world view.

God selected, “Set Apart,” these two men for this special assignment.

In our zeal to share the gospel, we will sometimes seriously underestimate the importance of the call of God upon our lives.

God had uniquely gifted Barnabas and Paul for the beginning phrase of this ministry expansion.

They were uniquely gifted with the right educational background, linguistics skills, openness with a consuming desire, physical strength and the spiritual sensitivity necessary for this critically essential, vitally important assignment.

I believe all the men in the church at Antioch were gifted, but not all were chosen for this special assignment.

Not all believers can do effective street ministry.

Not all ministers can plant new churches and new faith communities.

As the saying goes,

“If God guides, He will provide.

If it’s God’s choice, it’s God invoice.

If it’s God’s will, then its Gods bill.”

The church at Antioch prayed and fasted, and then God selected Barnabas and Paul for the new expansion of the growing and maturing church.

A side note, John Mark, who was a cousin to Barnabas chose to accompany them on their journey soon became homesick and turn back.

Not everyone can be used in the pioneering stage of laying the groundwork for new ministry.

God must select them.

To be commissioned, often “seasoned” for ministry and missions,

we must be prayerfully open to the timing of the Holy Spirit.

1. These Believers Were Prayerfully Open.

The Believers at Antioch was open to God. They were opened to one another, and they were opened to Change.

This church did not follow the exact pattern of the Church at Jerusalem.

They used a leadership team of prophets and teachers to guide the church.

They all expected to hear from God.

They understood and appreciated their Jewish background but did not allow it to hinder the flow of the Spirit.

They were opened to one another, appreciating the gifts and abilities of one another.

Even though they were enjoying the fellowship, they were opened to the Holy Spirit.

If we are going to be commissioned for ministry, we must be prayerfully open.

If we are going to be commissioned for mission, we must be prayerfully open.

Acts 13:1, 2a Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said….

Isaiah 43:18, 19 Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

This church was willing to embrace God was definitely doing something new.

There are still some new things in God.

God has new styles, new approaches, new songs, and even new dances.

God never changes, compromises his standards, but his methods often change.

Message and the mission are the same, but the methods always changed.

Transportation is still transportation, but the methods of transportation has changed.

Church is still the church, but its methods of reaching the masses have changed and will always and must continually and must continuously change.

If we are going to be “called and sent,” “set apart,” used today (2022), we must embrace new effective methods of spreading the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today, the church uses simple and complex websites, social media, podcast, radio, television, books, tapes and CDs, DVD’s a monthly, quarterly newsletter, giant screens, multi-media, power point and a host of other techno things.

Ministers are using every available means to spread the gospel.

I believed Jesus would be using everything at his disposal, so did Paul and Peter.

The Church at Antioch was open to new things.

The church must remember to gather to glean and then scatter to sow.

There is a time to gathering to learn and grow.

However, there must also be a time to scatter and sow.

There must also be a time of harvesting what was sowed and for gleaning.

The church at Antioch was open to God and it was also open to one another.

2. These Believers Recognized God’s Voice, Embraced the Door of Opportunity

Acts 13:2 “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.”

The Church at Antioch was able to recognize God’s voice and embrace this new door of opportunity.

They did not see their church as an end.

Their church was a means to an end.

God was calling leading members of their church to enter new harvest fields of kingdom enterprise.

It would be a ministerial opportunity and missionary journey fraught with great risks, with little creature comfort, long days, long walks, sleepless nights, much opposition, relentless persecution, and threats of great suffering – even death.

It was an assignment full of possibilities.

Barnabas and Paul saw it as a great door of opportunity.

1Corinthians 16:9 Paul describes his work, “For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.”

Paul recognized it as “a great door for effective work.”

We too must be prayerfully open to see the wonderful doors of opportunity in our generation.

This commission would take these believers to many major cities and regions like Corinth, Ephesus, and Macedonia.

God working with them confirming his word with signs and wonders.

These were areas where few Christians would venture.

Some cities were major financial and commercial center, rich and cultured.

These cities were full of idolatry, wonders of the ancient world filled with immorality, polytheism and legalized prostitution.

Yet Paul saw these cities with thousands of lost souls as opportunities for the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The difference between a pessimist and an optimist is that a pessimist sees a problem in every opportunity…an optimist sees opportunity in every problem.

God provides gifted ministers and wonderful ministry opportunities that lives can be touched with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Each believer must catch the vision of reaching the lost in their personal world, seize the opportunities by sharing the gospel with other as the Holy Spirit leads.

Are you and I ready to do our part in this kingdom of God enterprise?

I pray you and I will embrace Christ’s voice and embrace our opportunities.

3. These Believers Accepted the Challenge as Their Life’s Obligation.

Acts 13:3Amplified Bible

Then after fasting and praying, they laid their hands on them [in approval and dedication] and sent them away [on their first journey].

The believers at Antioch embraced this new call of God as their life obligation.

Barnabas and Paul became spiritual debtors.

When the church had prayed for them and laid hands on them, they release them to the work of ministry and mission.

Barnabas and Paul accepted their new assignment as a divine obligation to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.

I wonder if believers today feel an obligation to take the gospel to the world?

Or do most believers step back and decide to leave it to the ordained clergy?

It is wise here to carefully note there was no ordained clergy in the church at Antioch, just prayerful believers who took the great commission seriously.

Every believer has a vital part to play in carrying the gospel to all the world.

If you cannot go, at least assist in sending some faithful evangelist.

These believers accepted their ministry and mission as their life’s obligation.

Each and every believer has been uniquely gifted by the Holy Spirit to fulfill their respective roles in the kingdom.

I cannot do your part of the work for you, and you cannot do my part of the work for me.

We are all “set apart” “called and sent and commissioned” to do God’s work.

Paul didn’t say here that “a great door” had opened for Barnabas and Timothy.

Paul said, “a great door has been open unto me.”

He felt the obligation.

He was obligated to God, to the church that sent him and unto the lost people everywhere.

Paul embraced the mission and did the work. God is still opening doors, but it is our responsibility to go through them.

Do we really care what happens to the unsaved people around us?

Barnabas and Paul embraced the challenge by declaring, “Yes, we care and yes we can!”

The church at Antioch was positioned, was “set apart” “called and sent and commissioned” for missionary ministry because they were prayerfully open: open to God, Savior Jesus, the Spirit, open to change, and open to one another.

The church was positioned for ministry because they recognized the voice of God and His door of opportunity.

The need was great, the crowds were massive, and the laborers were few.

This church answered the call.

They embraced the mission and accepted the challenge as an obligation.

Each person accepted their assignment as an obligation. Paul felt himself a debtor to Christ for all the grace he had received. Regardless of the opposition, Paul was willing to press on. He was willing to face opposition if necessary.

Romans 1:14-17Amplified Bible

14 I have a duty to perform and a debt to pay both to Greeks and to barbarians [the cultured and the uncultured], both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So, for my part, I am ready and eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome.

16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation [from His wrath and punishment] to everyone who believes [in Christ as Savior], to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed, both springing from faith and leading to faith [disclosed in a way that awakens more faith]. As it is written and forever remains written, “The just and upright shall live by faith.”

4. These Believers Faced the Problems but Saw Possibility in Every Problem.

They move in faith, willingly faced every problem because they could see the possibility.

Whenever God moves, there are always people who want to oppose Him.

Some oppose the work of God without realizing what they are doing.

Others knowingly oppose the word of God and good.

The first problem, Barnabas and Paul was Elymas, a sorcerer who withstood the faith and the Message of the gospel.

Later, at Ephesus, it was open opposition from the worshippers of Diana and businessmen who made their living by selling idols of Diana.

Opposition will always come from outside forces that resist the advancement of Christ and His Kingdom message.

Then came opposition from within the movement.

Immature Christians who will oppose other Christians because of the lack of knowledge.

Paul and Barnabas were opposed by Jewish Christians who should have been glad to see the spread of this new movement.

God was working among the Gentiles was a concept that many Christian Jews could not receive.

Barnabas and Paul pressed on because the saw the possibility in every problem and in every sin darkened soul when Savior Christ was added to their kingdom.

But perhaps the worst opponents of the gospel today, we face is not persecution from our enemies from without or within,

but its nominal Christians who hear the messages, understand the mission, see lost people, but do nothing, “waiting for all those others” to make a difference.

Those who never ask themselves, “What am I doing to make a real difference in our church, our community, our work, our school?”

Am I really a soldier of the cross? Maybe it is time to Re-Think our assignment.

Those commissioned for the mission are:

Christians prayerfully open to God,

Christians prayerfully open to change,

Christians who are prayerfully open to one another;

Christians, who are recognizing the voice of God,

Christians who are recognizing His door of opportunity is always open,

Christians who always see the need, value people and will seize the moment.

Christians who are positioned for ministry will embraced the opportunity and accept the challenge as an obligation.

Finally, Christian believers must expect opposition and be willing to labor and work and press on towards the upward goal of Christ, despite the opposition.

All kinds of doors will always be open before sincere Christians.

Christians must be disciplined, must prayerfully consider every opportunity.

Some are just distractions.

Others are good ideas masquerading as God ideas designed to consume precious resources.

There will be always and forever be opponents, from within and without, but Christians should neither meditate nor ponder on the problem, they must seize the opportunities within the problem, embrace the greater truth of their Savior.

Christian must choose to be a part of the solution, not the problem.

I choose to do my part!

I choose to be open to the Holy Spirit and to other Christians;

I seek to hear God’s voice and recognize His doors of opportunity:

I choose to embrace that opportunity as a divine obligation;

and I choose to do my part in the Kingdom of God even in the face of opposition.

1 Corinthians 15:58Amplified Bible

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord [always doing your best and doing more than is needed], being continually aware that your labor [even to the point of exhaustion] in the Lord is not futile nor wasted [it is never without purpose].

As born-again, baptized believers we are “set apart.” by God.

As born-again baptized believers we are “called and sent” by God.

As born-again baptized believers we are commissioned for ministry.

As born-again baptized believers we are commissioned for missions.

Amen?

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

All-Knowing God, thank you that you are our shield and strength. Your word says that you will bless your church abundantly. Please protect our church leaders, both ordained and laity, from attack and fill them with fresh vision as they labor to shepherd your people. Strengthen their spirit and restore their souls through the work of your Holy Spirit. May they find rest in your loving care.  May the love of the Father, the tenderness of the Son, and the presence and intercession of the Holy Spirit, quicken, gladden our hearts and bring peace unto our souls, today and for all days. Through Jesus Christ, our Savior, Gloria! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

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