Be Ready to Share Jesus

Acts 13:13-52

900165955_466ceaa8d7_mAt bedtime, I read to my son the scriptures where Paul and Barnabas visited the synagogue in Antioch and after the reading from the Law and the Prophets,  the rulers of the synagogue asked them if they had any words of encouragement for the people.  What struck me is when Paul stood up, he used this opportunity to preach about Jesus.

He didn’t start off talking about Jesus.  Instead, he gave a brief summary of Israel’s history beginning with when the Israelites were in the wilderness for forty years.  He spoke about how the Jewish people were ruled by judges until the prophet Samuel and how they wanted to be like the other nations who had kings ruling over them.  They wanted a king too even though God was their King.  They got their wish when Saul, the son of Kish was chosen to be their king.  However, God removed him because of his disobedience and chose David to be his successor.  Then, Paul introduced Jesus, saying,  “From this man’s descendants God has raised a Savior for Israel, Jesus, according to His promise.”

He spoke of the role the people had played in the arrest and death of Jesus. By doing these things they had fulfilled the Word of God.  The Good News, though was that God raised Jesus from the dead and through Him are the forgiveness of sins.  Paul made it clear that we are justified by faith in Jesus and not by the law.  His words encouraged the Gentiles who begged him to preach again to them the following Sabbath.

Has God given you an opportunity to share the Good News about Jesus with others as He did with Paul?  Would you do as Paul did and share your faith so that people will come to know the Savior who died for them as well?  You don’t have to give a history lesson like Paul did.  You can share your own testimony of how you came to know the Lord like the woman at the well.  She told her community that Jesus must be the Messiah that they had been waiting for because He knew everything about her.

What about the challenges you will face when you share the Gospel?  The following Sabbath when Paul and Barnabas returned to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, they were met with opposition from the Jews who were envious.  They contradicted what Paul said but he and Barnabas didn’t allow them to spoil things for them.  Instead, they boldly declared to them that since they rejected the Word of God which was supposed to be given to them first, it would be given instead to the Gentiles for the Lord commanded them, “‘I have established you to be a light of the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'”  Verse 48 says that when the Gentiles heard this, “they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And all who were ordained to eternal life believed.”

Don’t be discouraged when people oppose you and contradict what you say.  It’s Satan, your enemy at work, trying to prevent you from doing what God has called you to do.  Like Paul and Barnabas did, act boldly, knowing that the Lord is your side and He will not allow His work to be hindered.  Share the Gospel for the sake of those who will gladly receive it. Don’t let the Satan or anyone put out your light.  Keep it shining for those who will come to it and receive salvation through faith in Jesus.

Today, if God gives you an opportunity to encourage people with the Good News about Jesus, grab it.  And don’t worry about what to say.  The Holy Spirit has that covered.

 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. For it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek – Romans 1:16

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The First Disciples

Read John 1:35-42

p_0003John the Baptist, when he was with his two disciples, acknowledged Jesus as the Lamb of God–thereby, revealing the Messiah to his disciples.  Immediately, the two disciples followed Jesus.  They heard what John had said and heeded his words.  How many of us have heard about Jesus and know of what He did on the cross but still don’t follow Him?  How many of us have been given the opportunity to know Him but have decided not to?  Our indecision is a decision in itself.  Andrew and the other disciple seized the opportunity to follow Jesus–to have a relationship with Him.  They left John who had prepared the way for others to follow the Messiah.  They didn’t doubt John.  In faith, they took him at his word, believed that the One he pointed out was the Messiah and they went after Him.

Jesus saw them following Him and He asked them what they were looking for.  He already knew because He was omniscient but, perhaps He wanted them to state their reason.  What would you say to Him if He were to ask you, “What seek ye?”

The disciples’ question answered Jesus’ question.  They wanted to abide with Him so they asked Him where He was dwelling.  Jesus invited them to go and see.  They were willing to be with Him wherever He was.  They went with Him to see where He was staying and they stayed with Him.  How many of us are willing to leave the past behind and pursue a new life–a future with Jesus? How many of us are willing to forsake our old lives for a new one with Jesus?  How many of us are willing to leave the familiar and comfortable behind and pursue the unfamiliar and sometimes hard, uncomfortable future?  Yet, Andrew and the other disciple did so.  They left their familiar life with John whom they knew, to follow Jesus whom they did not know but had long heard of.  Their faith in God’s promise of the Messiah and John’s testimony led them to go after Jesus.  We have more than John’s testimony and those of the prophets.  We have the testimony of Jesus Himself yet many of us do not follow Him.

Andrew went to his brother, Peter and told him that he and the other disciple had found the Messiah.  He took Peter to Jesus.  When we find Jesus, like Andrew, we should be eager to share Him with others.  When Jesus saw Peter, He identified him as the son of Jona and named him Cephas (Peter) which means stone.  It was Peter whom He asked to feed His sheep.  It is interesting that Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him in front of the other disciples.  Why did Jesus do that?

Was it to give Peter a chance to redeem himself?  Was it to show Peter that though he had denied Him three times it by no means meant that he didn’t love Him?  Was it to reassure Peter who might have questioned his love for Jesus because of his denial?  Was it to show Peter and the others that despite what had happened that Jesus had forgiven him and still wanted him to be a big part of His flock?  He wanted Peter to carry on the ministry–to spread the Gospel–to feed the lambs and the sheep.

Peter denied Jesus three times and three times he was forgiven.  My study Bible says that Peter had been restored privately and personally but now it was to be a public matter.  He had disowned Christ in public three times.  Now he must own Christ three times in front of the other disciples.  Peter had sinned but Christ forgave him.  Handling the responsibility of Christ’s ministry was Peter’s way to redeem himself.

Jesus founded His church on Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God.  This was revealed to Peter by God Himself.  Jesus recognized that Peter would be a great follower–that he would achieve great things in His name, that he would bring many to God.  Like Peter, Jesus sees great potential in each of us.  He knows us better than we know ourselves.  He knew Peter would deny Him but He also knew that Peter would further the ministry, leading many to repentance.  He knew that far from denying Him, Peter would glorify Him, teach others about Him even at the risk of persecution and death.

Peter counted it worthy to suffer shame for His name (Acts 5:41).  Far from denying Him, Peter and the others continued to teach and preach about Jesus though they were commanded not to.  Love for Jesus and his desire to carry out His command to feed His sheep far surpassed any fear Peter might have had.  If we truly love Jesus we should be willing to teach and preach about Him despite the risks, persecution, rejection we may face.  Like Peter and the other disciples we are to take up our crosses and follow Jesus no matter what.  Like Andrew and the other disciple, we should seek Him and abide with Him.

Two Sabbaths?

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome – 1 John 5:2, 3.

Last Sabbath I read this definition in my Bible’s dictionary:

Sabbath  A holy day of rest and worship (Exodus 20:8).  The seventh day of the week, from Friday evening to Saturday evening, is the Jewish Sabbath.  The first day of the week, or Sunday, became the Christian Sabbath in memory of the day of Jesus’ resurrection (Mark 16:2).  Early Christians “came together to break bread” (Acts 20:7) on the first day of the week.

According to this definition there are two Sabbaths.  Are there indeed two Sabbaths–one for Jews and one for Christians?  Where in the Bible is this distinction made?  According to the Bible the Sabbath existed long before the Jews did.  So, hSabbath6Gsmow could a day be made for people who did not yet exist?  Simple.  And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath (Mark 2:27).  The word used for man here is anthrōpos which means a human being, male or female.  It is clear from Jesus’ own words that the seventh day Sabbath was made for everyone–not just the Jews.

When God created the Sabbath, He had everyone in mind.  It was supposed to be a day of rest for all of us–Jews and Gentiles. We read in Genesis 2:1-3:  And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

Keeping the seventh day Sabbath was so important to God that it was one of His ten moral commandments.  By His own finger, He wrote: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it (Exodus 20:8-11).

Would Jesus thank His followers for changing the Sabbath from the seventh day to the first?  The Sabbath was created as a memorial to the creation and was written in stone which means that it was never meant to be changed.  The moral law represents God who is unchanging.  It represents Jesus who says He is the Lord of the Sabbath because He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  The fourth commandment is the only one which begins with the word, “remember”.  It was given as a reminder to the Jews who were not practicing Sabbath worship while in bondage in Egypt.  So, now that they were free, they could keep the Sabbath.

As Christians, we are supposed to follow Jesus’ example.  It was His custom to worship or attend the synagogue on the Sabbath (Luke 4:16).  Paul kept the Sabbath.  If the day had changed to the first day of the week as some claim, why did Paul wait to preach to the Gentiles the next Sabbath instead of preaching to them on the following day?  Acts 13:42:  And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbathOn the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God (Acts 13:42, 44).  And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks (Acts 18:4).

Compare Exodus 20:8-11 to: ‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day (Deuteronomy 5:12-15).

Exodus 20:11 is a direct reference to Genesis 2:2, 3.  In Deuteronomy 5:15 is a reminder that the Israelites were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord had delivered them.  As their Deliverer, He was commanding them to keep His Sabbath day holy.  So, we see that the Sabbath reveals God as our Creator and our Redeemer.  Just as God delivered His people from the land of Egypt where they were slaves of the Egyptians, Jesus, delivers us from slavery to sin.

The Sabbath is symbol of restoration, deliverance, liberation.  Many of Jesus’ healings took place on the Sabbath.  It was lawful to do good on the Sabbath.  There is the example where the ruler of the synagogue objected to Jesus healing a woman with an infirmity on the Sabbath, saying, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.”Jesus response was, “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?” Jesus had loosed the woman from her bondage.  He had delivered her from Satan.  The cripple by the pool was healed from an infirmity he had for thirty-eight years.  Jesus said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you” (John 5:5-14).  Jesus was not breaking the Sabbath as some accused Him of doing.  He was doing the Father’s work.  He was healing people of their infirmities and of their sins and delivering them from the enemy.

Some people use Acts 20:7 to support the idea that the Sabbath had changed.  Let’s see what it says in verses 7-12.

Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where they were gathered together. And in a window sat a certain young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep. He was overcome by sleep; and as Paul continued speaking, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down, fell on him, and embracing him said, “Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him.” Now when he had come up, had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed. And they brought the young man in alive, and they were not a little comforted.

This was not a worship service.  The disciples had come together to break bread.
In the Jewish community, to break bread was to share meals.  When the term “breaking bread” is used in the New Testament writings, it is either in context of the Passover Seder, or the weekly community meal (Breaking of Bread the Jewish Understanding
By: Luana Fabri). 

They were in an upper room and Paul was leaving the next day so he had lots to say to them.  This was a farewell meeting.  In fact, he spoke to them until midnight.  No weekly worship service would have lasted that long!  After he revived the young man who had fallen to his death, Paul broke bread and ate then continued talking until daybreak before leaving.  Breaking bread was a regular thing.  In Acts 2:46, 47 we read, So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Some people cite 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2 as evidence of Sunday worship.  Paul wrote, “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me.”  There is no indication here that this was a public meeting. Paul was merely telling the church members to set aside what they have on the first day of the week and to store it up until he comes.  The person was to begin saving early in the week at home so that he or she didn’t have to wait until Paul came to determine how much would be donated.  Paul didn’t want people to still be collecting donations when he arrived.

No one seemed to have told Paul that the Sabbath had changed.  In Antioch in Pisidia, Paul and his company went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down (Acts 13:14). When he and Luke were in Philippi, on the Sabbath day they went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made and sat down and spoke to the women who met there (Acts 16:13).  One of them was Lydia, the first European convert to the Christian faith (verse 14).  In Acts 18:4, Paul reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks. Paul was a Christian who was keeping the Sabbath of the Lord his God holy.

Roman Catholic and Protestant churches admit that there is no scriptural evidence of a Sabbath change.  Read their confessions here.

The commandments are mentioned after the resurrection which makes it clear that they were still binding.  Paul wrote, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:8-10).  James in his warning against church members showing favoritism, said, If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty (James 2:8-12).  John warned believers, Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).  As we can see from these scriptures the commandments are still the same, why is it that the commandment about the day of worship is the one that was changed? 

There are indeed two Sabbaths–one is God made and the other is man-made.  Many Christians are worshipping on a day which God did not bless or sanctify or claim ownership of.  In the Bible, God says that He is the Lord of the seventh day Sabbath.  Jesus said that He was Lord of the Sabbath.  The Sabbath God made was for everyone not just one group of believers.  The man-made sabbath excludes Jews.  However, as followers of Christ, we ought to be following His example and keep the seventh day Sabbath as was His custom.  After His resurrection, Jesus did not ask His followers to keep the first day of the week as a memorial to His resurrection.  He would not have encouraged them to replace the day which His Father had blessed and had rested upon.  Jesus said, Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19).

Baptism, not Sunday worship is the memorial of Christ’s resurrection.  Baptism is the memorial of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.   Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Romans 3:3-6).  

There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all (Ephesians 4:5, 6) and one Sabbath which is the Lord’s.  Which Sabbath are you going to keep–the Lord’s or man’s?

In Our Image

adam-eve_019Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness – Genesis 1:26

There are many people who deny that there are three Persons in the Godhead. They don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. What does the Word of God say?

In the first book of the Bible, God is speaking to others when He says, “Let Us make man in our image, according to Our likeness.” Who is He talking to? The angels? Psalm 104:4 says “Who makes His angels spirits, His ministers a flame of fire.” Angels are created beings. Would God create us in the image of other created beings even though we were made lower than them (Psalm 8:5)? Remember what the angel said when the apostle John fell down at his feet in worship? “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God” (Revelation 22:9). Twice John fell at the angel’s feet to worship him and twice he told him not to do that. They were both servants. Only God is to be worshipped.

He was talking to the other members of the Godhead who were present at creation. The Son was present. The apostle John confirms this in the first chapter of his Gospel. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it (John 1:1-5).

The Holy Spirit was present at creation. Genesis 1:2 states, And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. All were present at Jesus’ baptism. And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).

When Jesus gave the great commission to His disciples, He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen (Matthew 28:19, 20).

Though commonly known as the “Trinity”, the term “Godhead” is actually in the Bible. It is used by Paul in Romans 1:20 and in Colossians 2:9. He uses the Greek words theiotēs and theotēs. Both of which refer to the state of being God. The Godhead is one God, three persons. Paul refers to these three Persons in his letter to the Christians in Corinth. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14). The author of Hebrews writes, “how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14).

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4). Many use these words of Moses to dispute the teaching of the Godhead. What they need to remember is that the Israelites had come from Egypt which had many gods and the other nations at that time were also polytheistic. The golden calf Aaron made was the Egyptian god, Apis.

The Godhead is comprised of three Persons with different roles but one purpose much like a family with more than one member with different roles. “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one” (1 John 5:7, 8). Here the Spirit refers to the Father, the water to the Holy Spirit and the blood to Jesus. They are one. Together they created us and together they devised the plan of salvation when our first parents, Adam and Eve sinned. Together they are working in and through us so that one day we will spend eternity with them on the new earth.

The Benefits of Trusting God

That it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the LORD our God” – Jeremiah 42:6

When Jesus told Simon Peter, James and John, “Do not be afraid.  From now on you will catch men,” they must have trusted Him enough to leave everything behind and follow Him.  They had seen with their own eyes what miraculous things He could.  All night the three men had been fishing and had caught nothing yet when they cast down their nets as Jesus bid them, they caught so much fish that the net holding them was breaking.  The two boats began to sink under the weight of the fish.  How was it possible that the same lake where the men hadn’t caught any fish a moment ago and the minute Jesus told them to cast their nets in, they were bursting with fish?  Jesus had done the impossible.  When, the men saw this, they were astonished.  They probably never caught so much fish in all the years they had been fishing and here Jesus had done it in such a short time.  Possibly ashamed of his reluctance earlier, Peter fell to his knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”

Jesus told Simon Peter not to be afraid and that from now on, he would catch men.  Simon Peter’s days as a fisherman were over and he was now a follower of Jesus who had great plans for him and the others.  Just imagine how differently things would have turned out if Peter hadn’t decided to literally drop everything and follow Jesus.  He could not have imagined in all his wildest dreams what miraculous things he would be a witness to or that he would be preaching the same gospel he heard Jesus preach to the people from Peter’s boat or that he would be walking on water or that he too would be healing people.  None of these men could ever have imagined that their lives would change so dramatically because they had put their trust and faith in Jesus.  Just like these men, we should leave our worries behind and follow Him.  Catching the fish that had seemed nonexistent a short while ago was Jesus’ way of showing the three men what is impossible for man is not impossible for Him.  And that He could help them to catch bigger and better things if they just allow themselves to trust Him.

When we follow Jesus we are in for a treat.  As He pointed out, “I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”  Peter and the other apostles believed that casting the net in the lake was hopeless because they had been trying all night to catch fish.  Fishing was their livelihood when they weren’t catching any it must have been very frustrating for them.  Then, Jesus came along told them to cast the net in and when they did there was an abundance of fish.  He wanted to show them what would happen if one doesn’t give up every time things don’t go well or as expected.  Jesus wanted to demonstrate through these men that He could penetrate the murky waters of our limited imagination and bring forth treasures that are possible only when we have faith in Him.

Jesus is the Light and when we trust in Him, we will no longer be in the dark about who He is and what He is capable of.  “I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known.  I will make darkness light before them, And crooked places straight.” (Isaiah 42:16)  Jesus led Peter and the other disciples out of spiritual blindness into spiritual awareness.  On that fateful day on the lake, He opened their eyes to His magnificence.  He took them on a journey that forever changed their lives.  They went from reeling in fish to reeling in people.  Jesus taught them everything they needed to know and after His resurrection, He sent them into the world to finish His work.  “All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:18-20)

Just as He had promised, He was always with them, in person when He was here on earth and in spirit after He had returned to His Father in Heaven.  He is with us in spirit and when He calls us to do His work, He is right there alongside us, giving us guidance and all the tools we need to accomplish the task.  He left behind the Holy Spirit who would guide them into all truth; speak only what He hears and tell them what was to come.  In Acts 2, the disciples were gathered in one place on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit filled them and they began to speak in other tongues.  The Holy Spirit enabled them.  Peter addressed the non-believers, reminding them of Jesus and the miracles He performed before them, His crucifixion, and His resurrection.  He called them to repent and be baptized.  That day, about three thousand people accepted Christ and were baptized.  A fellowship of the believers was started; they broke bread, gave to those in need, and praised God who increased the number of people saved.  Jesus was with His disciples throughout their ministry, helping them, as they became fishers of men.

When we obey God we are blessed and through our obedience other people are blessed.  The apostles obeyed Jesus and they were blessed with His teachings, His love and with the Holy Spirit.  They were blessed with the task of spreading the gospel and as a result, others were blessed because they came to know Jesus.    When Moses obeyed God’s call to free the Israelites from Egypt, he had no way of knowing that he would be remembered as one of the greatest prophets of all time.  When Abraham obeyed God and went to a strange land, he had no way of knowing that he would be the father of many nations or that one of his descendants would be one of Israel’s greatest kings or that one of them would be the Messiah.  When Peter and the other fishermen followed Jesus they had no way of knowing that they would be witnesses of miracles or doers of miraculous signs.

Editing What We Hear

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” – John 10:27

When Jesus asked His disciples who they thought He was Peter said that He was the Son of the Living God.  Jesus blessed Peter and told him that this revelation came from God.  Peter recognised God’s voice in the midst of all the voices who thought that Jesus was John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the prophets.

Then, when Jesus told the disciples what was going to happen—His persecution and trials and His death and resurrection, Peter rebuked Him.  Jesus recognised that the devil was trying to contradict Him.  This is an example of how the devil tries to prevent us from following God’s plan for each of our lives and how he uses those close to us. 

Peter heard God’s voice telling that Jesus was the Christ, His son.  And Christ means “anointed” or “chosen one” in Greek.  Christ in Hebrew means “Messiah.”  Jesus was God’s chosen one to bring salvation to His people and the only way this could happen was for Jesus to die on the cross.  Then, He would be raised to life.  This was God’s plan.  But, then, Peter heard a conflicting message—one that was a direct contradiction to God’s word.  It was contradicting what the prophets wrote.

Everything Jesus said about what would be become of Him was written in the scriptures.  He said that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.  He was flogged, spat on, mocked and rejected by the people who did not believe that He was the Messiah. (John 12:37-50)  To rebuke Jesus, is to rebuke the scriptures—the word of God.  This is an example of how to discern God’s voice from the devil’s.  God would never contradict Himself.  Everything Jesus said came from God. (John 8:25-30, John 12:49-50).

Basically, what the devil was saying through Peter was, “Your plan will not work.  You’re wasting Your time.”  This speaks of our failure to see the big picture—things from God’s perspective rather than our limited one.  In that instant, Peter was thinking like man instead of like God and forgetting that with God, all things are possible.  God’s desire was to have His son come to earth and live among us, teach us what we need to know about Him and how to live spiritually.  Then, Jesus would take on our sins, die on the cross, which is a symbol of God’s love for us and our salvation and then rise from the dead.

God’s plan was to forgive us our sins and show us that there is life after death.  He wanted us to know that we were saved and no longer enslaved by sin.  Jesus was sent into the world to defeat sin and remove the punishment of sin.  When we sin and confess our sins, God forgives us.  This is what the devil was trying to prevent.  He tried to tempt Jesus who came into the world to restore what the devil had destroyed.

Jesus came to teach us the truth—that there is a God who loves us and wants us to trust and believe in Him and who would save us from our sins and protect us from evil.  Satan deceives and destroys while God saves and protects.  God wants us to know that we can resist the devil through His strength, His power.  He knows that we would be tempted as Jesus was and lied to as Peter was when he told Jesus that He would not fulfil God’s plan.  Satan wants to give the impression that God doesn’t love us enough to willingly sacrifice His Son’s life to pay for our sins once and for all.  But the Cross says differently.

The Centurion’s Faith

The Bible gives us a definition of what faith is. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). This describes the kind of faith the centurion had.

Jesus was in Capernaum when news of His presence there reached a centurion whose beloved servant was sick to the point of dying. At first the centurion sent elders of the Jews to Jesus, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant. The centurion was well liked and respected among the Jewish community because he for he loved their nation and built a synagogue for them. He was deserving of this favor.

Jesus went with them but He was not far from the house when the centurion sent his friends to Jesus with this message: “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.

His faith was such that he hoped that Jesus would heal his servant so he sent word to Him but then he believed that Jesus did not have to be physically there to heal. All He had to do was say the word and the servant was healed. His faith was so strong that Jesus Himself was impressed. In fact He marveled at the man’s faith and He turned to the crowd and said to them, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!”

Those who were sent to speak to Jesus returned to the house and found the sick servant well. Perhaps they believed in Jesus from that moment.

Not only was the centurion’s faith remarkable but he was a model in humility. He said “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You.”He did not think he was good enough to go in person to see Jesus or have Jesus come to him. He is like John the Baptist who did not feel that he was worthy to even loose the straps on Jesus’ sandals. He is like the tax collector who could not lift his head as he prayed to God because he did not feel worthy.

What is remarkable about this story is that the centurion who was a part of the group who oppressed the Jewish people sparking their hatred. The centurion was a Gentile whom the Jews considered to be unclean yet he displayed the kind of faith that they should have had in the One who came as “a light to [bring] revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:32).

The centurion’s genuine faith put the religious leaders to shame. Their faith was dead because it was stagnant–dead, did not prove itself by works, did produce humility and dependence on God. They were proud, self-righteous, unbelieving and rigorous in their observance of the law yet they failed to see God’s acts of mercy in the miraculous healings of His Son. The centurion heard about Jesus and believed whereas the religious leaders saw the blind healed, the lame walk and the mute speak and other signs yet they did not believe.

In Matthew’s account, Jesus said to the crowd, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:10-12). The Jews felt that their heritage guaranteed them entry into heaven but Jesus said that they are the ones who will be thrown out into the dark.

We must not make the same mistake as the Jews and assume that because we are Christians we are saved. When someone asked Jesus, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God” (Luke 13:23-29).

Like the centurion we must “seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6). And our faith should be such that we trust in the word of Jesus which has the power to heal and change lives.

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