Thursday, 25 July 2019

Salvation In No One Else!

Peter preached Christ with great boldness: ‘There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’(Acts 4:12).

This boldness came from the Holy Spirit. Peter was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’(Acts 4:8). Don’t say, ‘I‘m no Peter’. Peter failed his Lord and had to be restored (Matthew 26:69-75; John 21:15-17). Peter drew great strength from ‘the company of those who believed’. They ‘gathered together’ for prayer. They ‘were of one heart and soul’...’(Acts 4:31-33). Why did God deal so severely with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11)? This was the start of something great. God refused to let His work be spoiled! There is a warning for us: Don’t pretend to be more holy than you really are. God sees what you’re really like. ‘Search me, O God...’(Psalm 139:23-24). There was great blessing: ‘More than ever believers were added to the Lord’(Acts 5:14). There was persecution (Acts 5:17-18). This did not hinder the advance of the Gospel (Acts 5:42). Satan was not going to give up easily. He came right back at the apostles (Acts 6:1). Satan was defeated. Through the Spirit of God and the Word of God, the victory was won. The apostles ‘devoted themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word’. They were supported by ‘seven men... known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom’(Acts 6:3-4). Armed with ‘the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God’, let us be ‘be strong in the Lord’- ‘filled with the Spirit’- as we ‘let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly’(Ephesians 6:17,10; 5:18; Colossians 3:16). Filled with His Spirit and obedient to His Word, let us look to God for His blessing (Acts 6:7).

Jesus is the way of salvation, joy and victory.
  • Jesus is the way of salvation - Concerning "the Name of Jesus Christ", Peter tells us that "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:10, 12).
  • Jesus is the way of joy - Jesus tells us, "In the world, you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
Jesus is the way of victory - Paul gives to us this word of encouragement: "Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Give careful attention to God's Word.

"The people of Berea were more open-minded than the people of Thessalonica. They were very willing to receive God’s message, and every day they carefully examined the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was true" (Acts 17:11).

Give careful attention to God's Word. This is what we learn from the Bereans. May God help us to be more like them.

From Prophecy To Power

"The Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:2,5,8,16) - This was the time for the fulfilment of promises made by Jesus during His earthly ministry (John 14:16,25; John 16:12).
"The Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4,17-18,33,38) - God is doing a new thing. This far surpasses all that happened in the Old Testament. What had been promised is now reality. From prophecy to power - This is what happened on the Day of Pentecost.

The Holy Spirit in the Life of Faith

The Holy Spirit is the Breath of God. All Scripture is God-breathed. We experience the Breath of God upon our life when we listen attentively to the God-breathed Scriptures. Paul speaks, in 2 Timothy 3:15-17, of the  relationship between the Breath of God (the Holy Spirit) and the God-breathed Word (the Holy Scriptures) - 'the Holy Scriptures ... are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work'.

1) The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to make us wise.

    The wisdom which comes from the Spirit and the Word is a special kind of wisdom. It is not the wisdom of this world. It is the wisdom which is bound up with Christ, salvation and faith. Worldly wisdom places great value on intellectual attainment. It emphasizes the importance of getting on in the world. True spiritual wisdom has quite different priorities. As we feed upon God's Word, the Spirit imparts wisdom to us, a wisdom which the world can neither understand nor receive. This is the wisdom of which Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 2. He describes this wisdom as 'a secret and hidden wisdom' (v.7). This wisdom is no longer hidden from us - 'God has revealed it to us by His Spirit' (v.10). It is hidden only from those who refuse to read and hear with faith the 'words ... taught by the Spirit' (v.13).

2) The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to lead us to Christ.

    Jesus has given us His promise concerning the Holy Spirit: 'He will glorify Me, for He will take what is Mine and declare it to you' (John 16:14). If we are to honour the Holy Spirit in our preaching, we must focus on the cross of Christ' - 'we preach Christ crucified', 'I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified' (1 Corinthians 1:17,23; 2:2). We must pray for 'the Spirit's power' (1 Corinthians 2:4-5). How are we to preach Christ crucified? Will it mean preaching only from a select group of 'gospel texts' which refer explicitly to the death of Christ? Preaching Christ and Him crucified does not mean that we must narrow down the focus of our preaching. What, then, does it mean? It means that we must learn to see Christ in 'all the Scriptures' (Luke 24:27). At the very centre of all of our preaching from God's Word, there must stand Jesus Christ and Him crucified. We do not read Christ into places where He is not to be found. Rather, we emphasize that Christ - 'the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world' (John 1:29) - is the central Theme of the Scriptures. The Spirit of God points us to Jesus Christ and Him crucified. We are to 'keep our eyes on Jesus' (Hebrews 12:2). As we keep our eyes on Him, we will find that the Spirit directs our attention to the cross, graciously reminding us that we have been 'redeemed ... with the precious blood of Christ' (1 Peter 1:18-19).

3) The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to bring us to salvation.

    Jesus Christ is 'our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification and redemption' (1 Corinthians 1:30). He is our full salvation. From beginning to end, our salvation is in Him. There is no room for boasting on our part: 'Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord' (1 Corinthians 1:31). Our salvation is an 'out of this world' salvation. It is 'out of this world' in its origin. It is a salvation which has its origin in the 'before the ages' love of God, the eternal love of God. It is a salvation which has, as its destiny, 'our glorification' (1 Corinthians 2:7). When Paul speaks of this eternal salvation, this glorious salvation, he emphasizes its 'out of this world' character. He writes, 'What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived ... God has prepared for those who love Him' (1 Corinthians 2:9). This salvation is not only 'out of this world'. It has entered into our experience: 'God has revealed (His salvation) to us through the Spirit' (1 Corinthians 2:10). Salvation has been revealed. It has come 'from above'. Here below, we experience salvation. Here below, we confess, with gladness of heart, that salvation has come to us. Tempted to doubt God's salvation, we must allow the Spirit to bring to our remembrance this salvation which comes 'from above'. Tempted to think that we 'know it all', we must remember that we are still here below. When we speak of God's salvation, we  must speak with deep gratitude to God 'for His inexpressible gift' (2 Corinthians 9:15). Our words can never give adequate expression to God's great salvation. Nevertheless, we must not be hesitant in preaching Christ and His salvation. As we preach the gospel of salvation, we must never lose sight of the way in which the Spirit has revealed God's salvation to us. Salvation has not come to us from the depths of our own heart. It has not come to us from some 'great beyond' which makes the whole matter so private that we dare not speak of it. Salvation has come to us through 'words ... taught by the Spirit', the words of Holy Scripture. To those who live below, salvation has come 'from above'. When we think of God's salvation, we will come to appreciate its greatness, as we learn to see the greatness of our sin, the greatness of our need.

    God's salvation corresponds to our need. We have a need for forgiveness. The Gospel speaks to us of 'peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ' (Romans 5:1). We doubt our ability to keep going in the life of faith. God's Word says to us, 'Do you not know ... that God's Spirit dwells in you?' (1 Corinthians 3:16). We wonder if there is hope. God assures us that there is hope. He does this by pouring His love 'into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us' (Romans 5:5). Peace with God provides us with the God-given foundation for living the life in the Spirit. Before we are called to the life of discipleship, God says to us, 'There is ... now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus' (Romans 8:1). To the believer, God says, 'You have been set free' - set free 'from the law of sin and death', set free 'for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus' (Romans 8:2). This freedom is in Christ. The Lord Jesus says to us, 'if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed' (John 8:36). His way of setting us free is emphasized in John 8:32 - 'you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free'. Our experience of freedom, given to us by Christ through His Word of truth, is to be an ongoing experience. This experience of freedom is described by Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:16-18. It begins 'when a man turns to the Lord' (v.16). Freedom is the gift of God. It is the gift of the Spirit: 'where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom' (v.17). Our ongoing experience of freedom - freedom from sinfulness, freedom for Christlikeness - grows 'from one degree of glory to another as we 'behold the glory of the Lord' (v.18).

4) The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to bring us to faith.

    God's salvation is a gracious salvation. When, however, we join in Paul's affirmation of Ephesians 2:5 - 'by grace you have been saved' - , we must take care to look down to verse 8 where we find the additional words, 'through faith': 'By grace you have been saved through faith'. There must be no hint of a grace which works apart from faith, a grace which makes faith redundant. That would be 'saved by grace without faith' which is very different from 'saved by grace through faith'. In our preaching, we must emphasize both the absolute necessity of grace and the absolute necessity of faith. It is important for us to ask some key questions about faith.

    Our first question is this: 'Where does faith come from?' Is there a basic inclination in man towards believing? The parable of the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18:9-14) gives us, in the proud Pharisee, a striking picture of man apart from the grace of God. We may not believe that we are absolutely perfect but we will, nonetheless, look around ourselves until we see someone to whom we can point and say, 'Lord, I'm not as bad as him. I'm better than him'. The Holy Spirit has a very definite answer to such sinful pride - 'you have no excuse, O man, whoever you are, when you judge another; for in passing judgment upon him you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things' (Romans 2:1). How do we move from being the proud Pharisee, boasting of our own self-righteousness to becoming the humble publican, crying to God for His mercy? There is only one way, the way of the Gospel. It is when the 'Gospel' comes to us 'not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction' that we are brought to faith (1 Thessalonians 1:5; 2:13). Let us not imagine that we can bring others to faith without the power of the Holy Spirit working in us and through us.

    When we move on to our second question, 'What is faith?', we find that the parable of the Pharisee and the publican provides us, in the publican, with a simple picture of faith. The contrast between the faith of the publican and the works of the Pharisee is total. The faith of the publican was not a 'work' by which he earned salvation. He received salvation as a gift of God's grace. The faith of the publican points in one direction only: the mercy of God. His prayer, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner' (v.13), points away from the sinner to the Saviour. When we observe Jesus' use of the word, 'justified', in verse 14, our thoughts tend to move towards Paul and the doctrine of justification by faith. The doctrine of justification by faith was Jesus' doctrine before it was Paul's. What does say Paul say about justification by faith that is not already said - in essence - by Jesus in this parable? Paul contrasts grace and works in Romans 11:6 - 'if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works'. He contrasts faith and works in Romans 9:32 where he states that Israel did not fulfil the law because 'they did not pursue it through faith, but as if it were based on works'. While Paul contrasts both grace and faith with works, he never contrasts grace and faith. They belong together. In our preaching, we must emphasize both the offer of grace and the call to faith.

    There is a third question we must ask - 'Why is faith so important?' Again, the parable of the Pharisee and the publican answers this question for us: 'this man went down to his house justified rather than the other' (v.14). It is faith which marks the difference between the man whom God has declared righteous and the man who is robed in the 'filthy rags' of his own religion and morality (Isaiah 64:6). The contrast between Pharisaism and saving faith is brought out well in Luke 7:36-50 where a sinful woman is forgiven as the Pharisees 'say among themselves', "Who is this, who even forgives sins?"'(v.49). Jesus' words to the woman, in verses 48 and 50, consist of three very short sentences which are packed with Gospel truth. 'Your sins are forgiven' - these words were spoken to the woman, but not to the Pharisees. Why? The answer is found in the next sentence - 'Your faith has saved you'. The reason that the woman, and not the Pharisees, heard the words, 'Your sins are forgiven', is clear. She believed. They did not believe. The Lord Jesus then said to the woman, 'Go in peace'.

    From these words of peace, we may find our thoughts turning to the Dove of Peace, the Holy Spirit. In giving to the believer the forgiveness of sins, the Lord Jesus also gives the Holy Spirit. In grace and mercy, God gives the Holy Spirit to us: 'regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit', given to us by 'the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour ... poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour' (Titus 3:4-7). The direct connection between Christ and the Holy Spirit is emphasized in John the Baptist's prophecy: 'He (Jesus Christ) will baptize you with the Holy Spirit' (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33). In Galatians 3:14, Paul stresses that it is 'in Christ Jesus that we receive the promise of the Spirit through faith'. He goes on to emphasize that 'faith works by love ' and speaks also of 'love' as 'the fruit of the Spirit' (5:6,22-23).  Love - this is so important. Love - this is the practical context for all of our theological reflection concerning the Holy Spirit in the life of faith.

5) The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God for our profit.

    At our local primary school, I began a lesson on the Old Testament prophets by asking the question, 'What is a prophet?' One boy gave the answer, 'It's when you sell something for more than you bought it for'. We profit from the Scriptures because Scripture is a word of prophecy: 'men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God' (2 Peter 1:21). How do we profit from the prophets? How do we profit from the Scriptures? The answer is given in 2 Timothy 3:16 - 'All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable'. Scripture is profitable because Scripture is God-breathed. The Bible is the Word of God. That's why it profits us. If the Bible is not the Word of God, no amount of our saying, 'I derive profit from reading the Bible' will make it the Word of God. It is not our faith or lack of faith which decides whether or not the Bible is God's Word. Our faith or lack of faith can neither add to nor take away from Paul's great declaration, 'All Scripture is God-breathed'. Our faith rests on a sure foundation: 'How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!' Despite our unbelief, 'the Word of God is not bound' (2 Timothy 2:9). Through His Word, God is able to lift us out of our unbelief and bring us into the assurance of faith. We profit from God's Word when we allow the Breath of God, the Holy Spirit, to breathe His God-breathed words into our hearts and lives.

6) The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to teach us.

    Jesus tells us, in John 7:17, that if we want to understand His teaching, we must commit ourselves to doing the will of God. True understanding of Christ and His Gospel goes hand in hand with a practical commitment to living as His disciple. If we are not to be 'blown here and there by every wind of teaching', we need to commit ourselves to being 'doers' of God's Word (Ephesians 4:14; James 1:22). There are 'some things', in God's Word, which are 'hard to understand' (2 Peter 3:16). Many demands will be placed on those who take seriously the task of 'correctly handling the Word of truth' (2 Timothy 2:15). As we wrestle with the many-sided complexities of gaining an accurate understanding of God's Word, we must never lose sight of 'the simplicity which is in Christ'. We must take great care to maintain our 'sincere and pure devotion to Christ' (2 Corinthians 11:3).
In our learning from God's Word and in our teaching God's Word to others, we are to honour the Holy Spirit. He is our Teacher. This is what Jesus says concerning Him - 'the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you' (John 14:26). As we walk with the Lord, 'letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly' the Holy Spirit will not fail us. He will not leave us without a word to speak for Him (Colossians 3:16; Luke 12:12). In the ministry of God's Word, we are to say only what the Holy Spirit gives to us for the spiritual feeding of the people.

    When I was a student, this lesson was impressed upon me by my Minister, George Philip. He pointed out to me that there may be many things which will interest me in the study, but they may not be what God is wanting me to share with the people when I go to the pulpit. I have never forgotten his words. They have provided an important framework for my ministry. Our goal is not to impress people with our great learning. Rather, it is to give them a glimpse of the greatness of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jack Rogers gives us a thought-provoking account of a sermon preached by G.C. Berkouwer while he was in the U.S.A. - 'The worshippers were disappointed by his sermon. They could understand it! They expected the great professor to be profound (i.e. abstract, dull). Instead, he preached a simple gospel sermon of pastoral comfort and affirmation' (Confessions of a Conservative Evangelical, p.141). If our preaching is a disappointment to those who bring with them the wrong expectations, let us not be perturbed. If our preaching is a help to those who are eagerly seeking to be instructed in the Word of God, let us rejoice. We are to help our hearers to 'grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ' (2 Peter 3:18). This is 'the work' for which we have been 'set apart' by 'the Holy Spirit'. This is 'the work' to which we have been 'called' by 'the Holy Spirit' (Acts 13:2).

7) The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to reprove us.

    This ministry of the Spirit - His reproving ministry - is vitally related to His correcting ministry. These ministries belong together. In His reproving ministry, the Spirit is concerned with showing us where we have gone wrong. In His correcting ministry, He is concerned with bringing us back to the right way. There will be those who are reproved by the Spirit of God yet they refuse His correcting ministry. The Word of God speaks very directly of this in Proverbs 29:1 - 'He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing'. This, however, is not the intention of the Spirit's reproving ministry. The Holy Spirit reproves us so that He might bring us back into the way of holiness. In Hebrews 3:7, we read words which 'the Holy Spirit' speaks to us, 'Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts'.

    In Paul's letters, we have two different yet related instructions concerning obediennce to the Spirit of God - 'Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God' (Ephesians 4:30). and 'Do not quench the Spirit' (1 Thessalonians 5:19). While these two instructions may be similar, there is a difference of emphasis. The warning against grieving the Spirit is more related to the Spirit's reproving ministry while the warning against quenching the Spirit is more related to His correcting ministry. When the Spirit is reproving us for our wrong living, we must not grieve Him by continuing in the wrong way. When the Spirit is seeking to bring us back into the pathway of holiness, we must not quench Him by resisting His holy promptings within us.

    In connection with the Spirit's reproving ministry, we must consider Christ's warning against committing the unpardonable sin, 'the blasphemy against the Spirit' (Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-30; Luke 12:10). What is Jesus saying to us here? He is urging us to be responsive to the Spirit in His ministries of reproof and correction. We must not isolate this sin against the Spirit from all other sins of resisting the Spirit. Jesus is pressing home the urgent importance of not grieving the Spirit and not quenching the Spirit. In His ministries of reproof and correction, the Spirit speaks to us as the Spirit of Christ. He speaks as the One concerning whom Jesus says, 'He will bring glory to Me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you' (John 16:14). The Spirit convicts us of our sin with a view to bringing us to the Saviour who graciously forgives our sin.

8) The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to correct us.

    The Spirit's ministries of reproof and correction belong together. In Ephesians 4:30, we see both reproof and correction. We are warned - 'Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God'. We must take care that we do not follow a pathway that will lead us further away from the Lord. We are encouraged - 'in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption'. We must not lose sight of the glorious destiny towards which the Lord is leading us. In His ministries of reproof and correction, the Lord does not treat us as strangers. He treats us as children. 'Sent into our hearts' by 'God' the Father, 'the Spirit' enables us to call God our 'Father' (Galatians 4:6). In love, we are reproved - ' the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives' (Hebrews 12:6). His goal is our correction. He wants to transform our life, to bring us out of a life dominated by sin and into a life filled with His blessing.

    Calling us back from a life that dishonours God - Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery', He invites us to live a life that brings glory to God - 'be filled with the Spirit' (Ephesians 5:18). The Spirit corrects us as we respond, with the obedience of faith, to the Lord's command - 'be filled with the Spirit'. Paul does not say, 'Fill yourselves with the Spirit'. He says, 'let the Holy Spirit fill you' (N.E.B.). God is calling us to 'the life-long walk in the Spirit' (A.W. Tozer, The Divne Conquest, p.110). He is calling us to 'keep on being filled with the Spirit'.The Spirit-filled life is a  gift of God, a gift of grace. There can be no room for boasting of our own moral superiority. All the glory belongs to the Lord. We can only look away from ourselves to Him and say, 'the Lord has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes' (Psalm 118:23). Our testimony must always be this, 'Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your Name be the glory, because of Your love and faithfulness' (Psalm 115:1).

9) The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to train us in righteousness.

    Whenever a preacher speaks about being baptized with the Spirit or filled with the Spirit, different hearers hear the words in different ways. An important biblical way of thinking about the baptism with the Spirit is indicated in Matthew 3:11-12 and Luke 3:16-17. The baptism with the Spirit is a baptism with 'fire' - 'His winnowing fork is in His hand and He will clear His threshing floor and gather His wheat into the granary, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire'. The Spirit led Jesus, after His baptism, into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-2). The Spirit leads us into the refining fire where we are trained in righteousness. Training in righteousness is not fun. Compare training in righteousness with the training of a sportsman. It is hard work. There are times when it is difficult to see the goal. When we are going through hard times, we must remember the goal - 'praise and glory and honour at the revelation (or appearing) of Jesus Christ' (1 Peter 1:6-7).

    When we are being trained in righteousness, there will be difficulties arising from the fact that loyalty to Christ is not welcome in an unbelieving world. God's Word tells us that 'all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted' (2 Timothy 3:12). When we are being trained in righteousness, we must recognize that God's way for us may not be the way that we would have planned for ourselves. When Paul prayed about his 'thorn in the flesh', his prayer was answered - but not in the way he had hoped. The weakness remained, but in it Paul experienced something greater - the grace of God. God can turn even the most unlikely circumstances into ideal situations for training in righteousness. We can be assured that God knows what He is doing. Over the whole process of training in righteousness, He writes these great words - 'My grace is sufficient for you' (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).

10) The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to make the man of God, complete for every good work.

    'Man of God' - isn't that a wonderful expression? That's what God calls us! We don't deserve to be called this, but this is what God has made us in Christ. God is determined to make us worthy of this marvellous title which He has so graciously bestowed upon us! We are called to maturity. We are called to mature holiness. We are to mature in our response to God's call to holiness, that call which is at one and the same time both a command and a promise - 'be holy, for I am holy', 'You shall be holy, for I am holy' (Leviticus 11:44; 1 Peter 1:16). God's call to holiness is clear - ''God has not called us to uncleanness, but to holiness'. This call is followed by these solemn words of warning - 'whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives His Holy Spirit to you' (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8). Maturity is bound up with holiness. The nearest we have, in Scripture, to a definition of maturity is found in Hebrews 5:14 - 'solid food is for the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil'. 'Trained by practice to distinguish good from evil' - what a practical definition of maturity! May God grant a revival of such maturity in our day. We are being 'equipped for every good work' These good works are the works of faith - 'By grace you have been saved through faith ... to do good works' (Ephesians 2:8-10). These good works are produced in us through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. As we 'let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly', the Spirit works in us to make us more like our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ - 'the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control' (Colossians 3:16; Galatians 5:22-23).

No Mighty Triumph For Satan, Abundant Blessing From God

The apostles pray for God's help (Acts 4:23-31). The believers share their property (Acts 4:32-37). The Lord is doing a mighty work among His people. At the heart of this work of God, there is "the Holy Spirit" (Acts 4:31).
God was doing a mighty work - and He was protecting it. Satan was trying to destroy the work of God - but God was one step ahead of him. This work must go on. It must not be spoiled. Following on from the act of divine judgment (Acts 5:1-11), there was great blessing (Acts 5:12-16). The judgment came so that Satan may be prevented from having a mighty triumph over God's people. This judgment paved the way for the blessing. First, there was God's purifying judgment. Then, there was His abundant blessing.

They Killed Him. God Raised Him!

"Come, let us kill him" (Matthew 21:38). This is the human story of Christ's crucifixion. He was "put to death by wicked men." There is also the divine story - "the deliberate plan and foreknowledge of God"(Acts 2:23). The wicked men thought that this was the end of Jesus. They were wrong! - "God raised Him from the dead." Could it have been any other way? Could the evil scheming of men have prevailed over God's plan of salvation? - No! "It was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him" (Acts 2:24).

When the Holy Spirit comes on you ...

‘When the Holy Spirit comes on you… you will be My witnesses… to the ends of the earth’(Acts 1:8). This great advance of the Gospel - Salvation reaches ‘the Gentiles’(Acts 10:45; Acts 11:1,18) - is a movement of ‘the Spirit’(Acts 11:12). The Spirit speaks through the Word (10:44; 11:15). In God’s Word, we read of (a) God’s love for the whole world (John 3:16); (b) God’s Son who died for ‘the sins of the whole world’(John 1:29; 1 John 2:2); (c) God’s command that ‘the Good News’ should be preached to ‘everyone’(Mark 16:15); (d) God’s purpose that there should be disciples of Christ in every nation (Matthew 28:19). ‘Every person in every nation, in each succeeding generation, has the right to hear the News that Christ can save… Here am I, send me’(Youth Praise,128). ‘Go forth and tell!’(Mission Praise, 178).

The Day Of Pentecost - What A Day That Was!

Acts 2:37-38

At the heart of the Gospel, there is the love of God. This is the story
told by Peter on the Day of Pentecost – the story of God’s
love for us. In love, God offers to us the forgiveness of sins and the
gift of the Holy Spirit (v. 38). These blessings are undeserved –
we are “far off” (v. 39). As the message of salvation was
proclaimed, the Spirit of love was powerfully at work, creating faith
– “they were cut to the heart and asked, ‘Brothers,
what shall we do?’” (v. 37). The story of salvation calls
for our response. Can we hear this story of salvation without
responding in faith, without earnestly seeking the blessings promised
to us in Christ? – Sadly, there are people who hear the Gospel
many times but are never gripped by the Gospel. We are only gripped by
the Gospel when we allow the Spirit of God to do His work in us,
drawing us to Jesus Christ. This emphasis on the Spirit is important.
Repentance and faith come to us through the work of the Spirit in us.
This is very different from the suggestion that we depend on our own
ability to save ourselves through our own ‘good works’ of
repentance and faith. Peter calls for repentance. When we repent , we
turn from every attempt to save ourselves. It cannot be done. We put
our trust in Christ. He alone can save us. We do not come to God,
demanding that God must accept us because of our repentance.Trusting in
Christ, we receive the Holy Spirit.
We receive the power we need to live a new life, centred upon Christ
rather than self. It is the power that comes from knowing that our sins
have been forgiven. It is the Spirit’s power to change us, making
us more like Jesus. What does it mean to be gripped by the Gospel? What
does it mean to have faith in Christ? There are two elements in faith.
First, there is faith in the events, believing that they really
happened. Second, there is trust in what the events reveal. We trust in
the love of God. What is faith? In one sense, faith is personal. In
another sense, faith involves being in community with other believers
– “they were added to their number” (v. 41). In
Peter’s call for baptism, we see this second element of faith. In
baptism, we are taken beyond the purely personal aspect of faith. Our
attention is focused on the community of faith into which we enter. We
are not simply isolated individuals. We belong to the body of Christ,
in fellowship with other believers.

Our Question And God's Answer (Acts 2:37-38)

The question is our question: “Brothers, what shall we do?”
The answer is God’s answer: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the Name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Where Does Our Question Come From? (Acts 2:37)

Where does our question come from? – It comes from God.
His Word is preached. His Spirit is at work.
Following on from the preaching of God’s Word in the power of God’s Spirit, we read this, “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart”. This is where the question comes from. God has put it into our heart. Through His Word and His Spirit, he leads us to ask the question of salvation: “What must I do to be saved?” 

God's Answer To Our Question (Acts 2:37-38)

The question is our question. The answer must always be God’s answer. We ask the question. We cannot give the answer. In ourselves, there is no answer. We are “far off” (Acts 2:39).
We know about our sin, but we cannot give to ourselves the forgiveness of sin.
We know about the emptiness in our lives, but we cannot fill our own hearts with the presence of the Holy Spirit.
We can only come to God in our sin and our emptiness.
We come in our sin, praying for God’s forgiveness. We come in our emptiness, praying that God will fill us with His Spirit.
When we come in our sin and emptiness, God speaks His answer.

God’s Answer Comes To Us In The Name Of Jesus Christ.

“What are we to do?” – Before we think of what we are to do, we must think about what Jesus Christ has done for us. This is the Good News. Jesus Christ has taken our sins upon Himself. He has died for us so that we might be forgiven by Him.


We must never begin with the call for repentance and baptism. We must always begin with Jesus Christ – “the Son of God loved us and gave Himself for us” (Galatians 2:20).


“What are we to do?” – The first thing we must do is this: we must look away from ourselves to Jesus Christ, our Saviour.


When we turn our eyes on Jesus and keep our eyes fixed on Him, we will never think of our repentance and baptism as ‘good works’ we have done, ‘good works’ by which we make ourselves acceptable to God.


The Name of Jesus Christ is the Name of our salvation. It is in Him that we are called to repentance and baptism. It is through the power of Jesus Christ, the risen Lord, that we are able to put the old life behind us and begin the new life of the Spirit.


At the heart of God’s answer to our question, there is “the Name of Jesus Christ.”


In His answer to our question, God speaks to us of repentance and baptism. He speaks of the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Above all else, He speaks to us of His Son, our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. 


God's Answer Is For Every One Of Us (Acts 2:38).

To every one of us, God says, “Repent and be baptized”. To every one of us, He says, “Leave your old life behind. Step out into the new life with Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord.”

God’s answer is for every one of us. He doesn’t say to some of us, “You need to repent” and then turn to others, saying, “You won’t need to repent. You’re good enough already.”

Let God's Answer Change You. (Acts 2:38).

The question is asked, “What are we to do?” God’s answer begins with a call for repentance and baptism – “Repent and be baptized.”
If we were to read no further than the words, “Repent and be baptized”, we would miss a great deal of what God is saying to us here.“Repent and be baptized” is only the beginning of God’s answer. We must go on from there. As we read the remainder of verse 38, we learn that
* God’s answer is addressed to every one of us.
* God’s answer comes to us in the Name of Jesus Christ.
* God’s answer comes to us with the promise of the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. 

We ask the question, “What are we to do?” (Acts 2:37), God gives the answer – “Repent and be baptized.” (Acts 2:38).
We lay our old life before the Lord. We invite Him to come and change us.
He comes in forgiving love. He comes in transforming power.
Once we have put our faith in Christ, everything changes.
“If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation.
Old things have passed away. Everything has become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
“It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

Three Great Gifts - Jesus, Forgiveness, And The Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38)
Through faith in Christ, we put the old life behind us. Our sins are forgiven. We receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Through faith in Christ, we receive the strength we need to live as men and women who love God.
 Through faith in Christ, we receive the strength we need to maintain our confession of faith – "Jesus Christ is Lord.”
In Jesus Christ, God’s answer comes to us with the promise of the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. 

Christ brings a change of direction into our life.

This change of direction is described for us in Acts 2:42 -“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
Christ is preached. We believe the Gospel. We receive salvation. Life is no longer centred upon ourselves. It is centred upon Christ. 



There will always be a difference between the real thing and the counterfeit.

"But the evil spirit answered them, I know Jesus, and I’m acquainted with Paul, but who are you?” (Acts 19:15).
There will always be a difference between the real thing and the counterfeit. There's no doubt about that. The question is: Can we tell the difference between the two? May God give us wisdom to know what is from Him and what is not from Him. May He give us courage to keep on choosing His perfect way when many others are settling for something less than His very best.

People can be changed by the love of God.

In Acts 19:23, we read about a riot in Ephesus - "a serious disturbance concerning the way of Christ broke out in the city of Ephesus."
Thank God for Ephesians 2:1-5 - "You were once dead because of your failures and sins. You followed the ways of this present world and its spiritual ruler. This ruler continues to work in people who refuse to obey God. All of us once lived among these people, and followed the desires of our corrupt nature. We did what our corrupt desires and thoughts wanted us to do. So, because of our nature, we deserved God’s anger just like everyone else. But God is rich in mercy because of His great love for us. We were dead because of our failures, but He made us alive together with Christ. (It is God’s kindness that saved you.)"
People can be changed by the love of God.

Monday, 8 July 2019

Fulfil Your Vows

Faith
“Fulfil your vows” (Nahum 1:15).
We’re going to think together about our Church membership vows. These vows can be summarized in five words: Faith, Worship, Devotions, Giving, Witness.
The first vow is the foundation upon which the others are built.
The other four vows are the practical implications of the first vow: our confession of faith.
The first vow emphasizes that there is a faith to be believed, a faith to be confessed: “I believe in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and I confess Jesus Christ as my Saviour and Lord.”
We are called to have faith. The Bible calls us to have a personal faith. It is not only the faith of the Church. It is to be my faith. It is to be your faith. Each one of us is to say, “I believe.”
What does it mean to have faith? It means believing something. There is something to be believed. Faith also means trust. When you and I say, “I believe in one God,” we are saying, “I am trusting God, putting my trust in Him.”
The question is asked, “Do you believe in God?” The real issue is not so much the existence of God. The real issue is the importance of God. Many people claim to believe in God’s existence, but it’s very clear that this belief makes no real difference to the way they live their lives.
Do you believe in God? How important is He to you? What difference does He make to your life? These are the practical questions of faith.
“I believe in God.” There are many different ideas of God. What are we to believe concerning Him? Who is the God in whom we are called to put our trust? We are to believe what the Bible teaches us about Him. In the Bible, we have God’s self-description. God tells us what he is like. He reveals Himself to us.
How does God reveal Himself to us? What does the Bible teach us concerning Him? God reveals Himself as “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” The Bible speaks to us of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14). We cannot fully understand this, but we can believe it. The important question is not so much, “Do we understand it?” It’s “Do we believe it?”
Many people believe in a God who cannot be described – an “unknown god.” The Bible speaks to us of a God who has introduced Himself to us, a God who can be known. At the heart of our faith, there is a Man – “the Man, Christ Jesus.” He is “the one Mediator between God and man” (1 Timothy 2:5).
How do we know what God is like? We know Him through Jesus Christ – “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). How do we get to know God? We get to know Him through faith in Jesus Christ.
Who is Jesus Christ? He is our Saviour and Lord.
* He is my Saviour because He is my Lord. Jesus is “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28). That’s why He can be my Saviour.
* He is my Lord because He is my Saviour. Those who have trusted Him as Saviour consider it their privilege to submit to Him as their Lord.
At the heart of the Trinity – God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit”, there is the Man, Christ Jesus. The Father points to Him (Matthew 3:17). The Holy Spirit leads us to Him (John 16:14).

Worship
"Fulfil your vows" (Nahum 1:15).

Do you promise to worship regularly, with your fellow Christians, on the Lord's Day?

Let us worship God. we are called to worship Him. We are to worship Him in "wonder, love and praise." In our worship, we are to exalt the Lord our God. we are to glorify Him. We are to proclaim His greatness in "humble adoration." In simple and sincere faith, we are to say to him, "Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever."

Our worship is concerned with God. The "who" of worship is far more important than the "how" of worship. Who we worship is far more important than how we worship. Before we ask, "What is worship?", before we ask, "How do we worship?", we must ask the first question, "Who do we worship?"

To understand what worship is, we need to be clear about worship is not.

* Worship is not superficial emotionalism. We need sound teaching from the Word of God. We need Christ-centred preaching, which strengthens our faith and inspires our worship.

* Worship is not barren  intellectualism. We need the moving of God's Spirit in our hearts and lives. We need the power of God, moving among us. If our worship is to be whole-hearted, if we are to grow strong in our praying and strong in our caring, we need the presence of the Holy Spirit.

What is worship?

The question, "What is worship?", is directly related to the question, "Who is God?"

We learn, from the Bible, what God is like. As we learn what God is like, we learn also how we are to worship Him.

The Bible teaches us that God is holy. The Bible teaches us that God is love. Our worship should focus our attention on the holiness and love of God. There should be reverence, as we enter the presence of the holy God. There should be joy, as we come to the God of love.

(a) We come to the Lord to express our gratitude to Him.

(b) We come to the Lord in fellowship with His people.

(c) We come to the Lord so that we might be changed by Him.

* Expressing our gratitude to the Lord

In Psalm 107, the importance of thanksgiving is emphasized five times.

- "O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever" (Psalm 107:1).

- "Let them thank the Lord, for He is steadfast love, for His wonderful works to the sons of men" (Psalm 107:8,15,21,31).

We worship the Lord with joyful thanksgiving. We worship Him in the fellowship of His people.

Following the last of these calls to give thanks to the Lord, there is, in Psalm 107:32, a call to worship the Lord in the company of His people - "Let them extol Him in the congregation of the people, and praise Him in the assembly of the elders." 

* What does it mean to worship in the fellowship of His people?

- God speaks of His people as His "remnant", as the "survivors" (Isaiah 37:32). We live in an age of darkness, a generation in which the vast majority of people have little or no time for God. Even in such an unbelieving age as ours, God still has His faithful people. It is the Lord Himself who gathers His people for worship. It is the presence of God Himself which draws His people to worship.  This is more than meeting with one another. We come to meet with the Lord.

- God calls His people to be His witnesses. Before we can be His witnesses, we must be His worshippers. We are to "exalt Him in the assembly of His people" (Psalm 107:32). We are to worship the Lord as those who have been saved by Him. We sing praise to Him who has given His salvation to us (Isaiah 38:20).  Our commitment to worship is to be a life-long commitment. We are to worship "all the days of our life at the house of the Lord" (Isaiah 38:20).

* We worship the Lord so that we might be changed by Him. An excellent description of what it means to worship is found in Revelation 1:10 - "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day."

When John was "in the Spirit on the Lord's Day," he became a changed man. How was he changed? He was changed in the presence of the Spirit. He was changed through the hearing of God's Word. "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet." In the presence of the Spirit, John heard the Word of the Lord, and he was changed. We, too, can be changed by the Spirit and the Word. Through the Spirit, the "parched ground" of our lives can become the "flowing springs" of His blessing (Psalm 107:35). As God's Word is sown into the hearts of men and women, it yields a fruitful harvest (Psalm 107:37) - "By His blessing they multiply greatly" (Psalm 107:38). This is God's purpose for us. It's His purpose of blessing.

Together, with His purpose of blessing, there is a warning. It is a warning addressed to those who do not take seriously the call to worship God. It is addressed to those who are content with formal religion, those who have no real desire to be "in the Spirit on the Lord's Day." Where the Lord is not honoured, "rivers" will be turned into "a desert," "springs of water" will be turned into "thirsty ground," "a fruitful land" will be turned into "a salty waste" (Psalm 107:33-34). Why does this happen? It is a judgment of God upon the wickedness of men (Psalm 107:34). How does it happen? - "They are diminished and brought low through oppression, trouble, and sorrow" (Psalm 107:39).

* Whatever your response to the Word of the Lord, you will be changed. Either you will draw closer to Him, or you will draw back from Him. Which will it be? Drawing closer to Him or drawing back from Him?

Psalm 107 ends with some words of challenge: "Whoever is wise, let him give heed to these things, let men consider the steadfast love of the Lord." In view of the Lord's great love, will you not confess your need of Him? - Lord, my life is "a desert," "a parched land" (Psalm 107:35). Will you not invite Him to meet your need? - Lord, turn the "desert into springs of water, the parched land into springs of water" (Psalm 107:35).

Devotions
Fulfil your vows” (Nahum 1:15).
“Do you promise to be faithful in reading the Bible and in prayer?”
Religion can make you immune to reality. You can get so used to a form of religion, which is comfortable, that you fail to hear the voice of the Lord. His voice is the only voice which can awaken you and bring you out of the slumber of shallow superficiality.
Are you prepared to take Jesus Christ seriously? Are you prepared to break out from the comfortable atmosphere of shallow, superficial religion? Are you ready to be gripped by the Spirit of God? Will you read the Word of God with a real desire to be changed by the Lord? Will you seek God in prayer with an earnest desire to become more like Jesus day-by-day?
These are searching questions. They take us beyond the superficial questions – “Do you go to church?”, “Do you like the minister’s preaching?” These questions are inviting you to think about your relationship with God. Are you content to remain a spiritual ‘baby’, to be spoon fed by the minister?
God wants us to go on with Him. He wants us to grow in faith. He wants us to grow in our love for Him. This is why Bible reading and prayer are so important. This is not just about religious habits. It’s about getting to know God. It’s about being changed by God.
We talk about the church changing the world. If this is to happen, the Church needs to be changed. We need to be changed. You need to be changed. I need to be changed.
This is where the personal discipline of Bible reading and prayer becomes very important. You and I cannot really be changed if we do not take time to listen to God and speak to Him.
“God often visits us – but most of the time we are not at home” (French proverb). We hear the prompting of the Spirit – take some time to read God’s Word, take some time to pray. “Do not quench the Spirit.” “Do not grieve the Spirit.”
We are to grow into maturity. This involves the opening of our eyes to see Jesus, the opening of our ears to hear Him, and the opening of our lives to serve Him. This growth begins with conversion – the new birth, but it must not end there. We must go on to maturity. If there are no signs of spiritual growth, then your profession of faith must be called in question. This deep questioning does not come from the minister or the church. It comes from the Spirit of God and the Word of God.
The Word of God calls us to grow in Christ. The Spirit of God longs to re-create in us the character of our Lord.
Are you at home when God visits? Do you take time to read His Word? Do you take time to pray?
There will be no spiritual growth if you fail to find time for God, for His Word, for prayer.
Let’s think about our spiritual journey. Have you and I pulled back from following the Lord? or Have we gone on with Him? We must not think only of the public hearing of God’s Word and public prayer. We must also think about personal Bible reading and prayer.
The personal and the public – we need both. Let’s think about prayer – public prayer and private prayer.
When we speak about prayer, we must emphasize public prayer as well as private prayer. What is prayer? Is it always and only a private matter between myself and my God? No! There is also the call to God’s people to gather together for united prayer.
In most churches, few people pay much attention to the call to gather together for prayer . Often, the attendances are shameful. We look around, and wonder, “Where is he? Where is she?”
What are we to say about public prayer? It’s a duty. It’s a privilege. It’s a blessing.
Small groups lend themselves to greater sharing in prayer. We are not, however, to be content with small numbers. We must pray earnestly that more people will commit themselves to gathering together for prayer.
There are differences between personal prayer and public prayer.
In personal prayer, there can be a real outpouring of the soul. In public prayer, it is more than the individual pouring out his or her soul before the Lord. We are leading others in prayer. This doesn’t mean that there is just one person praying, and the others are just listening. The others are silently praying along with the leader. They are giving their silent “Amen” to the prayer that is being prayed aloud.
In public prayer, we cannot just ‘let go’ and say everything that comes into our minds. Wisdom requires us to leave some things unsaid when we are praying in a meeting. Other people are listening to what we say.
In public prayer, we must not fall into the trap of using our prayers as a way of getting at other people, ‘preaching’ a message that we want them to hear. When prayers start to sound more like sermons, we should pray for a rediscovery of the real purpose of prayer – speaking to God.
Alongside public prayer, there is to be personal prayer, spending time alone with God.  He is our Father. We are His children. A good father will want to spend time with his children – sometimes, with all of them together; sometimes, with each one on their own. God is like that. There are times when He wants us to gather together in prayer. There are times when He wants each one of us to be alone with Him.
Whenever we think about prayer – public and private, we should also think about hearing God’s Word and reading God’s Word. Our prayer life will grow strong when we give careful attention to hearing and reading what the Lord has to say to us from His Word.
When we pay close attention to both the Word of God and prayer, we are emphasizing that our conversation with God is a two-way conversation. God speaks to us. We speak to Him.
Let’s think about this two-way conversation – reading the Bible and praying.
* Where do I start in reading the Bible?
Some start at the beginning, and get bogged down in the second half of Exodus, or in Leviticus. It would make better sense to begin with the gospels. they tell us about Jesus. You could, then, go on to Acts. It tells us the story of the Gospel being preached by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.
* Which Bible should I read? Some people stop reading the Bible because they find the king James Version difficult. They have never taken the trouble to look for an appropriate modern version. If you want to be able to say, with the Psalmist, “Oh, how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97), find a version of the Bible you are likely to understand and enjoy reading.
 * How much should I read?
Some people read too much too quickly, and they end up with spiritual indigestion. There are various Bible reading plans which will help you to start reading the Bible and keep on reading it. Following a plan will help you to be faithful in reading God’s Word.
 * How can I understand what I read?
Are you serious about reading God’s Word? You should be. I hope that you are. If you are serious about learning from God’s Word, day-by-day, you may find Bible reading notes helpful. Look for notes that will help you to walk more closely with the Lord.
 * As well as reading the Bible, we should pray.
If, like the Psalmist, you are to grow in wisdom as you are to grow in wisdom (Psalm 119:98), if you are to grow in true, spiritual understanding (Psalm 119:99-100,1o4), if you are to take delight in God’s Word (Psalm 119:102), to live in obedience to His Word (Psalm 119:101), you need to pray. You need to ask the Lord Himself to be Your Teacher (Psalm 119:102).
 * When you pray, remember that you are speaking to God. Remember that He is your loving, heavenly Father.  Remember that He loves you. Remember that He wants the best for you. Remember that He wants to help you to grow in faith. Remember that He wants to help you to grow  more like Jesus.
 * When I pray to God, what am I to say to Him?
 - You can praise Him for who He is.
Let the lessons you have learned from God’s Word feed into your prayer. God’s Word will lead you into praising the Lord. In your prayer, lift up your heart to the Lord. Praise Him.
 - You can thank Him for what He has done for you, what He is doing for you, and what He will do for you.
 - You can confess your sins and receive God’s forgiveness.
 - You can pray for others – for your family, for your friends and neighbours, for the church, for ministers, for missionaries.
 - You can pray for yourself. Don’t be so preoccupied with your own problems that you forget to pray for others.
“Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord; Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.”
Take time for God. Take time to be with Him.
There are so many other things we can do with our time. Don’t let time slip away. “Take time to be holy.”
Giving
"Fulfil your vows" (Nahum 1:15).
"Do you promise to give a fitting proportion of your time, talents and monry for the Church's work in the world."
The Gospel calls for a change in our way of living. Before we speak about giving, we must speak about living. What are your priorities in life? How are you responding to the Good News of Jesus Christ?
How do you use your time? What takes up most of your time? Do you find time for God? or Does everything revolve around yourself? Do we think so much about ourselves that we never really pay much attention to our Lord Jesus Christ?
What about the gifts God has given you? Everyone of us has gifts. They have been given to us by God. Are we using these gifts for God? How much we use our time and talents for God shows how much or how little we care about Him.
When we think about giving, we’re also thinking about caring. Do we care enough to give well? Do we care enough to give quality time to God? Do we care enough to give quality time to the service of Jesus Christ? Do we lay our talents before the Lord and invite Him to use us in His service? Do we care enough to give ourselves to the Lord? or Do we say, “I can’t do that”, and really mean, “I won’t do that”? The level of our giving of time, talents and money shows how much or how little we care about God.
God has a mission. It’s an “all the time” mission. Do we want to get involved in His mission? or Does His work suffer because of our indifference?
A self-giving response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ calls for a change in our way of living. We get so used to things we don’t really need, and the work of the Lord suffers. We get so used to the way things are that we lose sight of the way things could be if we allowed the Lord to take control of our lives. When you and I think about our lives, there are two questions we need to ask ourselves: “How do I live?” and “How should I live?” These are two very different questions. The first asks, “How am I living right now?” The second invites us to make a response. It calls for change. It calls us to be changed by the Lord. It calls us, to say from the heart, “I want to walk with Jesus Christ, all the days I live of this life on earth, to give to Him complete control of body and of soul.”
Christian living – This comes before Christian giving. Some people say, “Money doesn’t matter to God. He’s interested in the heart.” Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21).
In our giving, we give thanks to God, and we provide for His work to be done. When we do not honour God in this way, our worship lacks depth and reality, and the work of God suffers. The giving of money for the Lord’s work emerges out of the giving of ourselves to the Lord.
- We are to give quietly – not as spiritual show-offs.
- We are to give consistently – as part of the giving of ourselves to the Lord in His service.
- We are to give whole-heartedly – as an act of worship.
- We are to give sacrificially. We need to exercise greater discipline in our use of money. We need to manage our money wisely and well. Where there has been a misuse of money, we need to seek and receive God’s forgiveness, and we need to receive His wisdom and strength to redirect our lives towards the greatest priority of all: the priority of God’s Kingdom.
What is your attitude towards this highest priority, the priority of God’s Kingdom?
There are some who have become very materialistic in their way of thinking. When they hear the call to increase the level of their giving to the Lord, they dismiss this out-of-hand. They don’t want to be bothered. Their reaction shows the things they really care about – the things of this world.
Our giving is to be an act of worship, offered to God. We come to the Lord with joyful praise – and we bring our offerings to Him. In our giving, we express our attitude towards the Lord, our desire to honour Him in every part of our life.
We seek to give glory to Him. We’re not to be like the Pharisees – honouring Him with our lips while remaining far from Him in our hearts.
God wants to bless us, but His blessing will be hindered if, in our hearts, we have no real desire to honour Him.
Do you want to know more of His blessing on your life? – Honour Him as the Lord of your life.
Give yourself more fully to the Lord, and you will have the joy of discovering that the Lord has more satisfying and more significant work for you to do for Him.
If you draw back from committing yourself, more truly and more fully, to the Lord, He will withdraw His blessing from your life. If, in your heart, there is a resistance to the Word of the Lord, God has something to say to you. It is something very serious. he says this: “Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 4:7).
If,in your heart, you find a greater openness to receive the Word of the Lord, then I ask you to pray with me, “Lord, help me to open my heart more widely. Help me to receive Your blessing more fully.”

Witness
"Fulfil your vows" (Nahum 1:15).
"Do you promise, depending on the grace of God, to confess Christ before men and women, to serve Him in your daily work, and to walk in His ways all the days of your life?"
* First, we note the words, "depending on the grace of God." Without the grace of God, we cannot even begin to confess Christ before men and women, to serve Him in our daily work, and to walk in His ways."
This is a rebuke to the attitude which says, "I do my best", while never recognizing the fact that our best is never good enough. When we say, "I do my best," God calls us to bow before Him, and receive His Best - Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
It's also a word of encouragement. When we become painfully aware That our best can never be good enough, God comes to us with His Word of encouragement - "I am with you. I am your Helper. I will not fail you. I will give you the strength that you need to live for Me."
* The Christian life can be described in different ways.
(a) Confession - confessing Christ before men and women;
(b) service - serving Christ in our daily work;
(c) Walking - walking in His ways.
When we speak about Christian living, we must emphasize this - "depending on the grace of God."
* How can we sustain this kind of life? We can't. Only Christ can.
This is why we must place great emphasis on Paul's description of the Christian life: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).
- This is what it means to be a Christian - Christ lives in us.
- This is what we mean when we use the phrase, "depending on the grace of God."
Jesus says to us, "The Holy Spirit is the Helper who dwells with you and will be in you" (John 14:15-16).
* (a) The Holy Spirit helps us to confess Christ before men and women.
- "The Holy Spirit ... will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (John 14:26).
- "The Spirit of truth ... will bear witness to Me; and you also are witnesses" (John 15:26-27).
We are Christ's witnesses, in the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).
"The Gospel must first be preached to all nations ... Do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say; but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit" (Mark 13:11).
You may say, "I am not a preacher. I am not a teacher." There is something else that needs to be said, "If you are faithful in your personal witness for Christ, confessing Him to others, your witnesses part of the preaching of the Gospel and the teaching of God's Word." This witnessing for Christ is grounded in a relationship with God, in a life of discipleship.
* (b) The nature of our relationship with God becomes clear as we consider what Jesus teaches us concerning serving Him.
"No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing, but I have called you friends, for all hat I have heard from My Father I have made known to you" (John 14:15).
We are more than servants in our Master's house. We are sons and daughters of our loving, heavenly Father.
Before you can serve the Lord, you must become His child. The service that we offer to the Lord is not the service of hired hands. It is the service of His children.
The life of service does not begin with the words, "I will give my service to the Lord."
It begins with the words, "I will receive salvation from the Lord. I will receive Jesus as my Saviour."
Before you can give to the Lord, you must receive from Him.
The life of service is a response to God's love. It begins when we receive God's love, when we realize that He loves us. Our love for Him arises out of His love for us. Through faith in Christ, we are born into the family of God's love. Our obedience is an expression of love (John 14:21). It is Gospel obedience. We must not try to obey God in the hope that we might receive forgiveness because of our great obedience. That's legalistic obedience. It has nothing at all to do with the Gospel. Gospel obedience is very different. The Gospel is not about our great obedience, and what it can do for us. The Gospel is about God's great love. It's about what He has done for us - not what we can do for Him. We experience the love of God. We receive the forgiveness of God. Out of gratitude to God, with love for God, we give ourselves in service to Him.
* (c) We are to walk with the Lord, all the days of our life.
Everything that we may do for Christ, as His witnesses, arises out of our following Him, as His disciples. "Follow Me" - This was the first thing Jesus said to His disciples. We are to walk with the Lord. Before we can run, we must learn to walk. If a child never moves beyond walking to running, there's something wrong.
"Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31).
Is this a word for enthusiastic young people? Are we 'too long in the tooth' for this kind of enthusiasm? No! This is a word for all who will "wait upon the Lord" and "renew their strength. We are told, in Isaiah 40:30, that "even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted." This is followed, in Isaiah 40:31, with these great words, "Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength."
How can we keep on walking with the Lord all the days of our life? How can we "run and not be weary"? How can we "walk and not faint"? The answer is the Lord (Isaiah 40:28-29).
If we are to confess Christ, serve Him and walk with Him, we must come to Him, at His Cross, and receive His forgiveness for our many failures. We must come and receive His power, the power of His resurrection, the power of the Holy Spirit, the power that changes us, the power that renews our life.

Daily Devotional Readings: Year Two - January

1st January: Joshua 1:1-18 For Israel, it was a new beginning. They were leaving the wilderness. That was their past. They were entering...