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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Appearances

Mark 11:12-14

My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples – John 15:8

downloadI am sure a lot of us know Christians who go to church every week, know their Bibles inside out and say “Amen” and “Hallelujah” or “Praise the Lord” a lot during the sermons and can sing the hymns without looking at the open hymnals in their hands. Yet, how many of us would be surprised that these same Christians are like the fig tree that Jesus curses because it bore no fruit? They look good, sound good but that is all.

As the story goes, Jesus was hungry. He saw a fig tree afar and it had leaves. So, He went to see if He could find fruit on it. He found nothing but leaves. It was not the season for figs but the tree gave the impression that it had figs. The leaves of the fig tree promised fruit. Apparently the figs come before the leaves. But for this particular tree, there were leaves but no figs. If it were not the season for figs, why then did it have leaves?

This fig tree is like the religious leaders that had the promise of fruit, the leaves (the outward appearance) but produced no fruit. They were the ones having a form of godliness but denying its power (2 Timothy 3:5).  Outwardly they appeared righteous but inside they were filled with hypocrisy.  They honoured God with their lips but not with their hearts (Matthew 15:8).

For all their rituals, Sabbath-keeping, knowledge of the scriptures, traditions, they were spiritually barren. Much like some Christians today. For all their perfect church attendance, knowledge of scriptures and church doctrines, Sabbath-keeping, they are spiritually barren. They are of no use to God. They are not producing any fruit.

If Jesus were to come to your church, what will He find? People having the appearance of fruitful Christians or Christians actually bearing fruit? Will He find only leaves or leaves and fruit? As the body of Christ, we are not to be ornaments and bench warmers but active in our communities, families, workplaces or wherever the harvest is. No more keeping up appearances. We may fool some people and ourselves but we can’t fool the Lord. We must be out in the field, bearing good fruit for the kingdom.

What can you do today to make sure you are bearing fruit for Jesus? You want that on closer inspection, He will see your fruit and reward you. Don’t be like those who are good for nothing and useless like salt which has lost its flavour. Barren trees and flavourless salt will be thrown out. Be fruitful so that when people see your fruit, they will glorify your Father in Heaven.

When Jesus comes looking for fruit, make sure He finds some.

Jesus Rejected At Nazareth

“Truly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country”  – Luke 4:24, MEV

Read Luke 4:16-30

jesus-in-nazarethJesus is in the synagogue in Nazareth where as, His custom was, He went there on the Sabbath day.  He stood up to read. He read what Isaiah prophesied about Him in 61:1, 2.

After He finished reading, He sat down and all eyes were on Him.  It was then that He told them that the scripture He had just read was fulfilled that very day in their hearing.

At first they marvelled at His gracious words but that soon changed when Jesus got to the heart of the matter.  He told them the truth which was that no prophet was accepted in his own country.  He quoted the proverb, “Physician, heal yourself, whatever we have heard you do in Capernaum, do it here too.”  In other words, do these things in your own country.

Jesus reminded them that although there were many widows in Israel during the three and a half years of no rain and famine, the prophet Elijah was sent to a Gentile widow.  The widow did as he told her and make a cake for him although she but only a handful of meal in a barrel and a little oil in a jar.  Her act of faith resulted in her, Elijah and her household ate for many days and the barrel of meal did not run out, nor did the jar of oil empty, according to the word of the Lord, which He spoke by Elijah (1 Kings 17:7-16, MEV).

There were many lepers in Israel but Elisha cleansed none of them except Naaman, the Syrian.  Naaman was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master because by him, the Lord had given victory to Syria.  He was a mighty man of valor (2 Kings 5:1).

John 3:19 – “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”

We see how fickle the people are.  They were fine where Jesus quoted Isaiah but when He rebuked them, their reaction was violent.  They had heard of His miracles and wonders and were thrilled that He had returned to His home town.  That’s why they said, “Is this not Joseph’s Son?”  We know Him, they seemed to say.  We know His family.  We heard of all the great things He has done in other places.  Perhaps they thought He would perform some of those miracles there.  He was accepted throughout Galilee before He went to Nazareth and news of Him went through all the surrounding region which is most likely how the people of Nazareth heard about Him.

Jesus taught in the synagogues in Galilee and was glorified by all.  Not so in Nazareth.  Once He pointed out, using examples of Elijah and Elisha, that prophets, are more welcomed, accepted by others and not by their own, the people of Nazareth were filled with wrath.  Jesus hit a nerve.  No one likes when their true motives, nature, or spiritual condition are brought to light.  They tried to push Him off a hill but Jesus slipped away.

How do we react when someone points out sin in our lives or bring to light something in our lives that we need to change? Do we reject them?  Do we turn against them?  Do we run them out of our lives?  What is it about truth that make people get so bent out of shape?

What condition would Jesus find you in when He comes into your life? Will you turn to Him?  He promised that, “While you have light, believe in the light that you may become sons of light” (John 12:35, MEV).  Or will you turn away from Him because you prefer your life the way it is? I pray that you will choose to accept 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?

What Defiles A Person

When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man” – Matthew 15:10, 11

IMG_0412Growing up, we were encouraged to wash our hands before we eat because we were taught that “cleanliness is next to godliness”. The Pharisees and scribes had a problem with Jesus’ disciples eating with first washing their hands. In their eyes this was unthinkable because it was breaking their tradition.

In response to their complaint, Jesus pointed out that they were breaking God’s law for the sake of their tradition by letting people think that it was okay for them to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ They were basically saying that the people they don’t need to honor their parents. They were placing their tradition above God’s commandment. Jesus called them on their hypocrisy. There they were criticizing the disciples for eating food without washing their hands and yet they were encouraging people to dishonor their parents, worshipping God in vain and teaching as doctrine the commandments of men. These were the same people who bore malice toward Jesus and plotted to destroy Him when He healed a man on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:14).

Jesus made it clear to the crowd that it is not eating food with unwashed hands that makes defiles a person it is what is inside the person that defiles the person. “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” Ironically, these people thought that ceremonial washing of the hands before eating make them clean but inside they were defiled–unclean. They were filled with evil thoughts and intentions toward Jesus, they committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit by attributing His power to Satan (Matthew 12:24-32). They had murder in their hearts. These things defiled them. They may have had clean hands but their hearts were far from clean. Eating food with unwashed did not defile the disciples.

This exchange between Jesus and the religious leaders had nothing to do with diet. Jesus wasn’t declaring that all foods are good to eat as some believe and teach. He was telling them that what comes out of them defiles them not what goes in. Clean hearts are more important than clean hands. Like David, we should pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Psalm 51:10).

Signs

The Pharisees and the Scribes wanted Jesus to give them signs but interestingly enough, they had been given signs all along but had failed to see them or acknowledge them.  These signs were manifested in the healing of the sick, the cleansing of the lepers, the lame walking, the blind seeing, the mute talking and the deaf hearing.  Yet people still asked for signs.  Their unbelief blinded them to what was right there before their eyes.  Unlike the Queen of Sheba who went out of her way to see King Solomon because she had heard of his wisdom and wanted to see or hear for herself, the Jews did not go out of their way to see for themselves the glory of the Lord, His wonderful miracles nor hear what He had to say.  Unlike the pagan sailors who were with Jonah who once they saw the sovereignty of God, worshipped Him and became believers, those who professed to know Him did not even recognize that He was with them.

Immanuel was in their midst displaying His sovereignty in a different way but they failed to see Him or acknowledge Him.  Unlike the Ninevites who repented when they heard Jonah’s warning, God’s chosen people hardened their hearts and did not listen to One far greater than Jonah.  The Messiah they had long awaited was there talking to them, warning them but they paid no heed because He did not measure up to their expectations.  They could not reconcile the Messiah, the Son of God, and the King of Kings to the man clothed in humility before them.  To them, He looked no different from the people they fancied themselves to be superior to.  Their spiritual blindness prevented them from seeing that there was a difference in His demeanour—the way He treated others, His vast knowledge of scriptures and the law and of God.  Then there were the miracles He performed, His growing popularity and His many followers.  The Light had come into the world but the darkness did not understand it.

Even when they received the sign of Jonah they refused to accept it and instead bribed the guards, encouraging them to say that His body had been taken from the tomb by His disciples.  Before that they had posted guards in order to prevent Jesus from fulfilling His word.  Matthew 27:62-64 gives an account of the religious leaders going to Pilate in order to secure guards at the tomb.  Their reason for this was, “Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night, and steal Him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.”  They recalled Jesus’ words that He will rise after three days but they referred to Him as “that deceiver”.  They had asked Him for a sign and yet they were doing their best to prevent it.

Jesus rightly says of them, “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted and I should heal them” (Matthew 13:15).

One of the questions in a study lesson was what sign would I like to see and I thought about it.  I thought I would like the Lord to talk to me in a dream as He spoke to Mary’s husband, Joseph in a dream.  Or for Him to tell me something that I share with others and then it comes to pass.  But, then, I got my sign that morning and it was not what I expected but was just as profound.  God reminded me of something I needed to have with me so I had to walk with an extra bag to carry it in.  God once again made it clear to me that every detail in my life, no matter how small it is just as important to Him.  The sign here was His loving care, attention and presence.  Another sign is Him talking to me.  What greater sign do we need than that God Almighty talks to us.  He communicates with us.

There are signs everyday like solutions to problems; a kind word; an encouraging smile; food on the table; money in our bank accounts; waking up every morning and being able to get out of bed.  His word is full of signs.  God speaks to us when we read His word.  A sign is His Holy Spirit, who dwells in us; who recalls scripture to us; who helps us to understand God’s message each time we open the Bible.  People recovering from illnesses, coming out of financial difficulties are all signs.  The weekly Sabbath is a sign.  It proclaims God’s sovereignty and celebrates creation.  Nature is an unmistakable sign.  We ourselves are signs of God’s goodness and mercy.  Jesus came so that we may have life in abundance.  The changing of the seasons each year; the rising and setting of the sun; the babies being born everyday all speak of the Creator of all life.  The signs are there but do we take the time to see them?

THE ACT OF FAITH

Fight the good fight of faith” – 1 Timothy 6:12

Faith should be a way of life, not an occasional pastime.  We can’t say we accept Jesus as our Saviour and refuse to follow His example.  Noah and Abraham are the kind of Christians we should aspire to be.  People who did evil things in God’s sight surrounded both men but they never sinned against God.

Faith becomes a habit or an accessory instead of heartfelt conviction and way of life.   People carry their Bible, wear their crucifix and Jesus pin to church but once they leave the church, the Bible goes back on the shelf, the crucifix and pin go back in the jewellery box.  Faith is not something you put on display to impress others.  Faith should be a commitment, a necessity.

Faith should not be a feeling.  It is a belief. We can’t say I feel like being faithful to God today and then tomorrow, we say, the opposite.  We should eat, sleep and drink faith.  We should embrace faith and be steadfast in it.  We should have unwavering faith like Abraham and David whose faith got them through the toughest of times.  Faith is our lifesaver, our anchor, and our hope in good things to come.  Faith is an expression of love for God.  Faith is relying on God to meet our needs, it is to believe that He will take care of us—that He will keep His promises and that He will come through each and every time we turn to Him for help.  Faith should be a long-lasting experience not a quick fix.  Faith is what gets us through tough times.  Faith should be growing stronger not weaker.

People are convinced that they can’t live the way Jesus did because they are ignorant of God’s Word and the power He gives us to live out genuine Christian lives.  They think their behaviour is acceptable because of how other Christians are living—they are looking at their friends, not at Jesus.  God promised that we can do all things through Him. (Philippians 4:13)  He encouraged us to “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:9)  Among the rulers there were many believers but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Jesus because they were afraid of being put out of the synagogue.  They loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. (John 12:42-43)

People are more concerned with following the example of others than following Jesus.  Jesus warned His disciples about the teaching of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. (Matthew 16:5-12)

Some Christians are more committed than others in their walk with God.  They behave differently than those around them.  Their lives are completely surrendered to God and they stand out from the rest of crowd.  They are God’s peculiar people.  The apostles did not fit in with the rest of the people because they ate with tax collectors and sinners; did not fast; picked and ate grains of wheat on Sabbath; did not wash their hands before they ate.  They gave left their fishing nets, boats, families and homes and followed Jesus.  They gave up everything to follow Jesus.

Other disciples left Him because the things he said to them when they were in Capernaum were hard for them to understand. (John 6:53-66)  However, Peter and the other eleven disciples remained.  When Jesus asked them if they wanted to leave as well, Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:68-69)

We should be like Peter and the other apostles who remained steadfast in their faith.  They stayed with Jesus because they believed that He was who He said He was.  As Christians, if we accept Jesus as our Saviour and believe that He died for our sins, then we should accept all the trials and blessings that come with the faith.  We can’t give up at the first sign of trouble.  We should trust God to see us through hard times just as He did with Paul and the other apostles as they preached the gospel as they were commanded to.  It is better to be persecuted for following Jesus than for committing sin.  It is better to fit in with God’s wonderful plans for our lives than to fit in with the crowd.

Our aim should be to stand out—as one of Christ’s committed followers who are more interested in God’s wisdom than worldly knowledge.  We should want to please God not man or ourselves.  We should enjoy Christianity especially when it calls for real sacrifice because it is our opportunity to show God how much we love Him.  We are God’s children and should start acting like it.

Obedience is Key

Behold, to obey [is] better than sacrifice” – 1 Samuel 15:22

Obeying God is the key to having a productive and lasting relationship with Jesus. “As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in My love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love.”  Jesus is telling us that His love for us is the same as His Father’s love for Him and that just as He obeyed God out of love, we should also obey Jesus out of love.  When we obey Jesus we remain in His love, we remain connected with Him because we are living by His guidelines. 

 

The definition of a commandment is: A rule or teaching that people should obey.  God gave us commandments to help us to live good, productive lives.  They are designed to keep us from sinning and from hurting each other.  Jesus’ commandments are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and being and to love our neighbour as we would love ourselves.  Jesus loved God and obeyed His commandments and glorified Him.  When we live as Jesus instructed us to live, we are glorifying Him.

 

It is not enough to declare our love for the Lord, we have to show Him and we only do this by obeying His commands.  Obedience is another form of love.  It is a willingness to do whatever we are asked to do for the One we love.  We know God loves us because He has expressed it in words and in deeds.  Jesus willingly gave up His life for us so we should willingly give ourselves to Him.  We can never repay Him for all He has done for us but we can try.

Abraham loved God enough to obey Him when He asked him to pack up his family and belongings and move to a new place.  He obeyed God’s command when He asked Him to sacrifice Isaac.  Noah obeyed God when he was told to build the Ark.  Gideon obeyed God when He told him to take fewer men in battle against the Midianites.  Peter obeyed Jesus and went to preach the gospel to the Gentiles.  These men remained in God’s love.

 

When we disobey God, we are rebelling against Him.  Adam and Eve disobeyed God and as a result sin and death entered the world.  Saul rebelled against God by offering up sacrifice at Gilgal instead of waiting for Samuel.  As a result, his kingdom was taken away from him and given to David.  The Israelites rebelled against God when they were in the desert on the way to the Promised Land by worshipping a golden calf.  They rebelled against God when they worshipped other gods and built altars and offered sacrifices.  They turned their backs on the same God who led them out of Egypt and provided them with food and water while they were in the desert.  The same God who delivered them from their enemies and saved them every time they cried out to them.  The same God who repeatedly forgave them the moment they repented. 

 

God loves us and desires that we love Him in return.  All He wants is for us to obey Him, follow His guidelines.  We see what happens when we don’t.  We should obey all commandments not just some.  Just as we don’t murder, commit adultery, steal, give false testimony, covet what other people have, call God’s name in vain, we should worship one God, honour our parents and remember the Sabbath and most importantly, love God with all our might and soul and love one another. So the bottom line is, obedience to God is our guarantee of a good, Christian life and a lasting relationship with Father and Son.

Jesus Comes First

And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming”- 1 John 2:28.

Our relationship with Jesus should take precedence over everything and everyone else.  Simon Peter and his brother, Andrew left their nets and followed Jesus after He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”   James and his brother, John left their father and followed Him.  He said to Matthew, the tax collector, “Follow Me.” And he got up and followed Him. (Matthew 4:18, 21-22, 9:8)  Paul immediately went out and preached the gospel, astounding all those who knew that he once persecuted Jesus’ followers. 

Abraham placed his relationship with God above all others.  He trusted God to meet his needs and he had great faith in Him.  Noah was a righteous man who walked with God.  Both he and Abraham were surrounded by corruption but they never allowed themselves to be corrupted.  Their fellowship with God took precedence over everything else.  They kept their eyes on Him and allowed the spirit not the flesh to lead them. 

Their righteousness may have seemed strange to those around them—the king of Sodom must have been baffled when Abraham refused the goods he offered him. And it must have seemed crazy and irresponsible of Abraham when he packed up his family and belongings and went off to a strange land. It must have seemed strange to people when Noah was building the ark.  The actions of these two men speak volumes of their incredible faith in God.  They did not allow what others might have thought or said to influence them.  They were only concerned with what God wanted and obeying Him.

Following God may not seem logical to others but our desire should always be to please God and not man.   Prayer and meditation should be daily pastimes.  Jesus prayed before He raised Lazarus from the dead; He prayed before He fed the five thousand; He prayed when the hour was near.  In fact, Jesus prayed daily.  He did not allow His preaching and healing to interfere with His relationship with His Father.  He died so that we could be saved and be able to have relationship with God. 

Throughout the Bible we are told that the Lord desires that we turn to Him and worship Him.  He promised, “Then you will call upon me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:12-13)

Too often we allow work, household chores, daily routines, television, the media and other people to distract us.  We don’t allow ourselves the time to quietly meditate on God and His word.  We allow ourselves to become too busy and then in the evenings we are too tired or we sit down in front of the television and then, we go to bed and fall asleep.  In the morning we are in a rush to get to the office on time and don’t pause to spend time in prayer and meditation or even to pick up the Bible and write a Psalm or the Daily Word.  In other words, we put God on the back burner. 

As Christians we need to act as such.  We need to spend more time with our Lord who wants us to know Him better.  And as Christians we need to do what is pleasing to God and not worry about how strange it may seem to others.  Jesus did things that were not popular but they were what His Father desired Him to do.  He prevented the adulterous woman from being stoned to death; He healed on the Sabbath; He ate with tax collectors and other objectionable people.  Basically, He practiced what He preached.  We should do the same, regardless of how it may seem to others. 

We should glorify Jesus in our deeds and not just our words.  As John advises us, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)  It’s not enough to say that we believe in Jesus and that we love Him and are His followers, we have to do as we say.  We do this by putting Him first, fellowshipping with Him, seeking Him all the time, meditating on Him and His word and praising Him.  We cultivate our relationship with Him and then, we go out and sow His love.  We have to abide in Him and follow in His footsteps.  Our relationship with Jesus is the most vital one we have and we should cherish it and treat it as the gift it was meant to be.

Taking time away from a pressing matter or a hectic schedule and focusing on Him would do us a world of good and help us to get through whatever tasks or urgent matter we have to deal with.  Jesus should be the centre of our universe.  We should place our relationship with Him above the cares and distractions of the world.  Just as Peter started to sink when he removed his focus from Jesus, we sink into a myriad of emotions that distract us from Him.  We become stressed because we’re busy and fatigued and we worry about not being able to get things done.  We allow worldly concerns to interfere with our relationship with Jesus.

Instead of fretting and worrying and stressing ourselves and scrambling to get a hundred things done at once, we should take time out and ask Jesus to help us.  Jesus Himself promised, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the World you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33)  What more proof do we need than this?

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