“Ah Yes, I REMEMBER It Well” – Do You?

~ Fourth and Final Commentary In The Series On The Book Of Malachi

MALACHI 4:4-6 (NLT)

[4]  “Remember to obey the Law of Moses, my servant-all the decrees and regulations that I gave him on Mount Sinai for all Israel.

[5]  “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives. 

[6]  His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers.  Otherwise, I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

With only three verses to look at, I thought this particular word investigation would be fairly short.  Well, it didn’t turn out that way and there are many reasons why this final chapter commentary is longer than I expected. 

The Book Of Malachi certainly serves as a bridge from the past to the future for the Israelites during Malachi’s day.  And for him and for us, as the last book of the Old Testament, it also serves as a bridge to the New Testament.

So let’s use the theme ‘s statement as an outline which we can examine this passage of Scripture:  WE NEED TO LEARN FROM THE PAST – “Remember it well!”

In verse 4, God commands the people to remember the law of His servant, Moses.  The entire book of Malachi has shown us a covenant-keeping God who still loves and pursues His people even though they haven’t remained faithful to Him.  It’s not surprising that the final command of the book is to remember the Law of Moses which the people who had come to pay little attention to.

But the word “remember” conveys much more than just mental recognition:  “remember” (Heb. “zokar”) means “to bring to mind and act accordingly.”  So when God commands His people to remember the law, He’s calling them to once again become a covenant-keeping people who not only know the Law but also puts it into practice.

The idea of remembering is a common theme in the book of Deuteronomy.  The command or admonition to REMEMBER is found 14 times in that book alone and the majority of those verses are connected with the need to obey or keep God’s command.

The Book Of Deuteronomy also uses some form of the same phrases that I’ve found here in Malachi – “the statutes and rules” – 17 times in the book of Deuteronomy including this very relevant passage:  (Deut. 6:1-3)

There’s no mistaking here that the purpose of knowing and remembering the law so that the people can put it into practice.  That principle is certainly just as applicable today to New Testament Christians as it was to the Israelites of Malachi’s day.

As we know, keeping God’s law isn’t a requirement for SALVATION – which can’t be earned but completely an act of God’s grace – but it should be a result of that salvation.

LEARNING FROM THE PAST –

While reading the Scripture, we’re not only exposed to God’s LAW so we can know and understand what that law is, but we also read the historical accounts and demonstrate the blessings of obedience and the curse of disobedience.  So we look back to learn from the past as we remember God.  And once we do that, we can move onto the next step – WE NEED TO LIVE IN THE PRESENT – “TURN”

I spent a lot of time contemplating the first part of verse 6, where Malachi describes that Elijah will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.  And frankly, I’m still somewhat up in the air – confused!  But with the help of a couple other passages that shed some light on that verse, I think I can at least develop some useful applications we can use in our lives.

There seem to be two major camps when it comes to VERSE 6 –

In reading several commentaries I found some hold that the fathers here are the fathers of FAITH, like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Moses.  Certainly the idea of the Israelites turning back to the faith of their spiritual ancestors would be consistent with the idea of REMEMBERING the commands given to Moses.  But the problem with that position is it really doesn’t explain how the hearts of the fathers are turned to the children.

The other major position if this verse deals with God restoring relationships of the family – particularly the relationships between fathers and children.  But to me, the weakness of that viewpoint is that it doesn’t fit into the ending of Malachi’s prophecy that deals with the much larger issue of the whole nation’s rebellion against God and His law.  Obviously, that impacts relationships within the family, but it doesn’t seem to be the main point of the prophecy.

Since I adhere to the idea that Scripture is always the best commentary on Scripture, we need to look together at a couple of other passages in the Bible that gives additional insight, a practice we should stay with when looking for answers in the Bible.

I have already looked up one of those passages –  Deuteronomy 6, lets notice and underline verse 2 – the purpose of observing the statutes and rules is to “FEAR GOD” – and we have seen that idea frequently if you’ve been following along in the series on Malachi [See previous Word Detective posts, 1, 2, and 3.].  And you’ll also notice here that “you and your sons and your son’s son” keep the law.  So the idea planted here is that successive generations of Israelites are to keep the Law as the law is constantly passed down from father to son.

Oh, and if you’re wondering how that’s done, the next part of Deuteronomy 6 goes on to give some wonderful guidelines on how fathers are supposed to do that.

In the Hebrew language, Malachi 4:6 seemed to be confusing at first reading.  Most of the English translations tend to translate the verse, “And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers..” (NIV).

But it’s also possible to translate that phrase like this:  “And He will turn the hearts of the fathers together with those of the children [to Me], and the hearts of the children with those of their fathers [to Me].”  That seems to be consistent with Deuteronomy 6 and consistent with what is seen earlier in the Book of Malachi 3:7…

The word “RETURN” in the above verse is the same word that is translated “turn” in Malachi 4:6, another connection that seems to support the alternate translation which focuses on ALL the people turning their hearts toward God rather than toward each other.

Back to my last blog-post, the third in the series, Malachi 3:1, that prophecy is multi-layered.  The “messenger” was fulfilled at the first coming of Jesus by John the Baptist, and Jesus confirmed the prophecy with these words:

“For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.”  (Matthew 11:13-14)

Jesus is clearly connecting John to both Malachi’s and Isaiah’s prophecies about the forerunner to be like Elijah. (See Isaiah 40:3-4). 

During his day as a prophet, Elijah had turned the Israelites back to God at the time of their worst apostasy when Ahab and Jezabel made Baal worship part of Israel’s worship.  John had a similar ministry.

But notice that Jesus indicates here in Matthew that since Israel wasn’t willing to accept Him as Messiah, and also refused to accept that John was the forerunner who had been prophesied in the Old Testament, so because of that, there will be a second Elijah who will precede the second coming of Jesus and he is the one who will bring to its final fulfillment of this prophecy of hearts being turned.

The angel who comes to Zechariah informing him of the coming birth of his son John, almost certainly had Malachi’s prophecy in mind when he spoke these words about John:

And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Although the angel mentions the turning of the hearts of the father to the children, the main idea here is that John’s role is to turn ALL hearts – fathers and children – to the Lord their God.

So even if Malachi is focusing on the relationship of fathers and children, the way reconciliation occurs in the family when ALL the hearts are turned back to God.  Our horizontal relationships with other people should never surpass our vertical relationship with our Heavenly Father.

So regardless of our views of Malachi 4:6, the bottom line is that it all comes down to our hearts being turned to God.

THE KEY to living in the present then, according to the passage of scripture in Malachi, is to “turn our hearts.”

I’ve already pointed out the underlying Hebrew word “to turn”, but it also can be translated “return.”  That same Hebrew word in the OT is frequently translated “repent”, which isn’t surprising and given that repentance is the idea of turning our hearts from sin and turning then back to God.

Repentance, or turning back to God, isn’t just something that we do once in our lifetime and then forget it.  It’s something that we must do every minute of every day.  The people of Malachi’s day had forgotten that and look where they ended up.

It’s easy to criticize the Israelites who had descended into lukewarm worship by merely giving God the leftovers. But the fact is, we are in danger of ending up there ourselves if we don’t guard our hearts and consistently turn them from evil and turn back to God.

LIVING IN THE PRESENT –

We learn from the past as we remember God’s law – We live in the present by turning our hearts to God.

Finally…We need to look to the future – “behold”

The word “behold” is used in the prophets to grab our attention.  It’s like God shouting to the people here to take notice of what He’s about to say.  And what follows is a message of God’s grace and mercy.

Yes, the great and awesome day of the Lord Jesus is coming!  And as we’ve seen it’s not going to be a pleasant time for those who’ve rebelled against God and refused to turn back to Him.

Before He does that, he’s going to send his messenger, either Elijah himself or someone else like John the Baptist, to minister like Elijah in giving people one last chance to turn to Him.

Although there’s certainly not enough biblical evidence to definitely identify this forerunner with one of the two witnesses in Revelation 11, that’s certainly one possibility.  There in Revelation, those two witnesses preach God’s Word for 3 1/2 years prior to the second coming of Jesus.  But regardless of the identity, God’s purpose is made clear.  His aim is to spare people from being cursed – separated from God’s glory; His person and the coming wrath.

So before Jesus returns to the earth one more time to carry out swift justice to those who have rejected Him, He’s going to give people one last chance to return to Him.  And the good news is…at least some people are going to have their hearts turned toward God as the result of his ministry.

What Malachi makes clear here is how we view the future is dependent on how well we’ve remembered the past and turned in the present.

If you remember God’s law (His Word in the Bible) by seeking to understand it and do it, and if your heart is turned toward God, then you can look to the future with great hope and anticipation, knowing God’s faithful remnant who will be spared from God’s wrath will spend eternity in God’s presence.

But if you fail to remember God’s law – if you fail in repentance in turning your heart to God, then if you’re not fearful of the future, you certainly should be!  Because God is holy and just, He must judge those who have chosen to rebel against Him and that judgment is going to be swift, horrible and everlasting.  It truly will be the utter destruction that Malachi writes about at the end of his prophecy.

Several people in the past have asked me, “Teacher, how about giving us some practical applications from the Word Study?”  So I’m going to list three:

#1.  We must turn our hearts to God through faith in Christ Jesus.

God’s desire for us is to turn our hearts–body, mind, and soul–to Him.  But that’s not something that we can do on our own.  Trust me, for you will find yourself in frustration when you try to accomplish this on your own terms.  Although the word Messiah or the name of Jesus is never mentioned in the Book of Malachi, is the idea of a Messiah that comes first to save God’s people and then returns a second time to judge those who refuse to turn their hearts to Him is a central theme.  Because God is holy and we are not, then the only way we can truly turn our hearts toward Him is by placing our trust in that Messiah, Jesus.  By taking our sins upon Himself and dying on the cross to pay the penalty for those sins, He’s made it possible for us to have a relationship with God in which we are able to turn our hearts to Him.

#2.  We must consistently spend time in God’s Word.

The only way we can live in obedience is to know what God’s Word says!  That means that we have to be spending consistent time in God’s Word, reading, and praying over it on a consistent basis.  A half-hour once a week on Sunday morning will never be adequate to really know and understand the Bible.  And what I’ve been personally missing lately, and I’m not alone, and is necessary and valuable for all of us, is spending time with other believers each week, where digging into the Bible is benefitting from one another’s insights in the Scriptures.

#3.  We must be intentional, living, vocal witnesses for Jesus.

In light of the possible two destinies faced by every human being – eternal life for those who have placed their faith in Jesus and eternal punishment for those who have not, our witness for Jesus Christ is essential.

Our effectiveness in our witness –

It’s likely that God has brought some people into your life that has no one else in their lives that’s going to tell them about Jesus’ love for them.  For our witness to be effective, I want to throw out three adjectives to describe what that WITNESS is to be like.

First, our witness must be intentional.  

We must strategically pray for the people that God brings into our lives and then, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, prepare, as Peter urges in 1 Peter 3:15…

That means being able to share my own testimony of my relationship with Jesus and able to use the Bible to explain how the other person can have the same type of relationship with Him.

Second, our witness has to be lived out.  Some call it Lifestyle Evangelism.

There’s nothing that will turn a person off when it comes to their relationship with God than someone whose life isn’t consistent with their words.  But at the same time, it’s not enough to just live for Jesus with the hope someone else is going to figure out your life is different than theirs.  That’s a great start, but at some point, we’re going to have to open our mouths.

In concluding this study on Malachi, the most important thing we should take away is to understand just how much God loves us.

He’s a covenant-keeping God, a promise-keeper, a God who loves us so much that He continues to pursue us even when we fail Him.  And if we’ll take and apply the principles He has given us in His Word, we’ll be in a much better position to pursue Him.

And in that same way remembering that God desires for me (and you) to pursue Him in the same way He pursued us!

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CREDITS:

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search; YouTube Music Video – I Remember It Well from the movie, Gigi.

Bible Translations Used:  New Living Translation (NLT); New International Version (NIV); English Standard Version (ESV); 

Word Sources:  Bible Hub:  NASB Hebrew Lexicon.

Commentary:  HEBREW WORD STUDY – FORETELLER OR PROPHET, by Chaim & Laura – Sept. 13, 2014 Devotionals; Coffman’s Commentaries on the Bible – Malachi 4 – StudyLight.org.

Facing The Problems and Dangers of Spiritual Leadership in The Church

[Second in the SERIES on the Book Of Malachi]

THE BIBLE PLACES HIGH STANDARDS ON THOSE WHO SERVE IN THE CHURCHES WITH A POSITION OF LEADERSHIP!

The Bible places high standards on those who serve as pastors, deacons and elders.  The Bible places high standards on those who serve in children’s ministry.  The Bible places high standards on who serves as Sunday school teachers.  We should expect those who work in the capacity of leadership to have high standards.  If leaders don’t lead the way they should lead then it has a detrimental effect upon the people.

What we have here is an entire chapter in the Bible that’s devoted to those who are supposed to be leaders.  So if you’re reading this blog and a leader in some capacity, then this chapter should speak to you where you are sitting.

You say I’m not a pastor, a deacon, a bible teacher, praise team member, or work in any capacity of the church.  Then you need to pay close attention to what’s coming next; the Chapter has something to say to you as well.  You see this chapter doesn’t only speak of leadership, but it also speaks to stewardship!  To have a chapter in the Bible devoted to speaking to those who are in leadership and also to speak to us about stewardship has to be one of my favorite chapters in the Bible.  As we look together at the next 17 verses, I can’t help but to see that Malachi is dealing with some problems.  So I want to look at the problems and what the Word of God has to say about them.

The first one to deal with is what might be called MINISTERIAL PROBLEMS.

Malachi 2:1 (NIV) –  “And now, you priests, this warning is for you…”

Somebody reading this says, “I’m glad you’re starting out with the preachers, the pastors first!”  But remember, all of us in the Faith are believer priests, in that we are to be about winning souls for Christ’s sake.

Here, Malachi is dealing with a group of spiritual leaders (“priests”), who are not living up to the standard God has laid down.  He says in verse 2,

In other words, He was saying, as a preacher, pastor, minister, you are to be living a life that would bring glory to My name and not yours.

Then He says if you don’t do it, the very things that are supposed to be a source of blessing will become a curse to you.

Now look at VERSE 3:

He says in verse 3, “I will corrupt (rebuke, punish, discipline) your seed.”  

Most commentaries that I’ve read say that this verse is referring to their children.  Many times it’s the children that suffer from the lapse of spiritual leadership in the church and in the home.  I’ve seen it more times than not, those who God has set aside for spiritual leadership become unfaithful in their responsibility and they pay the price in their children.

But you also find in verse 3, that God says, I’m going to remove you from your responsibility of leadership:  “…and you will be carried off”

In VERSE 5 and some other verses, He tells us what a true minister is to be about.

(5)  My covenant [on My part with Levi] was to give him life and peace, because [on his part] of the [reverent and worshipful] fear with which [the priests] would revere Me and stand in awe of My name.” (AMP)

God’s ministers are to be born again.  They are to speak the truths of the Bible.

We have the right to hear the TRUTH from the pulpit even if it sort of works against the grain in our lives.  Yes, you have the right to hear the truth from your pastor and all leaders from your church even if it rubs you the wrong way sometimes.  I’m sure that my pastor is concerned about what the church body thinks about his messages from the pulpit but not half as concerned as what God thinks about it!

When we get to VERSE 8, God says to those unfaithful leaders, He is going to judge their failures because they have caused many to stumble at the law or at their preaching and living out their faith.

Many people today are unfeeling toward God and a lot of it is because of the leadership they have in their churches. 

I want you to notice now that He is dealing not only with ministerial problems but also MARITAL PROBLEMS – VERSE 11 – (Mixed Religious Marriages)

Malachi 2:11 (ESV)

[11]  Judah has been faithless, an abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem.  For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the LORD which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god.

The Bible doesn’t mix words and makes it clear that BELIEVERS are to marry other BELIEVERS [Bible Verses: Deut. 7:1-4; 1 Kings 11:4-6; 1 Cor. 5:9-12; 1 Cor. 7:15-16; 2 Cor. 6:14-17.].  

It’s no secret, we are in real trouble in our marriages in America today.  In 1920, one out of 7 marriages ended in divorce.  Today in America, 33% of marriages end up in divorce including the Christian community. (See Footnote [i].)

God’s plan for the marriage is one man and one woman for life!

One day a woman went to her pastor complaining because she wasn’t married.  He said you can’t improve on God’s plan for the marriage of one woman and one man.  She said, I’m not trying to improve on it, I just want to get in on it!

We’ve investigated together with the ministerial problems and the marital problems and finally we see that the Word of God deals with the MORAL PROBLEMS – Let’s look at Verse 17.

What I think the Bible is telling us here is that the people are out of the will of God.  They don’t get to the point, they don’t even have moral distinctions; they can’t tell what’s good and what’s evil.

What the people were saying in Malachi’s day is, God doesn’t care about right or wrong.  Saying that there’s no absolute right and wrong.  Doesn’t that speak to our world today?

There were others of that day, saying God is just too nice to judge sin.  You might be saying that people don’t be;lieve that in our day.  Well folks, if they don’t, they sure act like they do.

Now, what’s all this have to do with STEWARDSHIP?

I’ll try to make the point here.  Some reading this may be the only Christian in your surroundings (young or old)).  Then you have the stewardship of leadership–you ought to be the spiritual leader.

You may be the only Christian believer at work.  Then you have the stewardship of leadership–you ought to be the spiritual leader in your workplace.

I’m sure that many of you who are reading my words realize that God has given you a position of leadership in some capacity.  My question is, are you bringing GLORY to His name, or are you causing people to curse and blaspheme His name?

If you are lost, God is interested in you enough that He doesn’t want you to go to hell but to heaven.

Here’s the GOOD NEWS!

You can be saved from eternity lost and have the assurance that you are on your way to heaven through faith in Jesus Christ.  If that’s where you are, will you in the faith receive Him today? 

If you just made that commitment to follow Jesus, I want you to leave your thoughts, your words, in the reply comments section at the bottom of the page.  Not because I say so, but because God’s Word says so.

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Footnote [i] : The Good News About Marriage, by Shaunti Feldhahn.

Photo/Images:  Googlr Image Search.

Bible Translations Used:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); or translations used in the images and so noted.

Acceptance Can Be A Challenge

A  STUDY IN ACTS CHAPTER 10

Before we dig into God’s Word in Acts 10, let be back up to a Bible verse that most believers are familiar with in Acts, Chapter One:

We all have acceptable agendas to maintain.

Some agendas are open for others to see, and some are hidden.  They list what we want, why we want it, with whom and under what prenoted conditions.  They become necessary in helping us focus on our goals and more steadily and effectively toward them.  There’s nothing more crucial for individual Christians and congregations, asking “What is the Lord’s agenda?”

The early Church,

The members of the early Church were having a difficult time of getting on board with the Lord’s agenda.  He made it very clear prior to Pentecost and the birth of the Church what it was!

“You shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria,

and the end of the earth.”

But the Church was reluctant to accept this agenda.

The prejudicial belief of the gospel was for the exclusive redemption of the Hebrew people.  They believed the Church’s agenda was limited to the conversion of Jews in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth,  Their priorities were that salvation was through, from, and for the Jews.

Simon Peter is brought into the picture (Acts 10:9-16)

Wow!  It’s a weird story, isn’t it?

Peter’s up on the roof of Simon the tanner’s house in the middle of the day with intentions to pray and then gets hungry asking the cook to prepare lunch.  And while he’s waiting, he falls into a trance.

Maybe it was the heat of the day that got to him.  But he’s in this trance and has a vision.  A sheet or perhaps it’s a sailcloth being lowered to the ground by its corners.  All sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds are seen.

Then the strangest part of the vision happens.  Someone speaks and a voice says, “Get up Peter, kill and eat!”  Peter would have been used to killing fish, cutting them open to clean them, he was a fisherman by trade.  So it isn’t the idea of killing these animals that surprises him.  Rather, it’s the kinds of animals they are.  Animals declared unclean by OT Law (Leviticus 11 & Deuteronomy 14), are now okay to be eaten.

Naturally, Peter objects.  He’s a good Jew.  He wouldn’t eat anything unclean.  That would make him ritually impure, not to mention disobedient to God!

And there’s even a bigger surprise!

Peter is told that God has made these things clean.  And then the whole process repeats 2 more times.  Peter obviously needs time to process and accept what all this means.

The Lord was crossing Peter’s preconditioning and prejudices and the Apostle found it difficult to understand.  The Lord wasn’t altering the valid food laws that had kept His children healthy over time.  What the Lord had in mind wasn’t the foods Peter should now eat but the people he should accept and love!

Peter’s confusion was cleared up when there was a knock at the tanner’s gate.

Some men were there sent by a godly Centurion named Cornelius, asking Peter to come and tell their master the message he has for him.  Cornelius was a Roman, a Gentile, but nevertheless a God-fearer.  He too had seen a vision.  In his case, it was of an angel telling him to send men to Joppa and find someone named Peter.

I don’t know about you, but I find that amazing.  Here’s Cornelius sending for Peter, but he doesn’t know what Peter is going to say or do.  Peter has this strange vision.  And then Cornelius’ servants arrive with the message that they’ve been sent as a result of an angel appearing to Cornelius.

And suddenly it all becomes clear to Peter.  He isn’t as slow of mind as it first appears, given that he had to be shown the vision three times.  That’s what the vision was all about!  The Holy Spirit makes it clear to him, telling him that he should go with these men.  Now he realizes that this vision of the animals and birds were all about the prohibition on Jews mixing with Gentiles.

When he arrives at Cornelius’ house he explains it to Cornelius and his family:  (vs. 28)

[28]  “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile.  But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.”

I think it’s really hard to grasp just how radical this behavior of Peter is.  A Jew couldn’t associate with Gentiles, or even visit them, much less eat with them or stay with them as he ends up doing.

Now at last Peter understands God’s agenda.

In fact, that’s where he begins in his explanation of the gospel.  What I thought was interesting here to take note…Peter didn’t arrive at Cornelius’  bursting into the household by preaching.  He simply began the conversation with a question:  [29] “May I ask why you sent for me?”   

A sure sign that we are on the Lord’s agenda is our willingness to listen to people in order to communicate with a tender heart.  Peter knew the why’s but he wanted to hear it from Cornelius himself.

 

 

We need to read on or else we may jump to wrong conclusions for acceptance.

There are many today who’d stop there and say, “There you are!  It doesn’t matter what religion you are as long as you fear God.”  But Peter goes on to explain what he means by “acceptance” and its meaning, as those people gathered at Cornelius’ house learning what’s acceptable to God.  We need to be careful that we understand this as well.

There’s a certain exclusivity about the Gospel that’s difficult to accept.

It doesn’t come naturally to us in our “equality of all people” worldview.   It can come across as arrogant or rude, or even patronizing to suggest that we know the answers and others don’t.  But let’s take a close look to see what Peter says.

He begins with the historical facts about Jesus.

Cornelius most likely was familiar with those facts.  The stories about Jesus would have spread far and wide by now.  You couldn’t have lived in the region of Judea without hearing about the things Jesus did and said, let alone the things that people were saying about Him.

The first thing Peter reminds them of is that Jesus Christ was the One God had promised he’d send to bring us PEACE with God:

The second thing is that Jesus Christ is Lord of ALL!  That’s how He can bring PEACE!!

And finally, here’s the climax to Peter’s message:  Jesus “commanded us to preach to the people to testify that He is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.  [43] All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.”

Here’s the BAD NEWS/GOOD NEWS of the story.

There are two sides of the gospel coin.  Jesus has been appointed the JUDGE of the living and the dead.  That’s the bad news.

Everyone who has lived, living or will live is going to be judged by Jesus Christ whether or not they’re Christians.  “The living and the dead” is an all-encompassing description.  No one is exempt!

But here’s the good news:  “Everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.”

The RESULT of Peter’s witness.

Even while Peter is speaking, God works a miracle in the hearts of his listeners and they are converted.  Not before, not after, but ‘while’ he’s speaking.

But notice how this occurs.

“While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word.”

The Holy Spirit doesn’t just come.  He comes on them in response to them hearing the word of God with the message of the gospel.  This is why we need to keep emphasizing the importance of sharing God’s Word with people–the MESSAGE of The Gospel truth because words matter!

The gospel message is the power of God for salvation.  People need to hear it!

Christian behavior will commend the gospel but on its own, good behavior is just nice.  To be effective our behavior as Christians need to be accompanied by an explanation of the reason for it.  It needs to be accompanied by the WORDS of the Gospel!

Our Words don’t need to be clever.

It’s the Holy Spirit that does the converting, the filling, not our cleverness.  Don’t think you can debate someone into the Kingdom.  No, it’s the Holy Spirit that does the convincing.  The newest, born-again believer down the street who knows little more than the grace of God, can share the gospel with someone.  But nevertheless, it’s as they hear the words about Jesus that the Spirit is enabled to act.

In this instance (vs. 44-45), the Spirit fills them and straight away Peter baptizes them in the name of Jesus Christ as new members of the Christian Church.  No membership classes needed and no church board approvals!

Two More things to notice from this passage of Scripture:

The first I noticed has to do with Cornelius.  When you stop and think about it, he’s not all that different from the people we’ll come across every day.  He wasn’t a Jew.  He hadn’t grown up hearing about God or Jesus.  He wasn’t one of the dominant religious groups in the area.  In fact, he belonged to a group who were enemies of the Jews.

He belonged to a culture entirely pagan.  Again, that makes him not much different to the people you and I know outside the Church.  Yet having said that, realize his pagan mindset was a deep longing for salvation.

I believe most people we run across during the day have an awareness of a spiritual dimension to life.

Many are like Cornelius and aware of a lack in their lives, a need that’s longing to be filled; a need that could be filled if only someone would SHARE the good news about Jesus with them.

Don’t wait until you have a vision of a sheet filled with animals and reptiles and birds.

I want to encourage you to be ready for looking at and accepting the opportunities God has or will place in your life.  Those opportunities can be found every day in the course of conversation.  Perhaps to mention your faith to someone, or to mention your church community, or the love and care you experience, or the times when you’ve been helped through difficult situations by your Christian faith, by the presence of God, or whatever.  There are so many different ways to do it.  So be ready!

Finally, the second thing I noticed,,,

Although at first glance, Peter’s experience seems distant from ours, yet there are great similarities.  We may not be quite as closed to the acceptance to others as Peter appeared to be, but nevertheless, we have just as much difficulty moving outside our comfort zone.  We have just as much difficulty as he would have had in accepting change.

We can be sure that God will do His part.

The Holy Spirit is with us and will open people’s hearts if we ask Him to.  And just like Peter and Cornelius, we might discover when we move outside our comfy existence, amazing things can and will happen!

___________________________________________________________

CREDITS:

Getting on the Lord’s Agenda, Chapter 11, page 137; DRUMBEAT of LOVE by Lloyd John Ogilvie.

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); and as noted in images or text.

 

 

 

 

Everyone Has A Story To Tell

Many of Jesus’ teachings were in the form of stories.  There’s power in a story.  Everyone has a story.  And if given a chance, everyone likes to tell his/her story.

There are some words as I run across them that brings to mind an association:

“Texas” (family)

“Waco” (Mexican food)

“Vacation” (Fun and relaxation)

“Diet” (not fun)

“Politics” (anger, depression)

How about this description, “Born Again Christian”?

From the world’s point of view, some of these words may come to mind:  (rigid, narrow, uptight, self-righteous, fanatics).

I hope the answers given by individuals who have observed Christians for a long time is true for all of us.

Answers that are given from personal friends who know us:

“They are compassionate.  Just plain kind to others.”

“They tell the truth and talk straight with you.”

“They love God and they love people.”

My Story, and it’s a simple one.

I grew up in a modest, loving home in San Diego, California.  I thought going to church was synonymous with being a Christian.  As a young adult, I attended a church that didn’t have the goodness of the Gospel presented to me.  At the age of 22, I married the love of my life and at 23 became a dad.  And before the age of 28, two more children.  Then in August of 1972, at the age of 30, both my wife and I sat together on our couch with a pastor shared the Gospel message and we both accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior that night.

Everyone has a story.

PAUL, THE APOSTLE, TOLD HIS STORY OFTEN.

When the Apostle Paul wanted to give evidence for his belief in Jesus as the true Messiah, the Son of God, he told his story of meeting Jesus on the Road to Damascus.  Paul’s conversion story is the most compelling story in human history.

When Paul was arrested in Jerusalem, he spoke to the mob of legalistic Jews and told them of his conversion story (Acts 22:1-16).

When Paul stood on trial before King Agrippa, he again told his story of his conversion (Acts 26:12-18).

Saul was his given name.  Born in a Jewish home in Tarsus.  His father was a Roman citizen, so Paul was privileged to also be a Roman citizen.  He was fluent in both Aramaic and Greek languages.

Paul Told About His Life Before Christ.

Paul testified that his life before Christ was empty and dark.  Paul said that something happened to him on the Damascus road comparable to the creation of light (Genesis 1:2, 3):  “And God said, Let there be light, and there was light.”  Paul said that same LIGHT that God created shined into his own soul.

The Risen Christ’s Confrontation with Saul On the Damascus Road.

Jesus, the Light of the World, appeared to Saul with the brilliance of LIGHT brighter than the desert sun of the Middle East.

Saul fell from his horse blinded, landing flat on the ground.

Jesus spoke to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”  (Acts 9:4 b.)  

Paul murmurs out in a weak, shaky voice “Who are you, Lord?”  [The actual word used in translation for “Lord” is “Sir”.  Paul hasn’t a clue who he’s talking to at this point]

Paul hears the response:  “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting”.

Saul must have realized that he was being confronted by the very One he didn’t believe in as he laid flat on his face in the middle of nowhere.  Before the very one, he has hated.

Jesus is still hated by many people around the world today.  However many Jews and Gentiles have had their lives transformed and met Jesus.

Choices Have to Be Made…

Jesus gave Paul specific instructions and the next steps to take and Paul had the choice to OBEY or DISOBEY.

Saul became the clay and the Potter began to mold the man.  He surrendered to Jesus and asked the Lord what He wanted him to do.

He was OBEDIENT to the words of Jesus!

Saul/Paul who had been spiritually blinded and was now physically blind.

Jesus had touched his heart and gave him spiritual sight but for THREE DAYS in a tomb of darkness he was blind and had to be led around by someone else.

Ananias, A Disciple of Jesus.

Ananias, whose name means “Yahweh is generous”, was instructed to go to Saul and pray for him.  He argued with the Lord at first hearing because of Saul’s reputation of acts of terrorism against the Church; “the Way.”  Finally, Ananias took courage, went to Saul, and his first words were “Brother Saul…” (verse 17).  Ananias’ attitude, his misgivings had changed for he believed the Lord that this one man who had been against the Church was to be one of them in the new covenant of acceptance and forgiveness.

The SAUL’s of our life rise before us.

I must be the Lord’s bridge to the very people I’ve placed in the tight compartments of my righteous indignation.

Acts 9:17-18 (NIV)

[17] Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again.  He got up and was baptized,  [18] and after taking some food, he regained his strength.”

The Theme of Paul’s Life After His Conversion Was “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ” ~

When Saul first met Jesus he became a new man in Christ.  He believed what he had experienced could happen to anyone who became a follower of Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV) – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!”

Paul believed and preached that anyone who came to Jesus could be made into a new person.  So the theme of Paul’s life can be summed up in the gospel message in 1 Corinthians 15:3-9

Paul could preach and teach from his heart and he had a story to tell that Jesus is alive and well because he had seen Him.

When Paul met Jesus on that hot and dusty road that day, he changed his view of what he knew of the Cross.  No true prophet or Rabbi would ever dare to envision a Messiah suffering death on a tree (Cross).  The Law declared, “He that is hanged is cursed” (Deuteronomy 21:23).

After meeting Jesus on the Damascus road, Paul saw the Cross of Christ in a new light.  Paul believed the Cross was the wisdom and glory of God.

Paul said his calling was not to preach with lofty, high falutin words but to simply tell God’s message:

1 Corinthians 2:2 (GNT)

[2] “For while I was with you, I made up my mind to forget everything except Jesus Christ and especially his death on the cross.”

Paul could say, “Since I met Jesus, my life has taken a 180-degree turn.  Jesus is alive just as the prophets had foretold.”

Countless others have said the same thing in different ways:

  • THE MAN WHO WAS BORN BLIND:  “Since I met Jesus, I once was blind, but not I see!”
  • LISTEN TO LAZARUS:  “I was dead in the grave for four days, but because Jesus called my name I’m now alive!”
  • LISTEN TO ZACCHAEUS:  “Before I met Jesus I gained my riches through dishonest taxes.  I soon learned that money isn’t everything.  When I met Jesus I was glad to repay all I cheated with interest.  All the money in the world can’t bring peace of mind and heart, but Jesus gave me peace.”

The question becomes that every person must answer:

“HAVE YOU MET JESUS?”

You Can Help People Meet Jesus.

The Scriptures teach us that Jesus is our BRIDGE to God and eternal life.

The BRIDGE illustration in the image above is a simple way for you to tell others about the importance of the Cross and their bridge to God.

We can use the “Bridge” illustration in sharing with people and helping them to come to Jesus.

Looking at two sides of a river without a BRIDGE:

  • The left side represents people.
  • The other side represents God.

The Bible says that without God people are lost

Romans 3:23  “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”

Romans 6:23  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The right side represents God.

People try all kinds of ways to reach God:

  • Good works.
  • Attend church.
  • Read the Bible.
  • Be a “good person”.

ALL FALL SHORT!

Ephesians 2:8-9 (AMP)

[8] For it is by grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith.  And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God;  [9] Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast.  [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself].

Where might you be right now on the BRIDGE, on the left side or the right side?

JESUS BRIDGES THE GAP!

Romans 5:8  “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

1 Peter 3:18  “For Christ [the Messiah Himself] died for sins once for all, the Righteous for the unrighteous (the Just for the unjust, the Innocent for the guilty), that He might bring us to God.  In His human body He was put to death, but He was made alive in the spirit”  (AMP).

John 5:24 (NIV)

Jesus gives the invitation to cross over:  Revelation 3:20 (NIV)

“Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

To “open the door” to Jesus, THREE turns off the door to make in inviting Jesus in our heart and life…

  • CONFESS SIN – (1 John 1:9)
  • REPENT – (Acts 3:19)
  • RECEIVE – (John 1:11-12)

You can share the Bridge illustration on a napkin over lunch or on a sheet of paper in your office and you can tell your personal story.  Tell of your life before Christ and how you came to personally know Jesus and received Him as Savior and Lord.

EVERYONE HAS A STORY!  WHAT’S YOURS?

I encourage you this week to write out your brief story–your life before Christ.  How you came to Jesus and now what your life is like now.  The ups, the downs you have faced.

If you haven’t yet crossed the BRIDGE, I encourage you to take the first step and cross this bridge right where you are now.

____________________________________________

CREDITS

Music Video:  Hillsong Worship – Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace).  YouTube, Inc.

Photo Images:  Google Image Search – Settings, Advance search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); Good News Translation (GNT).

When Someone says “BUT,” Start Listening!

“HAVE I CROSSED THE LINE?  HAVE I COMMITTED THE UNFORGIVABLE SIN?”

I’ve heard these questions from people over the years, asking what the “unpardonable or unforgivable sin” is and there are some strange interpretations floated out there of what it is.

Today, if you look around, you’ll find groups who WORSHIP God the Father only, not believing that JESUS IS GOD.  And, some groups focus on JESUS only.

This might be the most ridiculous thing you’ve read or heard–BUT, You can’t worship the Father and not the Son and you would be right!  

But you see, we can be critical of such groups, but if we’re not careful, we might end up in the same boat.  All to often, we put little value upon the Holy Spirit who is one of God’s THREE equal persons.

WHOEVER MAY BLASPHEME AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT – Mark 3:28-30 

the-unforgiveable-sin-mark-3-2230-feb-17-2013-21-638

Charles Spurgeon once wrote:

“Common too common, is the sin of forgetting the Holy Spirit…the Church will never prosper until more reverently it believes in the Holy Spirit.”

SO…What is the “UNPARDONABLE SIN?  Didn’t Jesus say, “All sins will be forgiven?”

Let’s put things in context by looking at what was happening at the time.

Christ Jesus was performing miracle after miracle, healing physical diseases as well as the demon possessed.

People were amazed at His teaching and the works He performed and His popularity was growing at an alarming rate.  This troubled the RELIGIOUS leaders of the day, who also witnessed what Jesus was doing.

Those who witnessed these mind-blowing events responded in one of two ways:

  • Some were amazed and saw it as proof that Christ was the “promised One,” the Messiah.  Matthew’s account reaffirms the reactions of the people, in Matthew 12:23:

“And all the [crowds of] people were stunned with bewildered wonder and said, This cannot be the Son of David, can it?”

  • Others accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of “Beelzebub”. Beelzebub may be a variant of Baal-zebub (2 Kings 1:2-3).  This is the name of an ancient Philistine idol, meaning “the god of flies”.

The “BUT” (s) in Scripture.

A wise man once said that when someone says “but,” start listening, for the part prior to the “but” is the setup.  The part after the “but” is what the person really came to say.

Let me toss this thought up in the air for a moment.  Jesus didn’t say that the RELIGIOUS leaders, the Scribes, had committed the “unforgivable sin.”  What He was saying was “BUT be careful, because you are about to cross the line.” (v. 29)

This wasn’t about what they had done, BUT what they were in danger of doing.

So far we read and see that:

  • They had rejected the witness of Jesus’ words.
  • They had rejected the witness of Jesus’ works.
  • BUT…they had NOT rejected God’s final witness, the HOLY SPIRIT, not yet anyway.

The Holy Spirit at this point in time, had not yet come.

The ONLY unforgivable sin is to REJECT the witness of the Holy Spirit and accepting Christ Jesus.  The Holy Spirit comes to CONVICT us of our sin and CONVINCE us that we need SALVATION.

Jesus is saying to these men, “If you treat the Holy Spirit like you do Me…If you reject Him like you do Me, you will NEVER be forgiven.”

The reality of it all is this:  IF you treat the nudging of the Spirit with a closed mind and closed heart, you’ll NEVER receive forgiveness…even though it is offered to you.  It is the SIN OF REFUSING forgiveness!

HERE’S WHAT JESUS WAS SAYING–God reached down to fallen man, in an act of LOVE, to redeem them.

In Old Testament times, God witnessed to men through His miracles and special revelations and through His prophets (Hebrews 1:1).  But man killed the prophets; stoned them and refused to listen.  We rejected them!

So then, you might say that FIRST, God came.

Then God, in a SECOND act of LOVE, sent His One and only Son (John 3:16).

During the days of Christ, He Himself was God’s witness of SALVATION to the world.

Today, the Holy Spirit is God’s WITNESS to the hearts of mankind.

  • He bears witness of Christ (John 15:26).
  • He convicts men of their lost condition (John 16:7-11).

HOLY SPIRIT IS GOD’S FINAL CALL!

Every time a person REJECTS His witness/conviction, he moves one step closer to eternal judgment and condemnation.

In study this past week, I remembered the story about the guy who was given a WARNING that a flood was coming.  The news report went out and the people of the community were told to evacuate ASAP!  This man refused to listen and leave, saying “GOD WILL RESCUE ME!”  Then a police car came and he refused it…then a boat came and he still refused…then a helicopter.

"BUT, if you won't listen, you'll drown!"
“BUT, if you won’t listen, you’ll drown!”

When he stood before God after DROWNING, he demanded to know what happened:  “God, how could you do this to me?”  God simply said, “I sent a police car, a boat and a helicopter and you refused each one.”

God Came & People Rejected Him…

JESUS came & people rejected Him…the Holy Spirit is last to come.

I recently read this pastor’s comment:  “The HOLY SPIRIT is not greater than…He’s just later than the Father and Son” [ Pastor Bill Purvis].

The “whosoever wills” and the “whosoever won’ts” 

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We live in a wonderful world of GRACE.  The BIBLE is clear on that.

Through the preaching of the Word and the WITNESS of believers, the Holy Spirit CONVINCES people their need for a personal relationship with Christ Jesus.

He calls all who will LISTEN and He SAVES all who choose to RECEIVE His offer, the GIFT OF SALVATION.

God is PATIENT “BUT”…eventually, TIME IS UP!

Here’s the terrible truth…No one knows when God will give His last invitation.

I was prompted by the Holy Spirit to write this Blog-study in the Gospel of Mark during the Christmas Season; when hearts are tender and open to the Spirit of God.  Whenever a person puts off receiving Jesus, they are in danger of rejecting God’s final invitation.  If you are struggling with the question of “the unpardonable sin,” wondering if you have “crossed the line,” you haven’t yet committed it.  The unforgivable sin occurs when a heart is so cold and hard toward God and His Spirit, that you have no feeling.  You could care less anymore.

“Crossing the Line” – A Story by Dr. Jerry Vines.

This story I’m about to tell you is about a man who crossed this line and committed the unforgivable sin.

The man told how he would sit in church every Sunday and when the invitation was given to come forward and accept Christ as Savior, he would have such a heavy sense of conviction.

One day he walked out of church with a plan.  He said “God, I hate feeling this way and I don’t ever want to feel like this again.  I will make you a deal right here and now.  If you leave me alone and never speak to me, I will never call on you.”

Around 20 years later, the man told Dr. Vines that so far he had kept his side of the deal; he had yet to call on God for anything, including SALVATION.  He told Dr. Vines that God had kept His end of the deal as well.  He never called on him since and he was happy with that arrangement.

THAT’S CROSSING THE LINE…

Maybe you’re thinking that you are 99% sure you’re SAVED…you are just not convinced.  Let me add this to your thinking if that’s you:

99% SURE IS 100% LOST!

You can be 100% sure right where you are…

In front of a Computer Screen…

On the Commuter Train with your Smartphone or Tablet…

Wherever you might be reading this.

You CAN be 100% sure right now!!

“For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life” ~ John 3:16 (AMP).

 


CREDITS –

Biblical Commentary, Mark 3:20-35 @ Sermon Writer.com

Harper’s Bible Dictionary “Baalzebub”, pg. 86

Photos:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations Used:  Amplified Bible (AMP), unless noted in text.

 

IGNORANCE Is No Excuse!

Scripture verses: John 19:1-3:

[1] Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.  [2] The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head.  They clothed him in a purple robe  [3] and went up to him again and again, saying,  “Hail, king of the Jews!”  And they struck him in the face.  (NIV – New International Version Bible.)

EASTER START –

I have always enjoyed movies around Easter time that depict the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Some, I enjoyed before becoming a born-again, as a spectacle; Roman guards, crowd scenes in chaos, background music…”WOW!” I thought after leaving the theater, then immediately headed to the record store to buy the Soundtrack to the movie.

Knowing what I know now, and after becoming a true believer in Christ Jesus, and… what He did for me on the cross, my viewpoint has changed on the impact the events, so long ago, have played out in my Christian life today.

It is interesting to contrast how the suffering of Jesus is portrayed in the movies of the past.

1927 King of Kings CrucifixionThe King of Kings, a Cecil B. Demille’s 1927 spectacular.  The movie was such a big hit that no Hollywood studio would make another life of Jesus movie until after DeMille had passed away.  In 1961, a re-make of the movie was made, and I was first in line at the box offices to get my tickets.

Most of the movies made would have been rated “PG” if there had been “ratings” at the time.  There’s hardly any blood; and JESUS looks more annoyed than in pain.  And I also noticed that there seemed to be a heavenly glow around His head, as He gazes into heaven.

Then there are depictions that more accurately portray Jesus’ suffering, like Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ; rated “R” for violence.

Yeshuah and the Kingdom of Heaven
Yeshuah and the Kingdom of Heaven

But Gibson really didn’t go far enough…

To understand the physical impact of the scourging had on Jesus and the unfolding events ahead as He went with His disciples to the Mount of Olives in the garden of Gethsemane.

And being in agony [of mind] He prayed and intently, and His sweat became like great clots of blood dropping down upon the ground  (Luke 22:44 AMP).

The drops of blood Luke (a doctor) refers to, is the result of a medical condition called Hematidrosis.  Severe anxiety breaks the capillaries in the sweat glands, resulting in “bloody sweat.”  [SEE Footnote [i]

People often think JESUS got 39 lashes, but that was a Jewish limitation.  ROMAN scourging (9:1) was more severe.

The Objective:

The Roman objective was to shred the muscles of the back, buttocks, and legs. Historians say that six of ten would die from this beating [Third-century historian Eusebius].

What I find amazing, is this “scourging” that takes place, is not just the extreme nature of it, but that it was allowed to happen in the first place.

1 Peter 3:18 (NLT – New Living Translation):

[18] Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death but he was raised to life in the Spirit.

John 10:18 (a) (Amplified Bible):

[17]  …because I lay down My [own] life–to take it back again.  [18] No one takes it away from Me. On the contrary, I lay it down voluntarily…”

No one was doing this to JESUS against His will, for at any second He could have put a stop to it!

One reason I gave you this vivid backdrop, I wanted you to understand that the Romans were also faced with the ultimate question,

“What will we do with Jesus?”

WHY?

IGNORANCE –

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Ignorance is a favorite defense of ours.  “Don’t blame me; I didn’t know!”

We often want to justify our guilt by pleading ignorance.

“Did you take out the trash?” – “I didn’t know it was trash day.”

“Did you eat the last Popsicle?” – “I didn’t know it was the last one.”

“Are you aware there is a dress code in the office?” – “I didn’t know that.”

“Did you know the blood splattered on your face is payment for your sins?”

“Did you know that the bruises you give Him are for you transgressions–that by His wounds you are healed?” 

“I didn’t know…”

When it comes down to our RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD, we can’t plead ignorance.

While IGNORANCE might be an explanation, it is not an acceptable defense.  Attorneys will tell you that ignorance is not an allowable defense in a criminal case; it’s not a legitimate excuse.

Imagine you get a new job and you are given an employee manual, and you never look at it.  On the first day of work you come in after 9 AM.  You are wearing ratty jeans, a pair of flip-flops, a bleached-stained old sweatshirt, and a cap.  After a two-hour lunch break, you come back and find a note on your desk from the boss.  After your offenses are laid out, you say,  “I didn’t know.”  But it’s your responsibility to know.  The book was given to you.

Even if you ignored it and didn’t read it, you are still accountable for its guidelines.

This same principle of responsibility applies to our Godly Relationship.  We will all one day have to give an account to God; pleading IGNORANCE will not be an option.

IGNORANCE WILL NOT REMOVE YOUR GUILT!

Acts 3:13b-15 (MSG):

“The very One that Pilate called innocent, you repudiated. You repudiated the Holy One, the Just One, and asked for a murderer in his place. You no sooner called the Author of Life than God raised him from the dead–and we’re the witnesses.”

Peter then goes on to say in verse 17,

“And now brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance [not aware of what you were doing], as did your rulers…”  (AMP)

Then in verse 19, he gives the appropriate response in their ignorance of killing Jesus:

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord”  (NIV Bible).

Though they acted in ignorance, that didn’t get them off the hook.

REPENTANCE was still needed…IGNORANCE was no excuse.

WHY?

Because man’s IGNORANCE is willful.

Romans 1:20 (NIV):

For since creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Donnas-sunset-cropped

What Paul refers to here, is “general revelation.”  If a person seeks to know the God who revealed Himself in CREATION, God’s promise is, He will give that person whatever other revelation is needed that they might know Him personally and intimately.

“But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you look for Him with all your heart and with all your soul”  (Deuteronomy 4:29 NIV).

God’s REVELATION can be like CAR HEADLIGHTS.

If I were to leave the church parking light at night after choir practice, my car’s headlights don’t shine down the Nooksack Road, Tom Road, Hampton Road and up my driveway.

No, they shine out so far, and when I have traveled that distance, they shine out further.

And just like I can put on the brakes when driving my car, we can put on the brakes to GOD’S REVELATION.  In fact, that’s the way mankind at large, is described in Romans 3: 11b:

“no one seeks out God”

But for those who do respond to GOD’S REVELATION, more will be given so that they might come to know God in a personal relationship through Jesus.

One example of this in Scripture is Cornelius in Acts 10, of a God-fearing man who sought the Lord.  Holy Spirit sent Peter to explain the Good News to him, so he might know Christ personally.

On the FIRST EASTER, though most Romans remained IGNORANT, one did not.  He didn’t ignore what God had made known to him that day.  HE BELIEVED! (Mark 15:39).

The same happened with one of the THIEVES who was crucified beside Jesus (Luke 23:39-43).

Maybe if you are reading this right now, God’s revelation has drawn you to Him this day.

KEEP ASKING QUESTIONS, there ARE ANSWERS.

Perhaps there is a need for you to commit to knowing God.  God has brought you to this place where you have had enough questions answered–that you recognize that JESUS IS THE ANSWER and you are ready to give your life to Him.

OTHERS need to COMMIT to showing God.

You may know Christ and you recognize the need to used like Peter was.

Be a willing WITNESS who tells a ‘seeking soul’ about our Gracious God!  

Remember, IGNORANCE is no excuse!

 


CREDITS & FOOTNOTES –

Footnote [i] : Medical Dictionary at medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/hermatidrosis.

Photo Images: Google Images Search; Photobucket.

Bible Translations:  New Living Translation (NLT); The MESSAGE bible (MSG); The AMPLIFIED bible (AMP).

 

 

A GUIDE For Witnessing In A Christ-like Manner

you will be my witnessesIn my reading of Scripture every morning, my set-aside devotional time, there’s one book in the New Testament that refreshes my spirit over and over again.  It was the first book of the Bible I read through after I was “born again” in 1972.  The book, The Gospel Of John.  

Many truths set forth in John’s gospel have made a great impact on my Christian life.  First and foremost, there is no greater honor than to be a part of God’s work of telling others about Jesus.  So this is where I want to begin; sharing from my own experiences and giving a beginning guide to today’s oft forgotten term… Witnessing to others about Jesus Christ.

We hear from pastor’s sermons at least once a year from a familiar passage in Acts 1:8  “and you shall be My witnesses…”  Now if we take that verse to heart, seriously, maybe we need to reevaluate our preparedness to obey Christ’s command.

WHAT IS A WITNESS?

WITNESS Definitions:  Merriam Webster;  [2] One that gives evidence;  [5] public affirmation by word or example.

The word WITNESS we are most familiar with comes to us from the legal sphere, derived from the root meaning “to bear in mind,” “to be careful.”  Thus a witness in the field of law is one who has the knowledge of something by recollection and experience and who can tell about it accurately.

Biblically speaking, A WITNESS is born when one is born again, that is, when you experience the POWER of God in your own personal death, burial and resurrection. In that sense, Christian Witnessing is not optional, nor is it mandatory.  It is inevitable.

When I first had knowledge of what a witness was, and internalizing Jesus’ message in Acts 1:8 of being “witnesses” in the community, this next little tidbit was added to my spirit: 

The word MARTYR: “comes from the Greek word for “witness”.  Early Christians were often put to death for the “witness” of Christ Jesus.

Boy, after having that scary thought placed in my mind, I needed some real motivation if… I was going to be a witness for Jesus.  But where was that motivation going to come from?

A GUIDE to Being A WITNESS:

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In John chapter four, JESUS is passing through Samaria.  He comes to Jacob’s well, tired from His journey and He sits down (John 4:6).

Now the disciples have gone into a nearby town Sychar, to buy food (John 4:5, 8).  The Bible says it was about the sixth hour which most likely be around noon.

LUNCH TIME!

In my last job before retiring, I was required to be at my desk by 6 AM.  So by the time lunch time rolled around, I needed to get away from the office, where I could sit down, get a bite to eat, and relax.  Many times, several of my co-workers would show up at the same place.  I didn’t invite them to come.  They just showed up!

In this portion of Scripture, we see Jesus’ human side and see that He is tired and evidently hungry, just like when we get tired and hungry.

Notice how Jesus uses a common physical thirst to cause the lady at the well to ask questions about deeper eternal matters.

I was intrigued once more to focus on their discussion.  Remember, they are total strangers to one another–not co-workers, not BFF’s, but strangers.

STEP #1.  Jesus arouses the woman’s curiosity with a promise; the quenching a natural spiritual thirst common to all mankind.  That spiritual thirst which people try to satisfy through giving into the flesh, drinking in the world’s views and Satan’s lies.  Sadly, only a few drink of the Living Water offered by the Lord.

John 4:13-14:

[13] Jesus answer her, “All who drink of this water will be thirsty again.  

THE PROMISE…

[14] But whoever takes a drink of the water that I will give him shall never, no never, be thirsty any more.  But the water that I will give him shall become a spring of water welling up (flowing, bubbling)  [continually]  within him unto (into, for) eternal life.”

By Divine Appointment – A Personal Story

Working for a large company for over fifteen years, starting as a truck driver and working myself up through the ranks to Branch Manager, in February, 1985, the company was sold, and my services were no longer needed.  I was to be replaced by new management.  Although I was given a decent severance pay package, my self-worth was definitely damaged in the process.

Two weeks later, I received a phone call from an old business associate, who had heard through the grapevine reasons for my termination.  He asked the question–“Would I be interested in taking a job out-of-state?”  “That depends,” I answered.  “Where is ‘out-of-state’?”  HAWAII.  So, two days later, I found myself sitting in front of the president of large Hawaiian Wholesale Plumbing Company on the island of Oahu.

The next several months was a time in my life I have reflected on in detail for years. For my stay was for a brief time.  At the time, A Divine Appointment wasn’t even a thought. But God had set His plan in motion long before I had a clue.

After accepting the new job, part of my negotiated package was housing and a company vehicle to use until my family and automobile arrived from the mainland.  Since the president’s daughter and son-in-law lived nearby and also worked at the same office, I carpooled with the young man…for over two months.  Our conversation varied during the heavy commute, from family to music choices (the car radio was always active), to Hawaiian lifestyle compared to mainland lifestyle.  Then one day he asked, “I’ve noticed you go to church every Sunday.  What church do you attend?”  The opportunity at the well was there and I took it!

I answered his question with a question; asking him his religious background and did he have a personal relationship with JESUS; a few weeks later led him to Christ.

Hawaii wasn’t the place for my family and I to live, and I returned to the mainland; unemployed to employment…and back to unemployment… all with three month’s time.

WHY?  God had a DIVINE APPOINTMENT in mind and I had the privilege to be a part of.  It wasn’t until I returned to my original starting point did I fully understand the details in my going.

Divine Providence brings always amazing things and Jesus doesn’t want you to miss the opportunities He gives you.

Three simple truths we can hold on to here as laid down by Jesus to help all Christians in their daily witness.  For after all, when we leave our front door in the morning, we don’t go out witnessing; we witness as we go.  It may be today, next week, next month or off and on through out the calendar year.  But know this: God wants to use you.

So how can we follow the simple example of Christ with confidence that Jesus is going to use us?

The FIRST THING I noticed that Jesus did was to make a connection.

The woman who lived a sinful life came out to get water and He makes the connection with her.

You have family members, friends and co-workers just like this lady and you need to be making connections.  Jesus made the connection in being obedient to His Father who was sending Him to Galilee.

All Divine Appointments that are set up for you come about as you are obedient to the Lord’s call on your life.  

Divine Providence brings all glorious things into existence.  Jesus doesn’t want you to miss the opportunities He gives you.

Is there someone in your workplace that you want to reach for Christ?  Is there a neighbor, a family member you’ve been praying for?  Ask the Lord for a connection.

Jesus had a need for water and the lady had a way of getting water from a well that was very deep.  The depth is around 70 feet to the water line with a depth of about 105 feet (Harper’s Bible Dictionary, Jacob’s Well).

The point being Jesus, being a man, had a NEED that could not be met without her help.

We all have some needs that we cannot meet and there is someone who is bound by sin who can help you meet that need.

This is a wonderful opportunity to make a connection. It may be an answer to a question about work, home repairs, a physical task you cannot do on your own.

Make a connection with someone who would be shocked that you even noticed them let alone asked them for help.

The lady at the well asks,  “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”  (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans) – (John 4:9)

A Little History About Samaritans –

Samaria is right about center of Israel.  When Israel fell to the Assyrians, Samaria was theacts_1_8_1 place where the poorest were left behind.  They intermarried with other races and brought in a false priest.  Add to that, they began false worship and twisted Scripture while rejecting everything in the Old Testament except the first five books of the Bible (2 Kings 17).

There are many PREJUDICES that keep people from hearing the gospel message of Jesus.

PREJUDICES of the people who are living in sin.  They convince themselves that obedient Christians don’t want to associate with them or care about their needs, problems or concerns.

Jesus’ lifestyle was to be out among sinners, ministering to the sick, the needy, meeting practical and spiritual needs to all who would accept what God was doing through Him.

“Must needs”  (John 4:4)

After looking at different bible translations, I like the KJV version the best:  “And he must needs pass through Samaria.”

Interesting TRUTH can be found here that the Holy Spirit wants us to grasp in our efforts to fulfill our part in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).

“Must needs” in application means it was a necessity, a compulsion and Jesus’ destiny to go through Samaria for the sake of His mission.

There are THREE ROUTES Jesus could have taken.  But Jesus had to go through Samaria to lay down a foundational work of the gospel, because it was His Father’s will for Him (John 4:34).

THE SECOND TRUTH the Holy Spirit wants us to get hold of:  Jesus drew attention for temporary satisfaction to eternal fulfillment.

The core of Jesus’ mission at the well as defined in John 4:10 and 13 is to move the lady from what she does know to what she does not know.  He does this in stimulating her curiosity resulting in her asking a question about Him (John 4:12).  She wants to know who this man at the well is:

“Are You greater than and superior to our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well and who used to drink from it himself, and his sons and his cattle also?”

Through Jesus’ example, our goal is to get people from thinking and talking about what they know and talking about and asking they about what they don’t know.

How can we guide the conversation in our connections to talk about what they don’t know?  

One example, when people begin to talk about the problems their family is having, move them to ask about a Christian family that had the same problem, maybe your own family, but do not have them now.  

Point how Jesus did a work in their lives.  Remember the goal here is to be walking in obedience to the Lord.  The focus is to be speaking to people you connect with.  

Let the Lord lead you to the Divine Appointment; to a heart that is prepared to receive what the Lord has for them at that time on their life.

An important note to remember in witnessing to others: Jesus pointed the women’s attention to what matters in eternity.  There is a contrast to what will satisfy PHYSICAL Thirst (water drawn from a well by labor) and to SPIRITUAL Water that will bubble from the inside given by Jesus.

In this incident at Jacob’s Well, the Samaritan lady makes a request, “…Sir, give me this water so I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water!” (John 4:15).

This lady typifies many of the people we come across daily in our witnessing.  Because they are bound by SIN, they are so slow to respond to the things of God.

Like the lady at the well, many HEAR the gospel message, yet still want the things of God for all the wrong reasons.  In other words, she and those like her, still need a purifying of the heart.

People who are carnal in their thinking and not yet surrendered to the Lord (Matthew Henry Commentary).

In John chapter four, we see that Jesus had to break the barrier that kept her from understanding.

The TRUTH that must be presented to all, including Christianity is FIRST,  the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ and all that He is.

The SECOND is the revelation on oneself.

It begins with the realization that LIFE lived without Him being Savior and Lord will not do; that one must be enlightened by the Holy Spirit that he is in great need of GRACE & MERCY of God.  Use your own testimony of how God’s Grace & Mercy made things new in your life.

The THIRD TRUTH I discovered is that the Lord wants us to grab hold of and pass on to others the importance:  What is a TRUE WORSHIPER?

Jesus said,  “You [Samaritans] do not know what you are worshiping [you worship what you do not comprehend]. We do know what we are worshiping [we worship what we have knowledge of and understand], for [after all] salvation comes from [among] the Jews.  A time will come, however, indeed it is already here, when the true (genuine) worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth (reality); for the Father is seeking just such people as these as His worshipers.  God is a Spirit (a spiritual Being) and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth (reality).”  (John 4:22-24 AMP).

Most of the people we come in contact with are like the Samaritans in a sense who have chosen a partial knowledge of God’s Word.  They, like the Samaritans, have selective worship.  They choose which portion of Scripture they like and disregard the rest.

No one can worship in spirit and truth without an honest heart, seeking God’s will through the whole council of the written Word.

That doesn’t mean that a worshiper has to know ALL of God’s Word, but they must have a heart desire in seeking the Lord’s will and a willingness to live out what has already been revealed to them.

Those who want to WITNESS as Jesus did must point out the Lord is looking for the worshipers who approach God through his spirit, to attain a closeness and intimacy with God–a new relationship.

TRUE WORSHIP is when the spirit, the immortal and invisible part of oneself, speaks to and meets God, who is immortal and invisible (William Barclay).

This study in John chapter four is but a GUIDE towards your making connections in your community.  Simply use what you have already been given and He will make the way for you to WITNESS for Jesus.

God has a DIVINE APPOINTMENT for you to keep–be ready and willing to keep it!!

 


CREDITS:

Photos & Map – Google image search.

The New Testament Meaning of “Witness” [Founders – by Ernest Reisinger]

Bible translations as noted in the text.