Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The Fruit Of The Holy Spirit

Galatians 5:16-25

One of the tastiest things I have ever eaten was a perfectly ripe peach, picked fresh off the tree in a fruit orchard.  Though that was many years ago, I can still remember its luscious sweetness.  It was a really good piece of fruit.  If someone has some fruit trees, bushes, or vines in their yard, naturally they want them to produce good fruit.  Nobody wants bad, nasty, rotten fruit!  In our Scripture for today we will read about the type of fruit the Holy Spirit desires to bring forth in our lives, in contrast to bad or rotten behavior.

The Book of Galatians, like the other epistles written by Paul, were written to believers.  As our Scripture opens, Paul was urging these believers in the type of behavior that Christians ought to follow.  What he taught them then is equally applicable to us today, and we ought to heed these instructions.  Paul begins by urging us to walk in the Spirit (vs. 16).   Christians should be walking, or living, in the power of the Holy Spirit every day.  We should be in a habitual lifestyle of allowing the Holy Spirit to control our mind, will, and emotions, and not letting our unregenerate flesh, or sinful nature be in control.  When a spiritual confrontation arises, we need to submit our desires to those of the Holy Spirit.  One who walks by the Spirit will not carry out the strong desires of their sinful nature.

There are two forces conflicting within us - the Holy Spirit and our sinful or flesh nature (vs. 17).  The desires of our sinful human nature, and that of the Holy Spirit are contrary to each other.  The flesh opposes the work of the Holy Spirit, and will lead us into sinful behavior.  Though the Holy Spirit is infinitely stronger, who controls our life and walk depends on who we are turning and listening to.  These two are mutually exclusive.  One is either led by the power of the Holy Spirit, resulting in righteous behavior and attitudes, or by the flesh, leading to unrighteous behavior.  When we are led and guided by the Holy Spirit we can turn away from evil desires.

Continuing on in his epistle, Paul gives us a list of the works of the flesh (vs. 19-21).  These sins characterize all of unredeemed mankind.  After listing these sinful behaviors, he states that those who practice these will not inherit the kingdom of God.  The word “practice” means continual, habitual actions.  Although believers can, and sometimes do, commit these actions, it refers to people with uninterrupted and unrepentant practice, who cannot belong to God.  Someone whose life is habitually characterized by these sins would be convicted by the Holy Spirit when committing these actions and would strive to cease such activities rather than continuing practicing them. If they are not convicted by the Holy Spirit, this shows that they are not truly a Christian.  The unsaved cannot enter God’s kingdom.

Our Scripture passage ends on a much more positive and uplifting note, as Paul then lists the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which should be evident in the lives of believers as they allow the Holy Spirit to work in them (vs. 22-23).  The fruit of the Spirit is the spontaneous work of the Holy Spirit within us.  These are character traits found in the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The first fruit listed is love.  This is not the emotional, physical, or familial type of love, but agape love, respect, devotion, and affection that leads to self-sacrificial service.  Joy is a feeling of well-being based on the unchanging promises of God.  Peace is an inner calm that results from confidence in one's saving relationship with God.  Long-suffering is enduring hardship and injuries with patience.

Continuing on with Paul’s list of fruit of the Holy Spirit we see kindness.  That is tender and gentle concern for others.  Goodness is moral and spiritual excellence.  Another fruit is faithfulness, which is shown in loyalty and trustworthiness.  Gentleness or meekness is having a humble and gentle attitude, and being patiently submissive.  Lastly there is self-control, which is restraining passions and appetites.

We cannot genuinely produce these qualities on our own because our sinfulness mars them.  When we are saved, and are depending on the Lord, and obeying Him, they will freely flow from us.  A person who exhibits the fruit of the Spirit is fulfilling the law far better than one who is just observing rituals.

As we look at our lives, do we see the good fruit of the Holy Spirit, fruit that an unbeliever would be drawn to, just as someone is drawn to delectable ripe fruit on a tree or vine?  Or do we see works of the flesh popping up more frequently?  Let’s be walking in the Spirit, so there is more of His desirable fruit!

Monday, June 27, 2022

A Good Inheritance

Psalm 16

At some point or another in many people’s lives, they wonder about whether they will receive an inheritance when their parents pass on.  This is especially true if their parents were wealthy people.  There are financial accounts to divide among the siblings, along with property, cars, and personal belongings.  Some people end up with a rather nice inheritance.  For the rest of us, though, that’s generally not the case.  In our psalm for today, David talks a bit about the type of inheritance he has.  Let’s look at what God’s Word has to say.

Though we remember David as king over Israel, he was not from a royal family.  David’s father, Jesse, was an owner of a sheep ranch, and possibly also a farmer in the small village of Bethlehem.  The family wasn’t poor, but they weren’t extraordinarily rich, either.  David had seven older brothers, along with a few sisters, too.  As the youngest male, he was not likely to receive much inheritance.  According to Jewish tradition in the days of the Bible, the oldest son would receive half of the parent’s inheritance, and the remainder would be divided among everyone else, so David’s portion would have been small.

That might have bothered many people, but it didn’t bother David.  Instead of looking at land, bank accounts, or jewelry, David looked at what his real inheritance was.  He saw God as his inheritance.  Though his brothers may have been given a good amount, and he left with little, David felt he had something even better.  He had the Lord (vs. 5-6).  His family may have written down a list of who would get what, and if the property was divided, where the lines for each person’s lot would fall.  David didn’t care about that, as he claimed God as his inheritance.  Though the lines for his portion of Jesse’s inheritance might not have been much, it might have only been pocket change or just a rocky corner of the property, he knew that with God he had a good inheritance.

When all we have is God, we have all we need. The way we view our circumstances is more important than the circumstances themselves.  We can be content, because our ultimate satisfaction comes from God, who never changes.  This was David’s perspective in life, and is a good one to follow for ourselves, as well.  He sought throughout his life to listen to, obey, and follow God.  When God is our focus, it is easier for us to hear Him when He speaks (vs. 7).  Listening to God is essential to walking with Him.

One of the benefits from David’s inheritance that he was rejoicing over, was a fullness of joy (vs. 11).  There are many benefits in a life lived in companionship with God, and one of them is joy.  We can enjoy these benefits now and in eternity.  True joy is deeper than happiness.  We can have joy in spite of our deepest troubles when we have Jesus.  Joy is lasting, because it is based on God’s presence with us.

Christians need to refill their tank with joy.  We do that by spending time with God in prayer, by reading His Word daily, and getting to know Him more intimately.  In order for God to fill us with His joy, we need to be emptied of everything of this world.  When we have done that, He can then fill us with Himself.  The level of our joy will then determine the spiritual strength we have to face our day (Nehemiah 8:10).

Unbelievers have a sense of hopelessness in life.  We see that a lot today, with everything happening in the world around us.  They have nowhere to turn and no one to truly put their hope in.  However, that is not the case with Christians when we are actively following the Lord.  Those who seek God can be confident, and have a sense of security which comes from Him (vs. 8).  God will keep us from being moved off of His path.

Where is your inheritance?  Where is your joy?  Is it in the Lord, or are you looking for a material worldly inheritance and putting your hope and trust in that?  David knew what was important in his life, and thus he was able to have fullness of joy in his life.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

A Faithful Remnant

I Kings 19:14-21

This world sometimes seems to be such a morally and ethically dark place.  We look around and see very little godliness or morality, with evil and sin seemingly triumphing.  We might become discouraged, and even begin to feel like we’re the only one who believes in or follows God.  This is how the prophet Elijah felt during one period of his life.  We read a little about that in our Scripture passage for today.

The prophet Elijah was a great man of God during some of the darker days in the Old Testament.  He ministered primarily to the northern Kingdom of Israel.  That nation had turned their back on the true worship of Yahweh, and had fallen into idolatry, worshiping many pagan gods.  Shortly before the events of our Scripture, the prophet had won a great spiritual victory on Mt. Carmel over the priests of Baal and other pagan religious leaders (I Kings 18:19-40).  However, following that great event, King Ahab and his wife Queen Jezebel sought to kill him, and Elijah had to flee for his life, hiding in a cave near Mt. Horeb.  Rather than focusing on the great spiritual victory over Satan and the pagans, he feared the death threats and became discouraged and depressed.

As our Scripture begins, Elijah was in prayer with the Lord, and the Lord questioned why he was so discouraged and in hiding.  Elijah answered that all of the people in Israel had forsaken God and His Word, torn down His altars, and killed all of His prophets, those who preached His Word (vs. 14).  Elijah felt like he was the only one left who really worshiped God.

We might sometimes feel like that.  When we look around the world today, and see how far society has strayed from God’s Word and commandments, from any semblance of godliness, we might feel that we are the only ones left who follow Him.  What did God say to Elijah when he had answered Him with those comments?  Did He agree with Elijah, telling him that he was correct, and to continue to hide out in the cave?  Did He get angry at him?  No, God told him to get up and go back, as He had some work for Him to do.  There were three people that God wanted Elijah to anoint for special tasks.

God also reminded Elijah that he was not the only one in the nation of Israel that followed Him.  Though that northern kingdom had, as a whole, turned away from God and never returned to true worship, He pointed out to Elijah that 7,000 people had refused to worship Baal and other false gods, and still truly worshiped Him (vs. 18).  That wasn’t many out of a whole nation, but that was some, and God knew about them.  They were not lost to Him.  Even in the worst of times, God will not leave Himself without a remnant as a witness.  When we feel isolated and all alone in our faith, we aren’t.  The Lord is still at work in hearts that we may not even know about.

God had a job for Elijah to do at this time, and that was to anoint three different people for tasks that He wanted accomplished.  The first was to anoint a man named Hazael to be king over the Kingdom of Syria, to the north of Israel (vs. 15).  The Lord was going to use, a bit later, the Kingdom of Syria to chastise and punish the nation of Israel for their abandonment of Him and idolatry.  Sometimes God will use unbelievers and heathen to accomplish His purposes, as He did here, and later with the greater Assyrian Empire, and also the Babylonian Empire against Judah.

The second person Elijah was to anoint was Jehu to become king over Israel instead of the descendants of Ahab (vs. 16).  Jehu did put an end to the public worship of Baal, but not of other idols, and he never brought the country back to the worship of Yahweh.  The country remained in their heathen ways.

The final person Elijah was to anoint was Elisha, who would be his successor (vs. 16, 19-21).  Elisha lived in the village of Abel-meholah.  Nearby there was the school of the prophets, sort of an Old Testament Bible school.  Elijah was not instructed to anoint any of them to be his successor.  Instead, God instructed him to anoint Elisha, who was a farmer.  God does not always pick who we think He should.  God doesn’t always use the ones with multiple theological degrees to spread His message.  He chose the farmer Elisha.

This probably took Elisha by surprise, as Elijah was the well-known preacher, and Elisha from a simple farm family.  Throwing the mantle over him was a definite symbol that Elisha was chosen to be his disciple and successor.  Elisha accepted the call, and by killing the oxen and giving the meat to the people to eat, Elisha was showing he was giving up his former life to follow Elijah.

When we feel that we are alone in our faith and ministry, listen to what the Lord has to say to you.  God will always have a faithful remnant.  There may not be many, but they are there.  God cared about what Elijah was going through, and He gave him a faithful companion for his remaining years.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Who Do You Say Jesus Is?

Luke 9:18-26

If we were to go to many universities and take a poll of who people think Jesus is, we would get all sorts of answers.  Some would say that He was a great teacher or a great philosopher.  Some might say Jesus was a religious radical.  Some could possibly say that He was crazy or even mentally ill.  There would be some who would say that Jesus was a myth, and never even existed.  And then there would be those who confessed that He was exactly who He said He was, the Son of God, and our Savior.  In our Gospel passage for this week we see Jesus asking the same question to His disciples.  Let’s take a look at our Scripture.

As our passage opens, Jesus is part way through His time of ministry on earth.  His fame had spread throughout Galilee and Judea.  Many people had heard about Him, and crowds had come to hear Him preach, see or receive a miracle.  Now Jesus asked His disciples what these crowds were saying about Him, who they thought He was (vs. 18).  The disciples gave several answers, and as like people today, there were a variety of things people were thinking about who this Man, this Teacher was.  Their answers included that a number of people thought that Jesus was John the Baptist, Elijah, or some other prophet come back from the dead (vs. 19).  Jesus didn’t fit the common belief at the time that the Messiah would be a conquering king or hero who would destroy all of the Jews enemies, particularly the Romans.  Since Jesus wasn’t doing this, most of the Jews didn’t think He could be the Messiah.  Jesus then asked them who they felt He was (vs. 20).  Immediately Peter spoke up and professed that he believed Jesus was the Messiah, sent by God.

This is a question that each and every one of us will have to answer.  Who do we say that Jesus is?  Our answer will determine our eternal destiny.  The Christian faith goes beyond knowing what others believe about Jesus.  It requires us to hold beliefs for ourselves, and not just riding the coattails of our parents or grandparents.  When Jesus asks “Who do you say I am?” He wants us to take a stand.

To say that we believe Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, is to say we believe that He is God incarnate, born of a virgin, was crucified, died, was buried, and that He rose on the third day.  We believe that He is fully capable of forgiving our sins, and reconciling us to Himself.  We believe all that He taught is true, and that we can have eternal life because of Him.

Jesus then proceeded to tell the disciples what was going to happen to Him, that He would suffer and die for the sins of mankind (vs. 22).  This was certainly not the picture that the majority of the Jewish people had of their Messiah.  Jesus was not the conquering hero right then, but later He will return as the Conqueror.

As our Scripture passage continues, Jesus shares a very important teaching with His disciples and with us.  To be a true Christian, a true disciple and follower of Jesus, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross each day, and follow Him (vs. 23-26).  The self-denial Jesus is talking about is not some sort of reclusive asceticism, but a willingness to obey His commands, serve one another, and to suffer, perhaps even die, for His sake.

Christians follow the Lord by imitating His life, and by obeying His commands.  One cannot truly call themselves a Christian, a true believer, if they do not obey and follow what Jesus said in His Word, the Bible.  Christians must identify completely with the message of Jesus, even if it means death.  We must deny our own selfish desires, and quit focusing on self altogether.

One cannot have both Jesus and the world.  One or the other must go.  If one gains the whole world, and loses his soul, he has nothing.  Which is more important to you - this present life, or Jesus and eternal life?  Nothing material can compensate for the loss of eternal life!

There will come a day for each of us when we will stand before God, and He will ask us, “Who do you say that Jesus is?”  What will your answer be?  Our life is only for a brief moment in comparison to eternity.  Gaining what the world has to offer will only last for a moment, but then there is an eternity lost from God.  However choosing Jesus in this life will gain us an eternity in heaven with Him.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

The Dangers Of An Unequal Yoke

II Corinthians 6:14-18

Whenever you see a carriage or a wagon being pulled by animals, you will always see that it is pulled by two or more of the same type of animal.  Carriages used in historical reenactments or romantic rides around a downtown area will always have a pair of horses.  Wagons on farms will use a pair of horses, or perhaps oxen.  You never see a horse and a cow, or a donkey and an ox harnessed together.  Why?  The horse wants to go, but the cow wants to stay and eat grass.  The donkey wants to go this way, but the ox another way.  Their desires are different.  They are unequally yoked.  In today’s Scripture, the Apostle Paul speaks about the dangers of believers being unequally yoked.  Let’s take a look at what God’s Word says.

This is one passage of Scripture that some people do not like to hear, and will often toss aside.  However, it is in God’s Word, and should be heeded.  As our passage opens, God tells us that as believers, we should not be “yoked together” with unbelievers (vs. 14).  Being “yoked” has the idea of being joined together and united as one.  God tells us here not to be bound to unbelievers, either in marriage or in business partnerships, or even in very close “best friend” friendships.  We are to show the unbelievers love, kindness, and concern, but they should never be our closest of relationships.

We have several tragic examples in the Old Testament of a believer who made the mistake of being unequally yoked.  One example was with godly King Jehoshaphat of Judah who made a bad alliance with the evil, ungodly King Ahab of Israel (II Chronicles 18:28-19:3).  This alliance did not turn out well.  God sent one of His prophets to sternly reprimand King Jehoshaphat.  The prophet, speaking for God, said “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord?  Therefore the wrath of the Lord is upon you.”  Another example was with King Solomon.  He married pagan women, women who did not believe or worship Yahweh.  These women turned his heart away from God, and led to the eventual destruction of the people (I Kings 11:1-13).    Helping people in need is godly, but making unwise alliances, business partnerships, and even marriage will prove disastrous.

Why is this so important for believers?  Quite frequently an unbelieving spouse will slowly (and sometimes not that slowly) draw the believer away from a close relationship with the Lord.  Through word or action they lead the believer to stop attending church as often as they might like, or reading the Bible as frequently.  Solomon’s wives slowly got him to forsake Yahweh and instead worship pagan idols.  An unsaved business partner may lead a believer into unethical business practices.  Maybe not right away, but over time they begin to compromise their standards for the sake of the business.  Jehoshaphat's standards slowly fell as his relationship with evil Ahab increased.

Someone seeking to live for the Lord should have nothing in common, no fellowship, harmony, and compromise with the unbeliever, those in darkness (I Corinthians 10:20-21).  The word “Belial” in verse 15 is a word that means “worthless”, and is a name given here for Satan.  As believers, we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us, and are His temple.  God says here in verse 16 we are not to be united with those who are children of the devil, which Jesus called those who did not accept Him (John 8:44).  Idols and God do not mix.

We are to be separated from the world, separated, but not isolated.  We are to share the Gospel message with others, but the call to follow Jesus is also a call to be separate and distinctive from the worship and lifestyle of the world.  This also includes Christians, and particularly pastors, joining with false and pagan religions for any religious enterprise or ceremonies.  Those could never be done to God’s glory.  We cannot belong to both Jesus and the world.

We need to be careful how we live.  Anything that occupies the place that belongs to God in our life is an idol.  We need to purge ourselves of our idols, and get into a right relationship with God.  We must set ourselves apart from the world.  Unfortunately many Christians have chosen to be entertained by things of the world.  We need to ask the Lord to lead us into what is pure.  If the enemy (Satan) gains a foothold in our lives by tempting us to compromise, then our faith, our relationship with God will suffer, along with our witness.  Through the Blood of Jesus, every bondage that takes our focus away from God can be broken.  We must separate ourselves from that which is not of God, and get the ungodly things out of our life.  The more separate we become in God, the more pure and powerful we will be for His Kingdom.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Longing For God

Psalm 63:1-8

Have you ever been outside, perhaps hiking somewhere, and gotten really thirsty?  I mean really, really thirsty?  A good part of the American Southwest is desert and wilderness land.  It is very hot, and it is very dry.  If someone gets caught out there in the hot, blistering sun with no water, it can be a very serious, even deadly, situation.  David knew what it was like to be thirsty, and he also knew what it was like to have a thirsty soul.  Our psalm for today which David wrote, describes such a time.

Before David became king of Israel, he spent several years in the desert wilderness fleeing from King Saul.  Out in the desert, constantly on the run, he and his companions knew what it was like to get thirsty.  He knew how dangerous that could be.  However, David knew that what was even worse than a physical thirst is a spiritual thirst, a thirst of the soul.  When we are hot and thirsty, all we can think about is getting a nice cold glass of water, or some other thirst-quenching beverage.  This was how David felt when he had spent even a short time without being in close communion with God (vs. 1-2).  David longed for God’s presence like a wanderer in the desert.

We should be eager to be with the Lord in every situation, starting first thing in the morning, and all through the day.  Hopefully this would be a pattern from an early age.  David sought the Lord early in his life, from back when he was a little shepherd boy, looking after his father’s flocks.  And now as an adult, he knew how important it was to also seek God first thing in the morning.  That way the day starts out on the right footing.

Are we really longing for God?  Do we seek Him earnestly, and pursue Him throughout our day?  How close we are to the Lord will determine how our day, and really how our life will be.  The fuel we give our heart and mind each morning greatly affects the remainder of the day.  We need to seek God, both early and earnestly.  David would wake up hungry for God, and he sought both his physical and spiritual sustenance from Him.

David found that when he satisfied himself in the Lord, when he was in a good and right relationship with Him, that it was like the satisfaction of having been at a fine banquet (vs. 5).  And God isn’t stingy in handing out His blessings to those who seek Him.  He doesn’t pass out crumbs.  Instead, it is with “marrow and fatness”, or as we might say today, the choicest and best selections of food!  David also knew that God’s love and mercy are more desirable and valuable than life itself (vs. 3).  It is better to have found the Lord, and have a briefer life, than to not and have a long life (Mark 8:36-37).

While on the run in the wilderness, and even later when he was king, David found that there were some nights he just couldn’t fall asleep.  Instead of fretting and stewing throughout the sleepless hours, he spent the time meditating on God (vs 6).  He spoke here of being awake through the night watches.  The night was divided into three watches.  Someone awake through more than one was having a sleepless night.  When this happens, we can meditate on God and His Word, and be in prayer.  Consider sleepless nights to be opportunities to call out and cling to God, allowing His loving hand to uphold us.

No matter what the situation, or where it led, David committed to following God, and holding fast to Him (vs. 8).  Many Christians follow God if it is profitable for them, but when difficult times come, they cease to follow.  Despite being in a dry and thirsty land, David remembered God’s power, glory, and love.  When we seek Him, we can be reassured that we are in a place of His care and protection, just like a baby bird under their mother’s wing (vs. 7).

We may find this world a weary wilderness, a dry and thirsty place.  However, we can find God to be a satisfying source of perfect joy and happiness.  No matter where we are, our desire should be for the Lord God, because only He can satisfy us fully.


Saturday, June 18, 2022

Mourning For The Pierced One

Zechariah 12:8-11, 13:1-2

Have you ever felt deep remorse and regret for anything that you had done or said?  Perhaps this remorse was so strong that you have even wept when thinking about your earlier actions.  You might have wished that you could go back and undo what you had done.  In our Scripture today we look at a passage from the Prophet Zechariah, as he describes such a great regret.  Let’s see what God is saying in this Scripture.

In this passage from the Prophet Zechariah, he speaks of events that will occur when the Lord Jesus returns to earth at the end of the Great Tribulation period.  Right prior to His return, a major battle will occur, and many nations will come against Israel.  Things will be going very badly for Israel, and it will look like it is the end for them.  However, at that time Jesus will return, and He will defend the nation (vs. 8).  God, in His own perfect time, and by His own power, will sovereignly act to save Israel.  He will defend Jerusalem and the house of David.  Even the lowliest of them will become like David, the greatest soldier in Israel’s history.

Then, at this time, the people of Israel, the Jewish people, will see Jesus when He returns, and they will truly see and understand that Jesus is indeed the Messiah that God had sent (vs. 10-11).  They will realize that they had been wrong, and that they had put to death the One God had sent to redeem them and all of mankind.  They will see the nail prints in His hands, and the gash in His side, and know that they had killed the Messiah, and they will be grief-stricken.

Everyone, Jews in particular, but Gentiles as well, will realize that Jesus, the One who was pierced and killed, is indeed, the Messiah.  There will be an awakening, with sorrow for sin and genuine revival.  The crucified Messiah will be clearly revealed.  There will be great mourning on that day, when the Jewish people realize their centuries of rejecting their true Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.  They killed their own Son, their Firstborn, so the family line could not continue as far as the Old Covenant was concerned.  However, the Son, the Firstborn rose from the dead.  Though they did not accept Jesus then, they will accept Him on that day when He returns.  Israel’s repentance and salvation will come because they look in faith to Jesus, the One whom they rejected and crucified, at His Second Coming.

We also see here in verse 10, that Jesus, the One who was pierced, the One who was crucified, was more than just a good man, more than just a good teacher and religious leader.  The Prophet Zechariah is speaking for God, and he is speaking the words of God here.  As God is speaking, He uses the personal pronoun of “Me”.  He says, “They will look on Me whom they pierced.”  When God says they pierced “Me”, He is affirming the deity of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity.

The Prophet Zechariah continues on, and he describes that following that great day when Jesus returns, a fountain will be opened for the people (vs. 1-2).  This is a fountain of cleansing from sin and defilement, that is made possible through the atoning death of the Pierced One.  When Jesus returns, He will cleanse Israel from their sins and defilement.  He will cleanse all nations from the deception of false prophets and demonic religions.  For people to enter God’s new kingdom, there must be a cleansing.  All evil must be eliminated.  Idols must be destroyed, and false prophets and preachers abolished.

There will be a never-ending supply of God’s mercy, forgiveness, and cleansing power.  The picture of a fountain is used in Scripture to symbolize God’s forgiveness, such as when Jesus described Himself as being the fountain of living water (John 4:7-14).  When we truly understand our sin and guilt, we sense the need for cleansing.  Sinners may hope for pardon and cleansing in this fountain, the shed and cleansing Blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God.

Friday, June 17, 2022

The Grateful Penitent Woman

Luke 7:36-50

Self-righteousness, pride, and arrogance are traits that we generally don’t like to see in people.  Those who are filled with that type of behavior are not pleasant to be around.  And they, too, are very particular about who they choose to be with, as well.  In our Gospel reading for today we will read about just such a person.  He was not that cordial when dining with Jesus, and he certainly didn’t want to be around the woman who we also read about.

As our Scripture opens, Jesus was invited to dinner at the home of Simon, a Pharisee (vs. 36).  Though that outwardly seemed like a kind and friendly thing to do by inviting Jesus to dinner, Simon was anything but polite to Him.  Simon showed his rudeness and borderline hostility by deliberately committing several social errors.  First, the Pharisee neglected to have a servant wash Jesus’ feet.  In the hot and desert climate of Israel, people at that time always wore sandals, which caused the feet to get dusty and hot.  When entering a home, the host would have a servant wash the feet in cool water.  Another polite custom was to anoint the guest with a little fragrant, refreshing oil, and give a kiss of greeting.  Simon did none of these, which would have been noticed by everyone there.  It was obvious that Simon did not like Jesus, nor consider Him an equal or accepted guest.  Jesus, though, did not return the hostile treatment.  Though He was known for frequently associating with sinners, Jesus also extended Himself to the well-to-do and self-righteous, as they also need salvation.

As the meal began, a woman of sinful reputation came and knelt behind Jesus, and proceeded to weep, and poured fragrant oil upon Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair (vs. 37-38).  Her actions were in stark contrast to that of the self-righteous Simon.  She lavished tears, expensive perfume, and kisses to the Savior.  For this woman to enter the company where Jesus was, was a bold act.  She must have known that Jesus could and would forgive her repentant heart, and she had tremendous gratitude and love for Him.

Knowing both Simon’s and this woman’s hearts, Jesus proceeded to tell a parable (vs. 41-42).  In His story, Jesus told of two people who owed money, one a small sum, and the other a much greater sum.  Both were forgiven their debt.  Jesus then asked Simon which of the two would love their creditor the most.  Naturally the one who owed the most, Simon responded.  Jesus then made the contrast.  Simon, who felt he had few, if any sins, treated Jesus with contempt.  The woman, who knew she had many sins, treated Jesus with love and gratitude.

Both the woman and Simon were debtors in need of forgiveness.  The woman was aware of her sins, confessed, and had faith in Jesus’ forgiveness.  Simon denied his shortcomings, and haughtily looked down his nose at the woman he considered a filthy sinner.  This Pharisee had swept all of his sins under the rug of self-righteousness.  He chose to ignore the truth and his need for forgiveness.  Simon’s ingratitude produced a toxic bitterness that caused him to completely miss the fact of who Jesus really was.  The woman, on the other hand, didn’t miss that.  She didn’t sweep her sins under the rug.  She acknowledged her brokenness, and received Jesus’ forgiveness (vs. 47).  Even though it is only grace through faith which saves us, and not acts of love or generosity, this woman’s acts demonstrated her true faith, and Jesus honored that.

If we refuse to see the magnitude of our sin, the Lord’s sacrifice may not seem significant to us.  But when we understand the true condition of our sinful hearts, and the terrible penalty of our transgressions, His immense sacrifice for us inspires deep love and devotion.

Whether our sins are large or small, we can be comforted, knowing Jesus will forgive if we come to Him in repentance (I John 1:9).  It was the grateful sinner, and not the stingy, self-righteous religious leader, whose sins were forgiven.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Peer Pressure

Galatians 2:11-21 

We’ve all heard of peer pressure, when someone or some group gets a person to go along with their thinking or actions, even if that other person wouldn’t initially do that on their own.  The group putting the pressure on the other individual will often try to make their actions look good and right.  Sometimes they will use subtle or mild bullying tactics to get the other to comply, saying that person is a coward, or that they will look bad to others, or use a mild threat.  Fear of embarrassment or looking bad will often cause the one person to go along with the group.  In today’s Scripture from the Book of Galatians tells the account of the Apostle Peter, and how he succumbed to peer pressure from the wrong group, even though he knew better.  Let’s take a look.

In order to fully understand the situation, we need to look at some background first.  During the first few years following Jesus’ Ascension back into heaven, believers were almost exclusively from a Jewish background.  Then the Holy Spirit began moving upon the apostles' hearts to fully obey the command Jesus gave, to bring the Gospel to everyone, including the Gentiles.  We read about one of the earliest Gentile conversions in Acts 10, when Peter brought the Gospel to the Roman centurion Cornelius.  At around the same time believers in the city of Antioch were also sharing the Gospel with Gentiles.

This disturbed some of the more devout orthodox believers, those from a more Pharisaical background.  They felt that if a Gentile was to become a believer in the Lord Jesus, then they first needed to become Jewish, that is, to be circumcised, follow a kosher diet, and follow all of the Law of Moses.  Only then, they felt, could they really be a believer and follower of Jesus.  However, this was not what God wanted or intended, and through the direction of the Holy Spirit, a meeting or council was held by the church leaders in Jerusalem, and the Holy Spirit directed that neither circumcision, nor eating kosher was necessary (Acts 15:7-29).

This did not sit well with a segment of the Jewish believers, and they went around to newly established churches in Gentile areas, teaching contrary to what the Jerusalem Council and the Holy Spirit had directed.  This group, commonly called Judaizers, strongly opposed Paul, Barnabas, and Silas, all throughout their missionary journeys, and as our Scripture today shows, they were beginning to influence Peter.

As we read here in Galatians, Peter stopped eating with the Gentile believers, because the Judaizers felt that was wrong to do.  Peter was afraid of losing popularity with these legalistic Judaizers, even though they were self-righteous, and promoting teachings that the Church body had said was wrong.  Were these men really sent by James, or did they just claim to be?  I think it likely that, though they came from Jerusalem, they were not sent by James, as he had headed up the Jerusalem council which had said that the Old Testament Law was not necessary to keep.

Peter was guilty of sin by aligning himself with these men he knew to be in error, and because of the harm and confusion he caused the Gentile believers.  By withdrawing from Gentile believers to fellowship with the Judaizers, which Peter knew was wrong, he was giving the impression of not holding divine doctrine of salvation by grace alone through faith alone.  Those who followed Peter’s lead were not walking in line with God’s Word.  Paul knew he had to confront Peter before his actions damaged the Church, so Paul publicly opposed Peter.  Paul did not talk to others about this.  He went to Peter face-to-face.  We should never imagine that our choices affect only ourselves, and no one else.  Peter led Cornelius and his household to the Lord, even though they were Gentiles, but now, out of fear of losing popularity and condemnation from Judaizers, he stopped eating with, and fellowshipping with Gentile believers.

Salvation is only through faith in Christ, and not by the Old Testament Law.  We cannot live a life that is pleasing to God, apart from faith in Jesus Christ.  No amount of attempting to earn our way to God will ever work.  We need to cling to Jesus, and put to death an old, independent way of living, just as if we ourselves had died.  Now we live by faith in the Son of God.  The Law served as a mirror to reveal sin, not as a cure for it.  If these Judaizers were right, then Jesus was wrong, as He had taught that food could not contaminate a person (Mark 7:19; Acts 10:13-15).  Jesus can never be wrong, as He Himself is God.  Never let pressure from others get you to do something that you know is contrary to God’s Word.

Monday, June 13, 2022

The Voice Of The Lord

Psalm 29

I live in a part of my country where very strong thunderstorms often occur, along with plenty of tornados.  From mid-spring, throughout the summer, and into early fall we will see plenty of them come through.  My son Albert and I enjoy watching these storms from our front porch, though my daughter Lucy prefers to sit them through indoors.  I enjoy watching the lightning, hearing the thunderclaps, and watching the storm clouds pass by overhead.  David was familiar with strong storms, and our psalm for this week describes just such an event.

Regardless of where you live, you are likely to live through and witness some type of weather-related storms.  Now you may not like to sit out on a covered porch to watch them like I do.  You may be more like my daughter Lucy, and prefer to be indoors while the rain pours and the thunder roars.  Many storms are quite loud, with the heavy rainfall battering upon the roof.  If the rainstorm brings hail, that is even louder!  And often the crash of thunder will make you jump!  Rather than scare David, he looked on the sounds of the many storms he witnessed as the Voice of the Lord God.

In prior centuries many people greatly feared storms.  Without any modern weather forecasting equipment, these storms would often catch them by surprise.  When the storms were strong, with a lot of lightning and thunder, they were afraid, and would plead to their gods for deliverance.  They looked at the lightning, thunder, hail, and wind as coming from their pagan gods.  Many ancient cultures worshiped storm gods.  The Canaanite god Baal was a storm god.  The Greeks had Zeus, and the Romans later had Jupiter, both who were worshiped as gods of storms and sky.  Norse and Germanic pagan culture worshiped the false god Thor who they believed controlled thunder and lightning.  David knew that the Lord God is the Creator.  He knew that Yahweh has complete control over all the forces of nature, not any pagan gods.

God’s voice is frequently associated with thunder.   We read in I Samuel 7:10, of a time when the armies of the Philistines were coming against God’s people.  Yahweh then thundered with a loud thunder, and the Philistine army was confused and terrified, and they were defeated by the Israelites.   Job recognized that thunder was the majestic voice of God (Job 37:4-5).

Psalm 18:13 tells us that thunder, hail, and the fires caused by lightning are all part of God’s voice.  Every bolt of lightning is at the control of Yahweh.  Lightning bolts can contain up to 1 billion volts of electricity.  They travel around 200,000 mph, and can heat the air five times hotter than the surface of the sun.  God controls the lightning, and His Voice speaks to us through it.

David describes the power of God shown through the storms.  Have you ever heard when a bolt of lightning strikes a tree?  It is loud with the sound of the splintering of wood, loud pops and cracks.  David must have witnessed this at least once, as he described God splintering one of the giant cedars of Lebanon (vs. 5).  The cedars of Lebanon can grow to 120’ tall, and 30’ in circumference.  A voice that could break them must be a powerful Voice!  He described storms from the far north by Mt. Sirion, which is the Phoenician name for Mt. Hermon in the far north of Israel (vs. 6), all the way to the wilderness of Kadesh, which is in the deserts of far southern Israel (vs. 8).

The glory of the Lord is revealed in the majesty and power of His Voice.  It is a Voice that breaks cedar trees and shakes the wilderness.  It makes nations and mountains shudder, and strips forests bare.  Throughout history God has shown His power through mighty acts of nature.  That power is there to come to the aid of His Blood-bought children.  The next time you witness a powerful storm, maybe even this summer, rather than being afraid, see it as the powerful Voice of God.  Give God glory for His power, and trust in His love and protection for you.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Holy! Holy! Holy!

Isaiah 6:1-8

Are you a more casual person, or a more formal one?  Society today does seem to lean more towards being casual, and the use of “Sir” and “Ma’am” has generally been put aside.  This isn’t all bad, but too much casualness has often brought with it a lack of respect, including to those whose positions were always accorded a level of proper respect to be given.  Casualness has even moved into our churches and worship services, including how we look at and treat God.  In our Scripture today from the Prophet Isaiah, we read of a specific event that occurred in his life where he knew that being casual or too familiar was not an option.  Let’s take a look.

Our Scripture passage describes a very important vision that Isaiah had at the beginning of his ministry, when the Lord called him to serve Him.  This call of Isaiah took place in the year that King Uzziah of the Kingdom of Judah died, which was 740 B.C.  When godly Uzziah died, Judah’s golden age was fast slipping away.  At this time Isaiah saw a vision where he was in the heavenly throne room of Almighty God, and he described what he saw there, and his reaction to this sight.

Isaiah gives us a brief description of what he saw in this vision (vs. 1-4).  The Lord God was seated upon His throne, which was high and lifted up in an exalted position, and His train, His royal robes were so magnificent that they filled the room.  Attending the Lord God were seraphim, which were six-winged angelic creatures who continually fly in God’s presence, declaring His holiness.  The word “seraph” (singular for seraphim) means “burning one”.  Their praise of God is similar to that of the four living creatures seen in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 4:8).

If the sinless seraphim, in the presence of the Triune God, had to veil both their faces and feet, then how can any human think they are worthy, or able to stand in His holy presence, apart from having the righteousness of Jesus?  In our churches today we sometimes over-emphasize God as our buddy or pal.  There is a sense in which it is true that God is our friend, but we should not take our relationship with Him, the almighty, thrice-holy, omnipotent God too casually.  We need to remember that “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts”!

God is absolutely pure, completely separated from sin, wholly righteous, just, and spotless.  God calls us to be holy, as He is holy (I Peter 1:16).  We can only do that through the cleansing Blood of Jesus, and power of the Holy Spirit.

As soon as Isaiah saw this vision of God upon His throne, with the seraphim calling out continual worship, he immediately recognized his sinfulness and unworthiness (vs. 5).  He didn’t go up and approach God, patting Him upon the back or shoulder like an old school friend.  Isaiah cried out “Woe is me, for I am undone!”, showing great sorrow and distress over his sinfulness.  He knew that such a sinner as himself was unworthy to be in the presence of such a holy God as Yahweh.  When we see the holiness and greatness of God, we will become aware of our own sinfulness.  Both Job (Job 42:6) and Peter (Luke 5:8), came to the same realization about themselves when confronted with the presence of the Lord.

In response to Isaiah recognizing his own sinfulness, one of the seraphim took a live coal from the altar and touched his lips with it, declaring his sin was taken away (vs. 6-7).  If the lips are unclean, so is the heart.  We have, moment by moment, choices to make with our words.  Will they be like some type of hazardous material, destroying everything they touch?  Or do we allow God to touch and cleanse us from sin, so we can honor Him with everything we say?

When Isaiah confessed his sins and his unworthiness, God cleansed him, and equipped him for service (vs. 7).  God then gave Isaiah a commission to go with His message (vs. 8).  Jesus gave the disciples a similar commission (Matthew 28:19-20). This applies to everyone.  Will we bring His good news to our workplace, our neighborhoods, our friends and relations?  When God asks whom He should send, will we reply “Send Me”?

Holy! Holy! Holy! Before the sovereign God of the universe, there is nothing we can do but praise and worship our Creator and Redeemer.  Whatever else takes place in heaven, we can be sure the atmosphere there reverberates with love and adoration for Him.  Thrice-holy is our Triune God!

Friday, June 10, 2022

Show Us The Father

John 14:8-17

Unless someone is an outright atheist, and does not believe in the existence of God at all, I would think that many people would want to see God.  Philosophers and religious leaders of all different cultures have desired and spoken about this for ages.  The desire for a connection with God has been present ever since man’s connection with Him was broken in the Garden of Eden.  Since then, there has been something within most people that seeks Him, unless it has been snuffed out by hardness and wickedness.  In our Scripture today we read of this desire in the apostles, as they speak with Jesus.

Today’s Scripture is another segment of that last, long teaching conversation that Jesus had with the disciples the night before He was betrayed, which John records in his Gospel.  As we begin, Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father (vs. 8).  He, like the rest of them, like many people, wanted to see God.  As Jesus answered him, He told him very plainly that to see Him, Jesus, was to see the Father (vs. 9-11).

This shows that Jesus was not just a “good teacher” like so many people today say, including some false preachers.  Jesus is the visible, tangible image of the invisible God.  He is the complete revelation of what God is like.  There are no attributes of deity that the Son does not possess.  Everything that is true of God the Father is also true of God the Son, Jesus Christ.  Everything that Jesus did was an exact representation of His Father.  To know Jesus is to know God.  If we want to know what God is like, we need only look at Jesus.  Actually, the only manner and way to see God is through Jesus.  The search for God, truth, and reality ends in Jesus Christ.

As Jesus continued, He told His disciples that His believers would do His works, and even greater works (vs. 12).  Jesus did not mean greater works in power, but in extent.  Jesus raised several people from the dead, and none of us can do that.  Christians, though, would become witnesses throughout the world through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and would bring many to salvation because of the Holy Spirit in them.  Jesus’ physical works and miracles were limited to a specific place and time while He was on earth.  However, believers now have the ability to go throughout the world from the time of Jesus until He returns.

Jesus told His disciples that if we ask something in His Name, He will do it (vs. 12-14).  Before anyone would think that they can ask for anything, expensive house, cars, millions of dollars, we need to understand what Jesus meant.  The Name of Jesus is not a magic formula to fulfill our selfish desires, nor just words to add at the end of a prayer.  Jesus is our High Priest.  He has instructed us to come and ask for what we need.  We have the authority to enter the throne room of grace at any time, and the right to use His Name.  However, we must be in agreement with His purposes, asking in agreement with His character and will.   If we are sincerely following God, and seeking to do His will, then our requests will be in line with what He wants.

When Jesus said to ask in His Name, that phrase “in His Name” means “as my agent”.  We are to act as the agent of Jesus’ will.  Our prayers need to be for His purposes and kingdom, and not for selfish reasons.  Our prayers should be on the basis of Jesus’ merits, not on any presumed merits or worthiness of our own.  We must ask according to Jesus’ character and will.  God will not grant requests contrary to His nature or His will.  Our prayers need to be for His glory alone!

Jesus closed this passage by telling us that if we really love Him, then we will obey what He says (vs. 15-17).  Again, love for God is shown by obedience to His Word, the Bible.  In order to be able to obey God, He promised to send us the Holy Spirit.  The Greek word used here is Parakletos, which means one called to the side of another to help.  Jesus said the Holy Spirit was “another” helper, another of the same kind, Someone like Jesus Himself, who will take His place and do His work.  The Holy Spirit has the same essence of deity as Jesus, and is perfectly one with Him, just as Jesus is with the Father.

The Holy Spirit is the source of all truth.  He communicates that truth to His own.  He cannot come into the heart of an unbeliever until that person makes Jesus their Savior.  Apart from the Holy Spirit, no one can know God’s truth.

Do you want to see God?  Do you want to know Him, and to know what is really the truth?  The only way is to come to God through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  When you do, then He will send the Holy Spirit to indwell you, and reveal to you His truth from His Word, the Bible.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

A Hymn Of Praise For Creation

Psalm 104

Looking through most hymnals, we can find several hymns that give praise to God for His creation.  One that comes immediately to mind is All Creatures of Our God and King, written by St. Francis of Assisi.  Another would be I Sing the Mighty Power of God by the great 18th century hymn writer Isaac Watts.  And then there is the hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful.  Each of these hymns, and many others, extol God in various words for His creation.  The Book of Psalms has often been called the Bible’s hymnal, and in it we find some psalms, or songs if you may, that praise God for creation.  Our psalm today, Psalm 104, is a good example.

As we look closely at our psalm, we can see that it follows the days of creation, which we find in the first chapter of Genesis.  Let’s follow along as we look through the psalm.  In our opening verse 1, the psalmist calls on us to bless and praise God.  We praise Him because He is the Creator, and is greater than His creation.  Therefore the Creator is to be worshiped, not the creation, which the pagans do.  On the first day of creation, God created light (Genesis 1:1-5), and we see in verse two of our psalm, that God covers Himself with light.  This is not light that emanates from any star, but is light of His own creation.

Day two of creation (Genesis 1:6-8), is shown in verses 2-3.  On that day, God made the heavens (not to be confused with the Heaven of God’s abode), and also waters.  Day three of creation (Genesis 1:9-13) is when land and vegetation were created, and is shown in verses 5-18.   Our psalmist praises God for water.  He describes how the earth is built on God’s foundation (vs. 5).  It can never be moved by anyone other than God, which should give us some comfort and peace of mind.  One day God will create a new heaven and new earth that will last forever, but until then, this earth will stand.  The same power that undergirds the world also provides a firm foundation for us believers.  As we read in these verses, we see that God appointed the waters certain places and dry land certain places.  When we are at the beach, we see that the ocean has a spot where it stops, and the dry land begins.  That is at God’s command.  The waters of creation provide sustenance for both animal and plant life, and then plant life provides food for all creatures.

Day four of creation (Genesis 1:14-19) tells of the creation of the sun, moon and stars, and our psalm speaks of that in verses 19-23.  The Lord God has regulated the heavenly bodies to keep their time.  As we see, these were created by God, and as a creation, should not be worshiped, nor do they have any power over our lives.  Day five of creation (Genesis 1:20-23) speaks of the creation of fish and birds, which we see in verses 25-26.  The psalmist mentions a creation called leviathan.  The leviathan was a type of giant sea creature, possibly a giant whale or the giant squid, or some other giant sea creature that is now extinct.

The sixth and final day of creation (Genesis 1:24-31) is when animals and man were created, and is spoken of in verses 21-24 and 27-30 of our psalm.  All of creation, whatever it may be, is totally dependent upon God for sustenance regarding daily life and living.  God even knows and regulates the time of our death, and that of every other creature (vs. 29).  Our every breath depends on the spirit He has breathed into us.

We also see mention of angels in this psalm, a different type of created being (vs. 4).  Some people, including some Christians, have an almost worshipful feeling towards angels.  However God is supreme over angels, as He is also their Creator and they are a created being.  They are His servants, and we should not worship them.

God upholds this planet and all of His creation by His Spirit (vs. 30).  The Spirit of God who moved upon the face of the waters at the very dawn of creation (Genesis 1:2), continues to move in order to insure God’s creation.

Our psalmist invites us to sing and meditate on the Lord’s wonderful works (vs. 33-34).  Doing so is a cure for fear, worry, and anxiety.  In closing, we are reminded that one day sin and sinful people will be abolished from the earth (vs. 35).  On that day the curse, which came so quickly after creation, will be reversed.

Monday, June 6, 2022

The Dry Bones

Ezekiel 37:1-14

A number of years ago I was visiting some people who lived in the desert southwest in the U.S.  In their backyard, among the rocks, cactus, and other desert plants, they had a large cow skull, which in a somewhat dark way, fit in with the hot, dry, desert setting.   I have seen skeletons in science museums, and though maybe not quite as dry as the cow skull in the desert, they are equally as lifeless.  Only in cartoons do we see a skeleton walking around.  Never in real life.  They are dead and will lie where they fall.  In our Scripture for today from the Book of Ezekiel, we read about bones, and what the Lord God does with them.  Let’s look and see.

The prophet Ezekiel ministered to the people of Judah during the many years of their Babylonian exile.  The messages in his book date from about 593 - 571 BC.  As Ezekiel recorded, God brought him in a vision to a valley.  There in the valley he saw bones, possibly many hundreds of bones, all lying scattered upon the ground (vs. 1-2).  These were human bones.  A skull here, a leg bone there, a rib and some vertebrae lying over there, many hundreds of them, all scattered around.  They were all dry and lifeless.  What a macabre sight to see!

Then God asked him whether those bones he saw could live (vs. 3).  We would naturally think that the answer would be no.  However, Ezekiel knew that the Lord was going to teach him something, that He had a special message to give him, so he answered that only He really knew the answer.  God then proceeded to tell him to prophesy and speak to the bones, telling them to live (vs. 4-6).  And rather than scoffing at God, thinking that was nonsense, Ezekiel obeyed and spoke the words.  Just as the Lord said, as the prophet spoke the bones came together, muscle and skin coming upon them (vs. 7-8).  However, though the bones now looked like humans, they still had no life in them.  Rather than dead skeletons, they were now dead bodies.  So God spoke again to Ezekiel, and told him to prophesy further, calling for His breath to come upon the dead bodies, bringing them life.  The prophet did so, and they lived (vs. 9-10).

What did all of this mean? The dead bones and the dead bodies represented the spiritually dead nation of Israel.  They were like dried and bleached bones, spiritually lifeless, which only God could bring to life (vs. 11-14).  Due to their sin and rejection of God, and frequently turning to worship false, pagan gods, they were spiritually as dead as the dry bones.  The proof of this was that they were currently in exile, away from their land.  Ezekiel was to prophesy that God promised the resurrection of Israel, and its spiritual regeneration.

The Jewish people returned from captivity to their land under the Persian emperor Cyrus.  Following another Jewish dispersal when the 2nd Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, they returned again to their land in 1948.  However, in neither time was there really any spiritual revival among the people.  They are still like the dead bodies (vs. 8).  The overwhelming majority of them have never accepted their Messiah, Jesus Christ.  Israel was then, and still is now, spiritually dead.

There is hope, though, as Ezekiel prophesied that the Holy Spirit would come upon them and bring them spiritually to life again.  During the Great Tribulation, many Jewish people will accept Jesus as Savior.  When He returns at His Second Coming, following the tribulation, the nation will accept Him then, and be revived.

This message can also be applied to anyone who is spiritually dead.  Most of us know plenty of people who are as spiritually dead as that pile of dry bones.  Many of them may be seemingly as unlikely to ever get saved as those bones were to come alive.  Many of us know spiritually dead churches, as well, churches where the true Gospel hasn’t been honestly preached for years.  Dry bones, hopeless, lifeless, existing and nothing more.

The Holy Spirit, the Breath of God, is the only thing that can bring them life.  Just as God promised to restore spiritually dead Israel, He can restore spiritually dead people and spiritually dead churches today.  We, as believers, need to pray for revival.  Pray for a spiritual revival in our families and revival in the Church.  When we commit to praying for revival, then the Holy Spirit will bring those bones together, and breathe spiritual life into them, and revival will spread.

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Pentecost And The Holy Spirit

Acts 2:1-11

Today is Pentecost Sunday in the Christian Calendar.  One could call this day the birthday of the Church.  It was on this day that the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples.  Shortly before His Ascension back into heaven, Jesus had promised His followers that He would send the Holy Spirit, and this promise was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost.  Let’s take a look at what the Scripture records of this very special day.

As our Scripture passage in the second chapter of the Book of Acts opens, the disciples and followers of Jesus were gathered together.  Suddenly there came a sound like that of a mighty wind, and what appeared like tongues of fire appeared above all of them, as they were each filled with the Holy Spirit (vs. 1-2).  Not only did this fulfill the promise of Jesus, that He would send the Holy Spirit, but this also fulfilled John the Baptist’s words of the Holy Spirit’s baptism with fire (Luke 3:16).  The tongues symbolize speech and communication, which would spread the Gospel.  Fire symbolizes God’s purifying presence, which burns away the undesirable elements of our lives, and sets our hearts aflame to ignite the lives of others.

Another specific thing that occurred when the Holy Spirit came upon these disciples was the ability to speak with other languages (vs. 4).  As we read further in the passage, we see that these were languages that were spoken by the many foreigners who had come to Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost (vs. 6-11).  One of the reasons that the Lord gave the Holy Spirit was to enable believers to spread the message of salvation to others, to bring the Gospel all around the world.  Today if one wishes to learn another language, there are all sorts of ways and opportunities.  There are courses online, on CD, and classes in high school and college.  Back in the days of the Bible if one was wealthy and intelligent enough to get an advanced education, then perhaps they might learn a second language.  Otherwise one usually learned another language by going to where it was spoken.  God wanted His Word to be spread around the world, and so He enabled the disciples here with the ability to speak in the languages and dialects of many of the people who were in Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost.

Since this Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit has been given to all believers to abide permanently.  Before Pentecost, the Holy Spirit’s work had been from without.  He came upon people, and was temporarily given for certain occasions and tasks.  After Pentecost, the Holy Spirit’s work is from within believers.  He indwells every believer permanently.

Reading through the New Testament we come across two terms with reference to the Holy Spirit - the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and being filled with the Holy Spirit.  There is a difference between the two.  Following that first Pentecost Sunday, every believer is baptized with the Holy Spirit.  It automatically comes when one is saved.  Nowhere in the New Testament is anyone commanded to get baptized with the Holy Spirit.  They are when they accept Jesus as their Savior  The filling with the Holy Spirit is not necessarily experienced by all believers, and so it is commanded (Ephesians 5:18).

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is permanent.  It happens once for all.  He comes to indwell permanently.  The filling with the Holy Spirit is ongoing.  It is something we should continually be doing, by letting the Holy Spirit control our life.  The filling with the Holy Spirit is the controlling influence of the Spirit within the believer.  Not every believer allows the Holy Spirit to have control of their life.  Those who obey this Biblical order must continue to allow the Holy Spirit to control their life each day.

That day, the disciples were both baptized and filled with the Spirit.  The power of the Holy Spirit which came, and both indwelt and filled Peter that day enabled him to preach his first sermon, without any previous public speaking training or advanced theological degrees.  That day he preached to the crowds about Jesus and salvation, and 3,000 people were saved!  (Acts 2:40-41).   How many preachers today can claim that at least 3,000 people were saved following one of their sermons?!  If you are saved today, you have already been baptized with the Holy Spirit.  Allow the Holy Spirit to fill you each day, to enable you to live for Him, and to bring His message to others.

Friday, June 3, 2022

Jesus Prayed For Us

John 17:20-26

Have you ever felt quite alone, where you had an urgent need or concern that you wished other believers would pray along with you for, but you had no one to turn to?  Sometimes some Christians have felt that way.  They had a prayer need, but no one they could turn to who would pray with them for this concern.  Perhaps they are shut-ins, and are unable to go to church.  Perhaps, depending on where they live in the world, there might not be any churches around for them to go to.  Unfortunately there are some churches that do not put a whole lot of emphasis on prayer meetings or even praying specifically for each other.  And then there are some people who are very shy or introverted, and have great difficulty in speaking to others, particularly to ask prayer for themselves.  In our Scripture passage today, we find some words of comfort for all believers, and particularly for anyone who might feel that they have no one to pray for them.  Let’s look into our Scripture for today.

The 17th chapter of the Gospel of John is an account of the prayer that Jesus made to His Father just hours before He would be arrested and crucified.  During that prayer Jesus specifically prayed for His disciples.  However, He didn’t pray just for them.  As we read in our opening verse, Jesus prayed for those who would come to faith in Him through the words of these disciples (vs. 20).  If we think about this verse, all of us have come to faith in Jesus as our Savior through the words of the first disciples.  Whether we come to faith through direct reading of the Bible, or through a sermon message, a devotional reading, or someone talking to us, we can trace a line back to this group of first believers.  Thus, as Jesus said here, He was praying for each one of us.  Just hours before His death, Jesus was thinking about and praying for you and me.  Not only was Jesus praying for us that evening, but He continues to pray for us today.  He is our High Priest in heaven, making intercession for us before the throne of God (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25).

One of the things that Jesus was praying about was that His followers, both back at that time, and also today, would have unity among themselves (vs. 21-23).  This didn’t mean that we would all be exactly identical to each other in every way.  Christians, in the same way as everyone else, have their own personalities, their own likes and dislikes.  However, Jesus did not want His followers to be fighting among themselves.  God does want us to stand up for and keep good sound doctrine and Biblical truths and beliefs.  We should never accept or permit heretical and false teachings into the Church.  However, so often we see fighting and squabbles in our churches over minor and inconsequential things.  Church members have fought among themselves over such trivial things as what color carpet should be bought, over when during the service the offering should be taken, and who is asked to serve on what committee.  Such fighting among each other does not make Jesus happy, nor is it a good witness to the unbelievers in the neighborhood!

Are we helping to build the church with unity?  Or is our behavior and actions helping more to tear it down?  We can, like Jesus, pray for unity in the Body of Christ.  We can avoid gossip and having a mean spirit, and instead build others up, working together in humility.  We can give of ourselves, exalting Christ and not ourselves, and refuse to get sidetracked by arguing about divisive matters.

When believers from all different races, ethnicities, ages, and backgrounds are united, the world will begin to believe that Jesus is the Messiah.  Jesus didn’t pray that we would just tolerate each other.  No, He prayed that we would be one with each other, just as He is with the Father.  Jesus prayed for unity, not enmity.  This can only be brought about by love.  The Father sent the Son into the world to save the world.  The Son sends us into the world to proclaim that message, and we can’t do that if we are fighting among ourselves.

In closing, there is one more truth to quickly touch on in this passage, and that is the pre-existence of Jesus throughout all eternity (vs. 24).  Jesus wasn’t just a good person, a good teacher.  He is the Second Person of the Trinity, who existed from all time.  Before the world was ever created, God was a Trinity, all loving each other.  As I John 4:8 states, God is love, and the Trinity exists in love for each other.  We, as God’s children, should always show our love for each other.  We should also always remember that Jesus is praying for us!