The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Church as Mission Field


“. . . the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, . . .” – Ephesians 4:12

 

On the rear exit way leading out of our church is a sign that reads “You are now entering the mission field.” Having thought about this, I believe the same sign should be placed on the outside for those entering the church. The Church is a mission field. I believe this is true of all churches.

Church is not only a place where we come to be fed and spiritually equipped. It is a place where the saints are equipped so they can do works of ministry in their everyday lives. But that is really only a part of what church is all about. Those who come to church only looking to receive will get only half of what God offers them. Church should be a place where we come to receive, but it should also be a place where we come to give.

The Body of Christ is composed of many different parts. And those interconnected parts are the instruments Jesus uses to minister to His flock. When we come to church we should come not only with a mindset to feed ourselves spiritually, we should come with a mission mindset looking for how God might want to use us while we are at church. Church is a mission field. It is a place where hurting people come and God might just want to use you to bring healing and comfort to those hurting. People who come with problems that need solving or questions that need answering, or simply with life issues, these people can be ministered to by the members in the local church body. This makes the church run more efficiently. The Church is built on the One Man Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:11). But there is no other man or individual upon which the Church universally or locally should rely. Paul was inspired to point to the church and say, “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (1 Corinthians 12:27). And like a physical body we are to work together to function properly as God intended. There are times when you might be one of those in need. There are other times when you might be the one helping someone in need. The Lord comforts us so that we can later be used by Him to comfort others (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Jesus has provided His church with ministry gifts such as apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teachers (Ephesians 4:11). These are given to those entrusted with overseeing the church and equipping saints to do ministry (Ephesians 4:12). But there are also a host of spiritual gifts that are distributed by the Holy Spirit to all born again believers in order that they might serve purposefully those they come into contact with either in or outside of the church, wherever the mission opportunity presents itself.  (For the types of spiritual gifts distributed by the Holy Spirit see Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12-14).

When we look at the seven churches of Revelation we see that Jesus finds issues that need attending to in five of the seven churches. Two of the churches receive no criticism from Him. But all of these representative churches are part of a Christ’s mission field. There are needs in all of them. There are needs all around us. We need to be open to the Spirit for His empowerment as well as to how and where He might want to use us. Spiritual growth comes through service; through applying in real life what we learn from the Lord in His word. There are opportunities for such service both in and outside of the church. The world is a mission field, but so is the church.  

Jesus expressed that one of His main purposes for the Church was to bring a unity to His followers that would be representative of the unity He experienced in the Triune Godhead (John 17:20-23). It glorifies God when people come together who are steadfastly devoted to the Bible, fellowship, worship and prayer (Acts 2:42-47). God is glorified by the unity of those who hold to "the foundation of the apostles and prophets” with "Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone" and where the Holy Spirit dwells (Ephesians 2:19-22; 4:4-6; Philippians 2:1-2).

The Bible reveals that in the Last Days there will be a one world religion. This religion of unity is referred to as Mystery Babylon and has its roots at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11). This false religious system will ultimately be brought down by God (cf. Revelation 17). The Mystery Babylon “church” system is not glorifying to God but opposes God with all deception and rebellion against Him and His word. This false unity is on the rise today. There is an attempt by the enemy today to absorb the true Church into this Babylonian “whore” of a church. It is a “Church” that is unfaithful to the truth of God and in fact is a cheap substitute for the real Bride of Christ. “Unity” is good, but not at the expense of God’s truth.  This threat to the Church of God is a big part of what makes the Church a mission field.

 

Jesus acknowledged diversity in ministry (Mark 9:38-41). He initially came to give the gospel to Israel but thank God He also spoke of opening the gospel to the diversity of the Gentile world! (John 10:16). When people of different races, nations, actual biological genders, financial means, intellectual capacities, cultural backgrounds, and spiritual gifting come together in Christ, it glorifies God. When people who worship God differently come together it glorifies God. Whenever people who agree in the essentials of the faith but differ in nonessentials of the faith come together, it glorifies God.

Diversity in the body of Christ is good. We can all learn from those who are different from us. And diversity is necessary to make us whole. God Himself is diverse in that He is One God in Three persons. My wife and I are different in many ways. She is a woman. I am a man. She is practical. I am not always practical. I am big and strong. She is delicate and soft. She sees things I do not always see. I see things she does not always see. Separately we might be vulnerable. Together we are strong and watch each other’s back. The same is true of the church.

When churches unite regardless of denomination, location, or mode of worship, it glorifies God.  This is a big part of our Church mission. People in the church are different in many ways but our differences make us stronger. Our differences make us more versatile, perceptive, sensitive to the needs of the lost and empathetic. Our differences enable us to watch each other’s back. Such diversity does not only glorify God; it is the will of God.

But, having said that, part of the mission of the Church is to remain pure. The ambition of Jesus is to wash His Bride the Church with His word, “that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:26-27).  Division based on prejudice, ignorance and a lack of love is sinful and never glorifies God. Division characterized by backbiting and gossip in the church is sinful and does not glorify God. Our mission in the church should be to eliminate such sinful practices.

We see in the Bible that God glorified Himself when His people separated from Egypt (Exodus 4-14). And when God’s people were about to enter the Promised Land He warned them through Moses to remain separate from the pagan peoples, false prophets and their false teaching (Deuteronomy 7; 13 and 18). God tells us to watch out for those who cause division because of doctrinal deception and false teaching and that we are to "keep away from them" (Romans 16:17; cf. also Jude). It is not doctrine or the teaching of God’s word that we are to keep away from; we are to unite in the truth of God’s word. We are to stay away from those who teach false doctrine. That is part of our mission in the Church. Whether a person or group holds to the teaching of God’s word determines whether they belong to God and so this is eternally important and therefore worth dividing over (2 John 9).

What makes this issue of division a bit more complicated is the mindset expressed by the Arabian quote the enemy of my enemy is my friend. There are certain circumstances and situations in life where we are tempted to join with those who we had previously opposed to unite in confronting a common foe. Is it ever right to unite with a secular group or religious group who has unscriptural or Christ denying ways? There are many diverse groups that oppose abortion, immorality, and what we would call sin. We see this in political circles. One of the accepted mottos of such circles is “Politics makes strange bedfellows.” There is a labyrinth of deception and twisted alliances in the political world. That is because the objective is, for the most part, to attain and maintain power, not bring glory to God. In this realm of politics and elsewhere, uniting with those who believe differently than God says in His word is permissible if and only if you can maintain your scriptural Christian identity. But don’t allow yourself to be manipulated into a situation where you compromise the truth of God’s word. Our mission here is to proceed with caution and never go beyond the parameters of Gods’ word.

If uniting means approving of or condoning sin or scriptural heresy and falsehood, of even giving such a compromising appearance, then it would be better to fight whatever cause it is separately. God put Joseph in a position that was second in command to Pharaoh of pagan Egypt to save the messianic line (Genesis 37-50). God used the pagan Persian King Artaxerxes to help Nehemiah rebuild the walls of the holy city of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1-2). God can use the unsaved for His purposes. It is by infiltration of rather than isolation from such groups that we can be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). In such situations we serve as a restraining force against evil (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7). This can be an effective part of mission strategy.

But the Bible also says we are to "come out" and not be "unequally yoked with" unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6). We are not to be united with unbelievers in a way that disregards the holy difference of God’s people. The Church should never become so associated with and sensitive to “Seekers” that it forfeits its identity as the Church. The trend of our day in the Church is to be so trendy, relaxed, informal, modern, worldly and comfortable that the lost will mosey on in. The problem with such thinking is that it fails to recognize that the true Gospel, which includes the cross of Christ, is by nature offensive to sinful people (cf. Galatians 5:11). And to such perversion of Church mission we should say with Paul, “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).

Unity with globalist groups, eclectic ecumenical religious groups that sacrifice truth for unity, racist organizations, or other entities that we are warned about in scripture, for say, political reasons, would not glorify God. Dividing from them would glorify God. An ecumenical worship service where Christians unite with Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and other religions where the message being sent is “All religions are basically the same; all roads lead to heaven” would be inappropriate. All of these groups define "God" in unscriptural and even blasphemous ways not to mention conflict with the truth of God’s word.

Would it glorify God to unite with churches that ordain homosexuals or who perform same sex marriages or who approve of abortion, even partial birth abortion? Not if it meant condoning such sin and compromising God’s truth. In seeking to fulfill our mission we should not play fast and loose with who we align with in causes. We should never pooh-pooh challenges to God’s truth. Our trust is to be in God not worldly alliances. In our preparations for battle, we should never forget that deliverance is of the LORD (Proverbs 21:31). We don’t want to forfeit God’s vital involvement because of unholy alliances. We should seek to be involved in things that God can put His signature upon. Our confidence needs to come from our relationship with God. “For the LORD your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you” (Deuteronomy 20:4). “Salvation belongs to the LORD. Your blessing is upon Your people” (Psalm 3:8). Our mission should involve seeking His blessing. Then there is victory and most importantly, then God is glorified.

The mission to the Church and through the Church is a holy mission. We aren’t to fight like the world fights. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). There are a lot of high proud things and ways in this world. In our mission we need to guard against being polluted with the things of this world. We must use holy means to fulfill our holy mission both in and through the Church. How about looking to God in prayer, deep heartfelt prayer, maybe even fasting, before we look to secular marketing techniques in religious packages? Who knows, maybe God will give us a revival is we do.

God is clear on how He feels about those who misrepresent Him; His judgment is on them. God barred Moses from the Promised Land because he misrepresented God (Exodus 17:1-7 and Numbers 20:1-13). God allowed His people to be defeated and taken into captivity because of their associations with pagan sinful peoples and adopting their sinful religious practices (2 Chronicles 36:14-21). The New Testament is full of exhortations to maintain purity and unity in the teachings of God’s holy word (for example Jude 3-4). When we divide from those who disregard or rebel against God, it glorifies God. It glorifies God because it demonstrates we put Him and His word above the comfort that comes from tolerance of sin and compromising the truth He has revealed (for example Matthew 5:10-16; 10:32-39).

But even if we disagree with someone and have to remain separate from them, it should still always be in love (John 13:34-35).  Making the distinction and separating from the groups I just mentioned is clear cut to anyone who respects and holds dear God and His word. We speak the truth in love and share the gospel with such groups, but we do not unite with them. Division sometimes glorifies God.

The only place we see Jesus write a letter in Scripture is to the seven churches of Revelation (Revelation 2-3). The Church is important to Jesus. The Church is His bride. Like any groom Jesus is deeply in love with His precious Bride. He has a seven year (!) wedding feast planned for her (Revelation 19:7). As His Bride we have been entrusted with a mission. That mission is both to the Church and through the Church. It is a holy mission both in and without. Let’s fulfill this holy mission in a holy God ordained scripturally sound way.

 

 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

“A brother and companion in”



“I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.”  

- Revelation 1:9


What makes a pastor effective? What makes someone effective in serving our Lord? A lot of damage has been done to the name of Jesus, to His bride the church, and to the reputation of our Lord by those who claim to be pastors of Christ or in some way claim to belong to Christ. The world is deceived and under the sway of the wicked one (1 John 5:19). But even those who walk according to the course of this world and the prince of the power of the air are able to spot a charlatan, hypocrite, or shallow disingenuous follower of Jesus (Eph. 2:1-3). And when they spot a phony or shallow “follower” of Jesus, they are quick to exploit it to their own ends. They only have to find one slacker, one superficial “Christian” to have enough ammunition to excuse themselves from listening to any conviction for their sins that the Holy Spirit might be dealing with them about.

Did you ever ask yourself why the hypocrites Ananias and Sapphira were dealt with so severely by the Holy Spirit? They sold some property and gave a portion of it to the church giving the impression they had given it all at great personal sacrifice. That doesn’t seem to be such a big deal. But they were both exposed for their deceit and stopped literally dead in their tracks. What was the big deal? Peter was moved by the Spirt to indict them for having a heart filled by Satan to lie to the Spirit; they tested the Spirit of God with their lying ways. Why was that such a big deal? Why did they have to pay such severe price? After the incident it says, “So great fear came upon all those who heard these things” Acts 5:1-11). There was an important lesson to be learned early on in the early church; one that we should revisit in our day.

The lost world is rejecting a shallow superficial Spiritless church today. Sinners are running hell bent from the church headed for a cliff that will plummet them into a Christ-less eternity. It’s a heart breaking situation. But what is even more heartbreaking is that so much of the church just doesn’t seem to care. They indulge in political discussions which soon degenerate into arguments. They are satisfied to be preoccupied with tweets, twitters, and texts of depersonalized messages to others. Maybe they have a Facebook “ministry.” Maybe they have an Instagram account. But when was the last time there was an actual conversation up front and personal with an actual flesh and blood person?

Then there are the people who are more concerned with the standings of their team than the spiritual state of the lost around them. People know the sales coming this month but they aren’t too privy to the salvation condition of those around them.

The world sees through superficiality. They can spot a hypocrite a mile away; even if it is for the selfish sake of justifying or excusing their own sin. What’s the solution? One of the most enduring examples of effective ministry is the Apostle John. In His last inspired piece of writing he wrote the following:

·         Revelation 1:9 - “I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.”  

John identified himself as “both your brother and companion in the tribulation.” John was in the trenches with his people. He didn’t lead from the rear but led from the front lines. And because of this he was loved by those he led in the Lord. No one could accuse John of not genuinely caring or being false or hypocritical in some way. That was because he was a “brother and companion in.” That small little preposition “in” carries a lot of weight. It was because John was “in” life with those he wrote to and ministered to that he was so effective.

Now we would be amiss to attribute John’s effectiveness and longevity to only being “in” something. Most importantly he “was in the Spirit” (Revelation 1:10). But it was the Holy Spirit who moved John to be that loving brother and companion to those he ministered too. And this work of the Spirit in and through John is what made him one of the lasting pillars of the early church.

John was their companion in tribulation. Today we have Isis and Islam as the prime instrument of the devil to persecute the church. In John’s day it was Rome. Today’s brand of persecution has nothing on the Roman’s brand. The devil is ruthless in every age. It takes a genuine Spirit-filled Church to weather his diabolical storms. John was a church leader, a pastor, who led the charge through tribulations. And those following him loved him for his courage. Rumor had it that Domitian tried to do in John by boiling him alive in oil. But old bro John was miraculously preserved through it all. Was it true? We don’t know. It’s possible. But even if such an account isn’t true, it tells us a lot about how those around him felt about John.

The environment into which this revelation is being received is one of “tribulation” (Greek thlipsis). “Tribulation” means literally a pressing, pressure. It can refer to anything that burdens the spirit of a person. Jesus used this term when He stated, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33). There have always been, and there will always be, pressures and persecutions in this life, until the Lord returns to set things right. Until then people inside and outside of the church will be looking for those who have a genuine answer to their trial produced questions, a genuine solution to their pressure produced problems.

In this world Jesus affirms we will experience tribulation. But I should mention here that this does not mean we will experience the Great Tribulation! We will experience pressures from the world and our adversary the devil. The “tribulation” referred to in John 16:33 and Revelation 1:9 are not the same as the Great Tribulation described in Revelation chapters 6-19. The difference between the tribulation referred to by Jesus that we would experience and that of the Great Tribulation is that the source or origin of each is different.

During the Great Tribulation God is the One who orchestrates the tribulation by pouring out His righteous and well deserved wrath on a Christ rejecting world (Revelation 6:17; 16:17-19). Christians are not destined to experience the wrathful tribulation of God but will be and are saved from it (Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:9).  In this world now we have an adversary who prowls the earth like a roaring lion seeking to prey on the weak (1 Peter 5:8-9). We are in a spiritual war against Satan and his cohorts (Ephesians 6:10-18). We live in a fallen world where sin causes tribulation to its victims (1 John 3:8). In this world we will suffer tribulations.

It should also be noted here that the cause of the tribulation John and his fellow believers were experiencing was their faithfulness to “the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Their faithfulness led to tribulation. When was the last time you suffered for “the word of God” and/or “for the testimony of Jesus Christ? They experienced trials because they did the right thing in the eyes of God. They were not suffering as a consequence of their personal sins. They were not compromisers. They were not hypocrites. They weren’t sorry for themselves. They had no self-pity. They, along with John, were suffering for faithfully living out God’s word and sharing the testimony of Jesus Christ. The world yearns for those who can take a hit and keep on moving, and do it with joy. When you’ve been genuinely saved and born again by Jesus, how can you not tell the world of the incredible truth?

At the time that John was given this revelation there was a great persecution by Rome against those who called themselves “Christian.”  The Church experienced its first persecution under Caesar Nero (54-68) and more particularly under Emperor Domitian in A.D. 95 around the time that the book of Revelation was received by John. The persecution under Nero was instigated by Nero himself as historians tell us he blamed Christians for starting a fire in Rome that he in his personal madness had set. It was a fierce fire that spread to the entire city.  As the truth of this terrible deed began to be discovered Nero diverted attention from himself and blamed Christians. 

The Roman historian Tacitus wrote the following in regards to this situation:

“With this view he inflicted the most exquisite tortures on those men who, under the vulgar appellation of Christians, were already branded with deserved infamy. They derived their name and origin from Christ, who, in the reign of Tiberius, had suffered death by the sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate.  For a while this dire superstition was checked, but it again burst forth; and not only spread itself over Judea, the first seat of this mischievous sect, but was even introduced into Rome, the common asylum which receives and protects whatever is impure, whatever is atrocious. The confessions of those who were seized discovered a great multitude of their accomplices, and they were all convicted, not so much for the crime of setting fire to the city as for their hatred of human kind. They died in torments, and their torments were embittered by insult and derision. Some were nailed on crosses; others sewn up in the skins of wild bests, and exposed to the fury of dogs; others again, smeared over with combustible materials, were used as torches to illuminate the darkness of the night. The gardens of Nero were destined for the melancholy spectacle, which was accompanied with a horse race, and honored with the presence of the emperor, who mingled with the populace in the dress and attitude of a charioteer. The guilt of the Christians deserved indeed the most exemplary punishments, but the public abhorrence was changed into commiseration, from the opinion that those unhappy wretches were sacrificed, not so much to the public welfare as to the cruelty of a jealous tyrant.”  [1]

Nero was a madman; a precursor to Antichrist who had the spirit of antichrist (cf. 1 John 4). When Nero was three years old his mother murdered his father by giving young Nero poisoned food to give his father. One can only imagine the effect upon Nero as he watched his father writhe in pain and die before him.  At age 12 Nero tortured to death a friend who displeased him. At age 15 Nero married but then strangled to death his wife when she displeased him. He married and murdered two other wives and eventually murdered his mother as well. Nero was a madman and his behavior confirms this.

It’s believed that when Nero came to power his insane nature led to his exalting himself as a god and demanding that all subjects of the Roman empire bow to worship him. (Sounds like some politicians of our day doesn’t it?) When Christians refused to worship him he began a one-man mission to wipe out Christianity. Nero would travel throughout the empire with his military and round up any who would not declare, “Caesar is Lord.”  Nero would take these “offenders” and dip them in hot wax and use them as human candlesticks in his imperial garden. He would then strip naked and ride his chariot in the garden shouting, “You are the light of the world! You are the light of the world!” A day is coming when bowing to a world leader or system of government will be demanded. There will be consequences for refusing. What will Christians do then? Will they have the spiritual fortitude and faith to stand firm for the Lord? We will see. The world is watching and they will see too.

Nero was described as “an ugly man with a bull neck, beetle brows and a flat nose with a tough mouth. He had a pot belly with spindly legs, bad skin and an offensive odor.”  At the age of 31 Nero committed suicide by slitting his own throat. By the end of his reign he had murdered an estimated 3 million Christians. Slitting throats are becoming more and more common in our day too.

Titus Flavius Domitian was the next Roman emperor to persecute Christians. He was the emperor who persecuted Christians during the end of the first century when the book of Revelation was received. Domitian’s persecution led to the murder of millions more Christians. Historians refer to Nero as a crazy devil. But Domitian was a sane devil. Domitian was cruel and calculated in his efforts to annihilate Christianity from the face of the earth. Domitian chose to attack Christian leadership. It was Domitian who, legend has it, attempted to execute John by boiling him in a cauldron of hot oil. God miraculously spared John through the execution.

John alone of the 11 original disciples (not counting Judas who committed suicide) survived execution for their faith. John, known as the apostle of love, survived. “Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8a).  Frustrated, Domitian exiled John to the rocky, desolate, barren isle of Patmos. This island is 50 miles southwest of Ephesus (located in the area of modern day Turkey) in the Aegean Sea. It’s a small island 10 miles long and 6 miles wide. It was on this island, during a time of tribulation, that John received the vision of Revelation. There’s a lesson here for those partaking in comfortable Christianity today. Jesus has a way of giving revelation during times of personal tribulation. Our problem is, we have been trying to avoid tribulation and therefore aren’t in a position to receive much revelation from our Lord.

The Apostle John was persecuted for his loyalty to “the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” John would not compromise God’s word. John stood faithfully for the truth God had revealed. John persevered in the “patience of Jesus Christ.” John was who he was because he was a man of the word of God. He referred to the Old Testament 518 times in Revelation. He knew the word and lived by the word even if that meant discomfort and trials would enter his life. There isn’t much tribulation for us today because there aren’t many willing to stand for “the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” We are the spiritually poorer and less effective as a result.

John was their brother and companion in tribulation. But he was also their brother in the “kingdom.” John wasn’t a doom and gloom pastor. I don’t mean to convey the idea of us going and looking for trouble. We don’t have to manufacture trials. If we live right, holy lives unto the Lord, trials will come. John spoke of the truth and realities of persecution, but he also shared the prospect of serving in the coming Kingdom of Jesus Christ on earth. Praise the Lord for that! Jesus is coming back! That is just as certain as His first coming. And when we look at the indicators of His return and compare them to what is going on in the world today, well, yes indeed, we should be expecting Jesus to come take us home very soon.  

John was further their companion in the “patience of Jesus Christ.” All three of these things mentioned, tribulation, kingdom and patience are all connected to Jesus Christ. We suffer persecution because of our belonging to Jesus. If we aren’t suffering, I suggest we examine the genuineness of our faith. If Paul said, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). If we aren’t suffering or discomforted in some way, then maybe we should follow another of Paul’s inspired instructions when he wrote, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you are disqualified” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

We will serve in His Kingdom. But there is also an aspect of “patience.” These things are coming and will unfold. The patience of Jesus is necessary, even if it means trials and persecution because God desires none to perish and for all to have ample opportunity to repent and be saved (e.g. 2 Peter 3:9). If suffering some temporal trials is necessary to provide more time to repent and be saved eternally, then it is well worth it.

As we patiently wait for the Lord’s return, let us do so like a waiter or waitress. A good waiter or waitress is a servant, looking to assist patrons until directed otherwise. The people of this world are our patrons. Serve them the gospel. Serve them Christlike love. Serve them God’s word. Serve them genuinely. And do so until told otherwise.

John was a brother and companion in. He was in their lives. He was living in similar life circumstances. He was not aloof. He was not preaching, teaching or living something that was disconnected from reality or out of touch with the real issues in the real world. John was effective in ministry, he was looked for and welcomed by people for ministry, because he was in life with people demonstrating the real practical life application of God’s revealed truths. That’s an example we should follow. Let’s be a brother and companion to people according to His word and the testimony of Jesus Christ.





[1] Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon (abridgment by D.M. Low) Harcourt, Brace and Co.: New York 1960, p. 202).

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Called to Endure


"Let us run with endurance the race set before us" - Hebrew 12:1
 
In Hebrews 12:1 we are called to endure when it states, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us . . . .”  These first three verses of Hebrews 12 contain the key to enduring in our walk with the Lord. Let’s look at them and see if the Lord won’t open them up for us.

What is “endurance”? The Greek term translated “endurance” is hupomone and means enduring, patience, perseverance, constancy, continuing. Webster’s Dictionary defines “endurance” - the ability to withstand hardship or adversity; especially : the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity e.g. a marathon runner’s endurance. The Enhanced Strong’s Concordance describes endurance as the New Testament characteristic, “of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.”

 

At the onset of WWII, England soon found itself the last bastion of hope against Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. At one point when Germany had overrun Europe and England stood alone, Winston Churchil the Prime Minister of England summoned his countrymen to endure and press on in the fight at all costs. These were some of his words:

 

I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this Government: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say; It is to wage war, by sea, by land and air, with all our might and with all the strength God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory – victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”

                    

The Bible says we are in a war of even more momentous proportions than the one Churchill and England faced. It is a battle against principalities and powers and rulers of this dark age, a demon hoard (Ephesians 6:12). Quitting is not an option. If we quit the demons of hell will ravish us and smear the name of the Almighty. That is unacceptable. We are called to endure and we must endure.

When we look at the context of this verse  we need to recognize is that Hebrews twelve follows Hebrews chapter 11. In Hebrews 11 we have the Hall of Faith. Much like we have Halls of Fame in sports, the Bible has a Hall of Faith where a summary list of people from the Bible who were exemplary in their faith. But the key thing to note here is that their faith enabled them to endure. The purpose of faith is to enable us to live lives pleasing to the Lord (Hebrews 11:6). It is faith that enables a person to endure because faith is the “substance of things hoped for,” (Hebrews 11:1) it is the ground or foundation that provides a path from the present to the future. Moving from the present to the future is what we call enduring. Faith is the “evidence of things not seen,” it enables us rise above doubt, emotional stresses, depression etc., and press on. But how do we practically press on and endure? This is where Hebrews twelve comes in.

First, understand that God will help us endure just as He helped those in the Hall of Faith chapter. Hebrews 11 has a long list of those who pressed on and endured in their faith even when buffeted and torn by trials and hardships of various types. The testimonies of the faithful ones in the Hall of Faith are very impressive and awe inspiring. But Hebrews 12:1a starts out by saying, “Therefore we also, . . .” which tells us there is a way to follow in the  enduring footsteps of these giants of the faith.

Second, the key to enduring begins by laying aside every weight, and the sin that so easily ensnares us (Hebrews 12:1b). To endure you have to travel light. Don’t allow excess baggage to weigh you down. Prioritize your life with heavenly priorities and don’t allow yourself to be ensnared or tangled up in the sins of the world.

Third, to endure we need to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 11:1c). Someone has said that in order to win a race you have to be in it to win it. You can’t just drift to the side or get off course, you have to stay on track and run “the race that is set before us.” Get in to the action, jump into the fray with both feet. Serve the Lord in some way! Faith by its very nature and definition is an action. Faith that is alive is not stagnant but active (see James 2:14-26). Faith actively endures. And also, we should focus on the “race set before us,” in other words you can’t run a future race or a past race, but only the one in the present. Jesus told us not to worry about tomorrow because today has enough problems of its own (Matthew 6:34). Paul was inspired to tell us to forget what lays behind us in our past (Philippians 3:13). You don’t endure by dwelling on past victories or defeats or by worrying about future races or opponents, you endure by keeping your focus right. And what is the right focus and the most important aspect of enduring in our faith?

Fourth, to endure the most important thing is to keep our eyes on Jesus. Hebrews 12:2a states, “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, . . .” There is something transformational that takes place in the one who fixes their gaze on Jesus. You see when we try to endure without fixing our eyes on Jesus, we begin to look at those around us and that can be bad. We begin to wonder if we measure up to others or if they measure up to us. If we take our eyes off Jesus and look to our self, we begin to wonder why we aren’t getting the recognition we think we deserve for all the sacrifices and hard work we are doing as we endure in our faith. The easiest way to get sidetracked and in a ditch  that will threaten our enduring is to get our eyes off of Jesus. When we look at Jesus, when we fix our eyes on Him, when we fix our gaze of faith on Jesus, everything is put in its proper place. As we look at Jesus we realize Who we are serving and who we are not serving (Colossians 3:17, 23-24). Yes, this is the major key and why in verse three it states, “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Hebrews 12:3). When we keep our eyes on Jesus we thwart the temptation to be discouraged or depressed. When we keep our eyes on Jesus we learn how and why we are enduring. When we keep our eyes on Jesus our priorities fall into place and we stay on track.

To grow in our faith and endure we must come close and stick close to Jesus. Knowing Jesus is what eternal life is all about (John 17:3; 1 John 1:1-4). The key to enduring in your faith is coming close to Jesus. The closer you come to Jesus the more clearly you will see your sin (Isaiah 6). The closer you come to Jesus, the more power you will have over sin (1 John 3:6a). The closer you come to Jesus the more strength you will have to endure the trials of life. The answer to endurance is coming close to Jesus and sticking close to Jesus.

Fifth, to endure we need to realize that Jesus victoriously has endured to the end ahead of us and for us (Hebrews 12:2). This truth paves the way for us to endure as more than a conqueror. Paul mentions that in Christ we are “more than a conqueror” (Romans 8:37). What does that mean? Well, a conqueror is a brave soldier who confidently goes into battle hoping he will survive and win the battle and war. There is some uncertainty with the mere conqueror. But someone who is more than a conqueror is someone who goes into the battle certain that the victory is theirs. Because Jesus endured and went to the cross before us, we can endure in His steps knowing nothing can separate us from Him (Romans 8:38-39). Because Jesus went to the cross and paid the penalty for our sins are graciously forgiven. The security we have in the finished work of Jesus enables us to endure with a certainty that the victory is ours in Christ (John 19:30). Which leads us to the final key to enduring.

Sixth, to endure we need the joy of the Lord (Hebrews 12:2). It says Jesus endured, “for the joy that was set before Him.” That is another key. Joy is not mere happiness. Happiness depends on happenings or circumstances. Joy depends on Jesus. Jesus endured in His redemptive mission to and through the cross with joy. Joy in this sense is the confident expectation that victory is secure. Jesus had it all under control and knew what His cross work would graciously provide for sinful humanity. Now our joy is not confident in ourselves but in Jesus. Jesus endured no matter what; no matter the betrayal; the false accusations; the mocking; the beating; the trial and hardship; the injustice; He endured it all. He endured because He knew God was in control and nothing would befall Him that was beyond the will of God. That is the joy set before Him. In the same way we can endure with joy in that we know that nothing is going to befall us that God has not allowed and if He has allowed it He will also provide help to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13). Furthermore, we endure because the issue of our relationship with Jesus is settled in our hearts. Leaving or forsaking or giving up is not an option. The only option is finishing well, and we will if our joy is in the Lord, if we keep our eyes fixed on Him.

There are many example of enduring faith in Scripture. Here ae  few for your further study:

 
  • Abraham and Sarah endured (not perfectly – Genesis 16; 20) and when God faithfully came through for them they birthed “Laughter” i.e. Isaac (Genesis 21).
  • Joseph (Genesis 50:20)
  • Paul (2 Corinthians 4:8-11; 11:23-28
  • Hebrews 11
At the end of WWII Winston Churchill was invited to speak at a university and share the key to the victory in the war. When he rose to speak he slowly approached the podium, paused an scanned the crowd. Then he said these simple words:

 
Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.

 
We are called to endure. We must endure. In the strength of a close walk with the Lord – we will endure – for His glory!


[1]Strong, J. (1996). The exhaustive concordance of the Bible : Showing every word of the text of the common English version of the canonical books, and every occurrence of each word in regular order. (electronic ed.) (G5281). Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Will the Temple Be Rebuilt?

“The son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God”

– 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4

 

Will a Temple be rebuilt in Jerusalem? The book of Revelation gives us strong evidence that it will. Jerusalem is arguably the most religiously and politically volatile place on earth. The mere mention of building a Jewish Temple where the Muslim Dome of the Rock is creates a worldwide stir. But the Bible tells us that not only will the Temple be rebuilt in Jerusalem during the Tribulation but a Millennial Temple will likely be built to replace the Tribulation Temple.  

 

The Bible speaks of a rebuilt Temple stating, “Then speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, saying: “Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, And He shall build the temple of the Lord; Yes, He shall build the temple of the Lord. He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, And the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”’. Jesus is “the BRANCH.” The Temple He will build is the Millennial Temple. He will rule from this Temple during the Millennium (Revelation 20). The Temple built during the Tribulation is built by man and will be defiled by man. So there’s going to be two more Temples? Confused? Maybe we should look a bit at the history of the Temple.    

 

The first Temple was built by Solomon around 1050 B.C. (2 Chronicles 3-4). It took him 7 years to build (1 Kings 6:38). It was constructed in reverence (1 Kings 6:7). It was built 480 years after the Exodus (1 Kings 6:1, 37-38). This Temple held the Ark of the Covenant (1 Kings 8:1-9). But because of the spiritual idolatry of Israel God allowed the Temple to be plundered and burned by the Babylonians around 586 B.C. (2 Kings 25:9-17).

After 70 years of captivity a second Temple was built. God through Persian king Cyrus allowed His people to return and rebuild the Temple under the leadership of Joshua and Zerubbabel (Ezra 1:1-4; see Jeremiah 25). The glory of this second Temple was nothing compared to the glory of Solomon’s Temple (Ezra 3:12). The books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai and Malachi discuss the rebuilding of the Temple of God and some of the problems faced in the process.

In 20 B.C. king Herod, in an effort to find favor with the Jews, ordered a Temple renovation that restored much of its past glory. This renovation was so extensive that it is sometimes referred to as the third Temple.

In A.D. 70 the Roman Titus rode into Jerusalem and put down a rebellion of the Jews.  Titus ordered the Temple be left alone. But a drunken Roman soldier threw a torch into the Temple setting it ablaze. The fire melted the gold in the Temple. The Roman soldier’s ripped every stone apart to get at the gold thus destroying the Temple. This fulfilled Jesus prophecy made 30 years earlier (Matthew 24:1-2).

From that point Jews were dispersed throughout the world and persecuted severely for nearly 1900 years. On May 14, 1948 they miraculously returned to their homeland and were reestablished as the nation of Israel. This was an incredible fulfillment of prophecy (Ezekiel 36-37).

It wasn’t until the 1967 war that Israel gained control of Jerusalem. Inexplicably general Moshe Dian allowed the Muslim caliph to remain in control of the Temple mount. If this hadn’t happened the Jews might have rebuilt the Temple, then and there. But God had another plan. It will take unprecedented political ability and charisma to work out an agreement that will allow the Jews to rebuild their Temple.  Who could broker such a deal?

We don’t know when the Antichrist will come to power (Daniel 9:26-27). But when he does Daniel tells us Antichrist makes or will “confirm” an existing covenant (Daniel 9:27) for a 7-year period with Israel. He will break that covenant at the midway point (Daniel 12:11). This covenant will allow for the Temple to be rebuilt and sacrifices reinstated. But “on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate,” in other words the Antichrist will not only betray his covenant with Israel, but will desecrate their Temple (Matthew 25:15-16). Indeed, what Jesus referred to from the book of Daniel as “the abomination of desolation” (Matthew 24:15) will occur when, “. . . the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). In order for all this to happen a fourth Temple will have to be built in Jerusalem. 

Today in Jerusalem Jewish yeshivas (priestly schools) train students to be temple priests. The Menorah to be used in the Temple along with all the other utensils have been made. In Israel there is a Temple Institute devoted to preparing for the rebuilding of the Temple. There is a group called The Temple Mount Faithful committed to rebuilding the Temple. People are ready now to rebuild the Temple.

The Temple Mount today is a 35-acre flat platform. It has only become one of Islam’s most holy sites since the 1967 war. In the late 600s A.D. a man named Omar built a mosque referred to now as The Dome of the Rock. Muslims believe the rock around which this mosque is built is where Muhammad on his magical horse ascended to heaven.  How could a Temple be built on this site? The mosque might be removed, (an earthquake or terrorist attack?). It is certain that any terrorist attack on the Dome of the Rock would lead to a jihad bloodbath of Biblical proportions. There is another possibility.

The first two verses of Revelation 11 give us important evidence about the next Temple. It states, Now I was given a measuring stick and told to go and measure the temple of God, . . . But do not measure the outer court,” I was told, “for it has been turned over to the nations. They will trample the Holy City for forty-two months.”   Why would the outer court not be measured? This would significantly reduce the space needed for the Temple to be rebuilt.

 

In the March/April 1983 issue of The Biblical Archeological Review Dr. Asher Kaufman reported on his 16-year study of the Temple Mount. He theorized the Dome of the Spirit, (a gazebo like structure in the northwest corner of the Temple Mount platform) was the spot where the Holy of Holies of the Temple had been located. This could have great implications. Remember the instruction of Revelation 11:2, “But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. . . . ”  Given the positioning of the Temple with the Holy of Holies placed at the point of the Dome of the Spirit, the Temple inner court area would fit on the Temple Mount at this moment! The outer court area apportioned to the gentiles may be for the Muslims and their mosque. If this is true, the Temple could be rebuilt right now! All that remains is for a persuasive and cunning politician, (like Antichrist) to negotiate a treaty between the Jews and Muslims to allow for this.

In Daniel chapter 9 we are told of one who will arise and be “cut off.” This is Messiah Jesus. He was cut off “not for Himself” but for us on the cross. The Antichrist is the “prince who is to come.” The antichrist will oppose Christ and all He stands for but will do so in a deceptive way. The Antichrist will present himself as an alternative to Christianity. He will say something like, “Religions in general have been too intolerant and the root cause of wars and rumors of wars throughout history. Christianity in particular has been too intolerant of other religions. I’m here to present you with a new religion of tolerance.” He will preach tolerance. He will encourage religions to peacefully coexist side by side.  What better example of this than to have two historically intense religious arch rivals like Islam and Judaism set up their holy sites side by side on arguably the holiest site on earth?

But even if such a scenario seems too outlandish to you there’s another more recent option. In 2014 with the publishing of the book Temple – Amazing New Discoveries that Change Everything About the Location of Solomon’s Temple (Life Bridge Books, Charlotte North Carolina) by author and archeologist Robert Cornuke, still another possibility for rebuilding the Temple was postulated. It is Cornuke’s belief that what we think is the “Temple Mount” of today was really where the Romans legion of Jerusalem was garrisoned and not the Temple Mount. He believes the real “Temple Mount” was to the south in the City of David which is under excavation right now. Cornuke’s theory has been met with a lot of opposition by those holding to the more traditional view. It’s still an interesting and thought provoking hypothesis. Something for us to prayerfully and prophetically consider. The jury is still out. But if Cornuke’s claims are true, the next Temple could be erected as soon as contractors could be commissioned paid to do the job!

No matter where the Temple placement is, what we need to see is that the mere consideration of such a rebuild of the Temple is evidence we are in the End Times. Before the Antichrist is revealed and Temple rebuilt, the Rapture of the Church will occur. We shouldn’t be reduced to looking for Antichrist. Instead we should be looking for the return of Jesus Christ! Jesus is coming to take genuine born again believers out of this world before the wrath of God is poured out on a Christ rejecting world (1 Thessalonians 4:13 – 5:11; Revelation 3:10). God’s promise is that Jesus “delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

 

Scripture clearly states that “God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9). Since the time of the Tribulation (described in Revelation 6-18) is a time of God’s and the Lamb’s outpoured wrath (cf. Revelation 6:16-17; 11:18; 14:10, 19; 15:1, 7; 16:1), it would not be just for those “saved from wrath through Him” (Romans 5:9) to go through the Tribulation period. This was prefigured in the Old Testament account of the removal of Lot from Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:16-33). And it is seen in the context of the New Testament. Logically, when we consider scripture as a whole, inductively, it leads us to the expectation of being removed out of this world via the Rapture of Christians by Jesus before the Tribulation.

 

Are you ready? Look around you, see the signs. The time is at hand. You don’t want to be left behind to experience the Tribulation. Make your salvation sure (1 John 5:13). Turn from your sins and trust Jesus as your Savior (Acts 3:19; Romans 6:23; 1 John 1:9). If you see the Temple being rebuilt, it’s likely too late for you to escape, you’ve probably already been left behind. But at least you know what to expect.  God has provided an entire Book of Revelation to help you through. And though times will be hard and scary, the Lord will help you through. “And they overcame him [the devil] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death” (Revelation 12:11).

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Pure Hearts - Empowered Lives - Part 2

Acts 15:8–9 (NKJV)

So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.

 

Last week we talked about "stuff in the basement"; junk inside of us that keeps us from experiencing the abundant life Jesus offers to us; junk that weighs us down and hinders us from running the race of life successfully.  We talked about how there is stuff in our lives, junk, that trips us up, drags us down, gets in the way of us experiencing the abundant life Jesus promised (John 10:10). 

This abundant life is a powerful life. We say that on the basis of how we see Jesus' promise fulfilled after the resurrection in Acts. We say this as we see the Promise of the Father fulfilled in Acts. 

The fulfillment of these promises was connected by Jesus with "power." Jesus said:

Acts 1:4–5 (NKJV)

And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Acts 1:8 (NKJV)

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

This power was real. It is real today and it is as available today as it was when it was first given. These empowered Apostles and disciples literally changed the world - turned it upside down - had an impact - made an incredible eternally significant powerful impact on their world. It was like a charge of dynamite. We need this dynamic today. We need to have the top blown off and the church unleashed to infiltrate and influence the world today.

We need to pray:

Lord, in Jesus name, make us what we need to be, to do what You call us to do, for Your glory, until Jesus returns.

And the key to this empowerment was the message of the resurrection.

When we look at Acts we see the resurrection of Jesus at the center of all these empowered people did and proclaimed. 

The incidences of the mention of resurrection of Jesus in Acts are numerous:

  Acts 1:21–22 (NKJV)

21 “Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”

 

Acts 2:22–24, 30-32 (NKJV)

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. . . .  30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.

 

Acts 3:14–16, 26 (NKJV)

14 But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. 16 And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. . . . 26 To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.”

 

Acts 4:1–2, 8-10, 33 (NKJV)

4 Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. . . . Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, 10 let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. . . . 33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.
 

Acts 5:29–32 (NKJV)

 

29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. 31 Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

 

Acts 10:34–43 (NKJV)

34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. 36 The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all—37 that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. 39 And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. 40 Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, 41 not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 42 And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. 43 To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”

 

Acts 13:23, 26-41 (NKJV)

 

23 From this man’s seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior—Jesus— . . . . 26 “Men and brethren, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to you the word of this salvation has been sent. 27 For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him. 28 And though they found no cause for death in Him, they asked Pilate that He should be put to death. 29 Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb. 30 But God raised Him from the dead. 31 He was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses to the people. 32 And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the fathers. 33 God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm:

‘You are My Son,

Today I have begotten You.’

34 And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus:

‘I will give you the sure mercies of David.’

35 Therefore He also says in another Psalm:

‘You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.’

36 “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption; 37 but He whom God raised up saw no corruption. 38 Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; 39 and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. 40 Beware therefore, lest what has been spoken in the prophets come upon you:

41   Behold, you despisers,

Marvel and perish!

For I work a work in your days,

A work which you will by no means believe,

Though one were to declare it to you.’ ”

 

Acts 17:18 and 32 (NKJV)

18 Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?”

Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. . . . 32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.”

 

Acts 23:6–8, 15-21 (NKJV)

 

But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!”

And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection—and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both. . . . 15 I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. 16 This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.

17 “Now after many years I came to bring alms and offerings to my nation, 18 in the midst of which some Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with a mob nor with tumult. 19 They ought to have been here before you to object if they had anything against me. 20 Or else let those who are here themselves say if they found any wrongdoing in me while I stood before the council, 21 unless it is for this one statement which I cried out, standing among them, ‘Concerning the resurrection of the dead I am being judged by you this day.’ ”

 Why was the resurrection of Jesus so empowering to the Apostles and disciples? How did it help purify their hearts by faith and empower them for life? 

To answer those questions, we have to go to an "Upper Room," the same room, some believe, where Jesus and His disciples had their last supper before the crucifixion. 

Ten days alone with the Lord. Jesus went to the cross and rose from the dead on the Feast of Passover. Acts begins 40 days after the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 1:1-3). 10 days before the next Feast which was Pentecost (the Feast if Harvest). It was on the day of Pentecost that the Holy Spirit fell upon the Apostles and disciples. Pentecost occurs 50 ("Penta") days after Passover. This tells us the Apostles and disciples, 120 people (Acts 1:14), waited, in the upper room, 10 days before they were empowered. 

10 days is not an exceptionally long time, but it is not a short time either. Jesus always works with perfect timing (e.g. Gal. 4:4). He knew they needed some time. They needed some time to work things out. It took would take them ten days to deal with their junk.  

For ten days the Holy Spirit would bring to their minds the stuff/junk that needed to be removed: their pride, their guilt, their fears, their doubts, their junk. For ten days they would join together "of one accord" to consider, confess to the Lord, and receive cleansing - from their junk. 

In Acts 15:8-9 it states, "So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith." 

Why did Peter describe the empowering of the Gentiles by the Holy Spirit in this way? 

Because the empowerment of the Holy Spirit is not the believer getting more of the Holy Spirit, it's the Holy Spirit getting more, no, getting ALL of you. 

The Holy Spirit indwells the person who accepts Jesus as Savior and is born again; this is the second birth. Jesus said to enter heaven "you must be born again" (John 3). The Holy Spirit is "with" a person leading them, showing them, convicting them of their sin, and drawing them to receive Jesus as Savior who makes a way for them to be forgiven their sin. If and when they do receive Jesus as Savior, then the Holy Spirit comes "in" them, indwelling them to give them spiritual life; a second birth (John 14:17; 16:8-11). 

All those waiting in the upper room had been forgiven their sins by confessing them to God and trusting Jesus as Savior. They had all been born again; indwelled by the Holy Spirit. Jesus had said, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them,’ Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:21-22). 

Something more. But there was still some stuff/junk in the way. There was still some stuff to deal with until they could experience the power of the Spirit to be Jesus' world impacting, world changing, world saving Apostles and disciples. 

Jesus gave them 10 days to deal with their junk. It took ten days for their hearts to be purified by faith. It took ten days for their faith to be matured, perfected, for them to move on from their junk-laden lives and be emptied and fully open for the Holy Spirit to fill them. FOR TRULY THE PENTECOSTAL EMPOWERMENT WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT IS NOT US GETTING MORE OF HIM, BUT HIM GETTING ALL OF US. It's letting go of our proud-junk, guilt-junk, fear-junk, doubt-junk, junk-junk, and fully surrendering to the Lord (Rom. 12:1-2; Acts 15:8-8). 

 How much of you does the Holy Spirit have? All, or just a portion?

You don’t have to wait ten days! And since this is a work received by faith, we should mention that we don’t have to wait ten days. Because this is a work of the Spirit received by faith we only need to surrender fully to Him and ask Him for this empowerment. Then by faith we receive it and walk in the power.

The Role of the Resurrection

Now we have one last thing to consider. HOW, how did they deal with their junk? What role did the resurrection play in purifying their hearts by faith; of getting rid if their junk? 

Gone again. It must have been an excruciating loss to the Apostles and disciples to see and experience the death of Jesus. For all they knew that was it, He was gone. But gory to God the Bible also continues the account that Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to all the Apostles and to over 500 disciples (1 Cor. 15:1ff.) He was back! Jesus met with them, ate with them, even fished with them! (John 20-21). Wonderful!

But then He ascended from them (Acts 1:9-11). He was gone again. 

Another Helper; One just like Me. But here's the key. Jesus said He came to go to the cross to atone for sins and that three days later He would rise from the dead (e.g. Mat. 16:21). He gave them that promise and He delivered on that promise. He was faithful and He was able to fulfill His promise. They saw Him before AND AFTER the cross and resurrection. 

Now He was gone again. It was a lot to process. But there was a difference. Now, in that Upper Room, waiting together, for ten days, the Holy Spirit must have helped them remember Jesus’ teaching about the Holy Spirit. Maybe the Holy Spirit would help them remember such words from Jesus as:

 John 14:16–18, 26 (NKJV) - 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. . . . 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.

 John 15:26 (NKJV) - 26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.

John 16:7–11, 13 (NKJV) - Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. . . .  13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.

One just like Him. The Holy Spirit was referred to by Jesus as “another Helper” which in the original language meant literally One just like Me (John 14:17). The Holy Spirit  who would testify of Jesus, make Him known, make His presence known, lead them into all truth and enable them to do things like Jesus did. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father” (John 14:12) - incredible! 

Now picture this, imagine this, AS THE APOSTLES AND DISCIPLES IN THE UPPER ROOM PONDERED THEIR “STUFF IN THE BASEMENT” THE JUNK IN THEIR HEART, their pride, their guilt, their fears, their doubts, THE HOLY SPIRIT WAS DEALING WITH THEM. IT WAS AS THOUGH EACH TIME THEY THOUGHT:

 

·         Yeah but, what about this pride I acted in?

·         Yeah but, what about how guilty I feel?

·         Yeah but, what about this fear I have?

·         Yeah but, what about the doubts I have?

 

EACH TIME, THE HOLY SPIRIT, WHO KNOWS THE HEART, WOULD TURN THEM AROUND AND CAUSE THEM TO REMEMBER, TO SEE THE RISEN LORD JESUS AS MUCH AS TO SAY –

 

·         "PRIDE? Look to Jesus and let your pride go.

·         GUILT? Look to Jesus who paid the penalty for your sins and let your guilt go.

·         FEARS? Look to Jesus, He rose from the dead, HE's ALIVE; HE WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU OR FORSAKE YOU, let your fears go.

·         DOUBTS! Look to Jesus, He is risen. If He can defeat death what can't He do? What claim isn't true? Let go of your doubts." 

 

Each time a hindrance came to their mind or heart the Holy Spirit would point them to Jesus and remind them that He died to atone for their sins; Jesus shed His blood to pay the death penalty for sin. And the blood of the risen Lord Jesus is the basis for the forgiveness for sins (1 Peter 1:18-19; 1 John 1:7. 9).

But just as important to their heart cleansing was the FACT that because of the resurrection, JESUS WAS/IS ALIVE AND HIS PRESENCE IS REAL AND EXPERIENCED THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT. WITH JESUS NOTHING CAN HINDER US FROM ACCOMPLISHING GREAT THINGS FOR GOD; NOTHING CAN KEEP US FROM FULFILLING GOD’S CALL.

Power of the Resurrection

The power of the resurrection is found in the words, "and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Mat. 28:20). 

The apostles and disciples had experienced 3 years with Jesus. Three years of His teaching. Three years learning true love from Him. Three years of His standing up to opposition. Three years of His walking on water. Three years of making something from nothing (feeding 4000 and 5000 people), providing money from a fishes mouth to pay taxes. Three years healing people of their acquired illnesses as well as their birth defects; the lame walking, the lepers cleaned, and the blind seeing. Three years that included raising people from the dead. Three years of courage and righteous living. Three years of His sinless life. Three years of holy living. Three years experiencing the faithfulness and capability of Jesus in all circumstances. Three years of doing God's will with Jesus. With Jesus they were able to do anything the Father called them to do. 

 It was only when Jesus was not there that they were truly shaken . The crucifixion was devastating to the apostles and disciples because without Jesus, life would return to its mundane powerless "normal," so they thought. 

But  the resurrection changed all  that. The resurrection brought Jesus back to them and they were relieved as much as rejoicing that Jesus had conquered death. 

But then the ascension. Jesus once again left them. Oh He went to heaven, yes, but He still left them. Now in that upper room for about ten days they had to work on the pollutants of the heart: guilt, pride, fear,  and doubt. They had to decide whether Jesus' words were true and worth their all. 

Jesus had said , "Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you" (John 16:7). 

Pentecost and the empowering Jesus promised is bound up in the resurrection presence of Jesus, the empowering presence of Jesus, the "and lo, I am with you always" of Jesus, the reality and truth of Jesus conveyed by the Holy Spirit. 

Pentecost is the Holy Spirit testifying to Jesus and His presence. It is the reality of Jesus presence purifying the heart from all guilt, proud self-reliance, fear and doubt. With Jesus NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE. Jesus' presence in the Spirit assures us our sin is forgiven and there's no reason to doubt. Jesus' presence in the Spirit humbles us removing all pride. Jesus' presence in the Spirit encourages us not to fear. Jesus' presence in the Spirit explains all doubts away. Jesus' presence in the Spirit proves Jesus true. Jesus' presence in the Spirit is empowering.  

Whatever your "stuff in the basement," junk or heart pollutant is that hinders you from the fullness and abundant life Jesus promised, I know that the presence of Jesus in the Spirit will help you deal with it and destroy it. 

Apart from Jesus we can do nothing. With the risen Jesus we can do all things God calls us to do. That’s dynamic. That’s powerful. That’s empowering.

Jesus is not dead. Jesus is ALIVE. He is with us. The Holy Spirit makes that so. "And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age," EVEN NOW! 

Release your heart impurities by faith to Jesus. Listen to the truth of the Holy Spirit. Be purified in heart and empowered in life. 

When the Holy Spirit Came Upon Them

And as “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication” (Acts 1:14a), their heart searching reached a critical mass (as the Spirit was working in them) and they reached their point of letting go, their hearts were purified by faith; by faith they let go of all the “stuff in the basement” all the junk - AND THE HOLY SPIRIT FELL ON THEM!!

The Holy Spirit came “upon” them. The preposition “upon” (Greek epi) means to overflow, come upon, saturate and overflow the vessel. The Holy Spirit came upon them displacing all the “Stuff in the basement” and “junk” and freed them to live empowered lives for Jesus.

That's what is there for us. That's what we need to do. That's what the resurrected risen Lord Jesus means to us. 

 Now all that remains is taking a step of faith - let the Spirit purify your heart by faith.

Alan Redpath once said: "If you look up into His face and say, "Yes, Lord, whatever it costs," at that moment He'll flood your life with His presence and power."

Are you ready to rid yourself of the “stuff in the basement”? Are you ready to get rid of your junk? Are you ready to clean house? Are you ready to have your heart purified by faith?

Andrew Murray in his book The Spirit of Christ gives the following comment on seeking the power of the Spirit:

In seeking for this power of the Spirit, let us note the manner of His working. There is one mistake we must especially be aware of. It is that of expecting always to feel the power when it works. Scripture links power and weakness in a wonderful way, not as succeeding each other, but as existing together. ‘I was with you in weakness . . . and my preaching was . . . in power,’ ‘When I am weak, then am I strong.’(See 1 Cor. 2:3-5; 2 Cor. 4:7, 16; 6:10; 12:10; 13:3, 4.).

The power is the power of God, given to faith, and faith grows strong in the dark. The Holy Spirit hides himself in the weak things that God has chosen, so that flesh may not glory in His presence. Spiritual power can only be known by the Spirit of faith. The more we acknowledge our weakness, the more confidently we can expect the Spirit’s power, even when nothing is felt. [1]

We should not run from our weakness but embrace it! We should not try to hide our weakness but proclaim it! If we think we aren’t weak, we are fooling ourselves, self-deceived, and not ready for the empowerment of the Spirit. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourself before God and He will exalt you in due time; He will baptize you in the Spirit (cf. 1 Peter 5:5-6).

Andrew Murray also makes a close connection between humility that is proved in obedience. We have to be humble and surrendered enough to obey the Lord. We need to truly surrender to the Lord and His will. The Spirit will only empower the person who is willing to obey and follow His marching orders. His power is not given for us to indulge. His power is given that we might glorify Christ! To this end Murray states:

Christians lose much not only by not waiting for the power, but by waiting in the wrong way. Combine ready obedience to every call of duty, no matter how weak you feel, with a dependent waiting expectation of power from on high. Let intervals of rest and communion be the exercise of prayer and faith in the power of God dwelling in you and waiting to work through you. Then your time of exertion and effort will bring the proof that by faith, out of weakness, we are made strong. . . .

Many pray earnestly for power in their work, and do not receive it, because they do not accept the only attitude in which the power can work. . . . We want to get possession of the power and use it. God wants the power to get possession of us and use us. If we give up ourselves to the power to rule in us, the power will give itself to us, to rule though us. Unconditional submission and obedience to the power in our inner life is the one condition of our being clothed with it. . . .

God gives the Spirit to the obedient. Power belongs to God and remains His forever. If you want His power to work in you, surrender to His guidance even in the least things.

Let us be clear regarding the purpose of this power and the work it is to do. Men are very careful to economize power and to store it where it can do its work most effectively. God does not give power for our own enjoyment. He gives it for one purpose – to glorify His Son. Those who are faithful to this one purpose and prove they are ready at any cost to glorify God will receive the power from on high.[2]



[1] Andrew Murray, The Spirit of Christ, (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House Pub., 1984) pgs. 61-62
[2] Andrew Murray, The Spirit of Christ, (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House Pub., 1984) pgs. 62-63