I have spent the better part of the morning crying and not just crying but grieving deeply. It matters not for the “what” but it does matter that I grieve with Paul over the loss of loved ones that refuse the gospel message. So here’s my question: What brings grief to your heart? Is it the loss of a loved one to death without hope? How about the loss of a job? How about the loss of a home due to flooding? How about the loss of a nation or a people group? Grief is a very real and present emotion. We are even now watching from the sidelines as Syria is a battle zone. But, Paul is speaking in the first century and his heart grieves for the loss of his people as they continue to deny Christ and salvation. “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.” Is this my grief too?
Temporal losses of a job are tough but there is always hope to find another. You can lose a home and its contents but you can build a new one. But you cannot bring back a loved one or restore a nation to wholeness. Grief takes its toll and some never recover. But, the deepest grief is when those you love die and enter a Christless eternity. Paul is grieving and we too should also grieve when this occurs.
It is because of that we must earnestly contend for the faith. We must “go and make disciples.” We must pray for our loved ones who do not know Christ. Paul was willing, just as Moses, to forgo his eternal salvation so that the lost might be saved.
How deep is our grief for the lost?
Life seems so short. This week seeing the children I taught now with their own children growing up so fast was a wake – up call as to the fleeting life I now live in contrast to the permanence of God. I am just like a rose in God’s garden, I need tending but eventually the rose will fade and so will I. That is why I must redeem each day for Him as I was reminded recently when a young family’s life was cut short and all 5 entered eternity from the 2 mos. old infant to the 5 yr old child, the 3 yr old child along with their parents. We never know when God will call us home. Do I want to hear well done thou good and faithful servant? My answer is yes. .
Before God created the world as we know it, God was eternal and He still is so. A 24 hr day to us is like a thousand years in God’s sight. This is the true meaning of God being omniscient, omnipotent.
As God created me he placed eternity in my heart [Eccl 3] that I might know and seek the eternal significance of what I do. And like a beautifully crafted tapestry, each thread I weave creates a picture of my life from birth to death.
And so with these thoughts I turned to Psalm 90 where these thoughts were ever before me: Life is fleeting; enjoy now but invest wisely in that which will count for eternity. Vs 3 reminds us that God makes mankind return to dust. Only our tombstone will recall the life we have lived. James says we are frail and like grass, we grow and we wither with the heat of the sun. The woman who came to King David spoke of life and death in 2Sam 14. She gave King David a visual illustration of life: we shall surely die and be like water spilled out on the ground. But too she saw beyond the grave to see that God does not take away life as our eternal end but rather has made plans so that we may not be cast from Him. It is called salvation and the price has been paid by His Beloved Son so that we might live eternally with Him.
Have you prepared for your eternal destiny?
Paul has laid to rest the concept of working for one’s salvation but now another question must be addressed. For whom is this justification and when did it first occur. These are critical questions that must be addressed for the Jew to understand God’s plan.
In chapter 3 Paul essentially said justification is for any who believe. Yet the Jew clings to his circumcision as proof that justification is for he alone. Paul seeks to help them over this impasse and thus refers to Abraham. Yesterday we said that Abraham believed God, not in a God but he believed God and it was counted unto him as righteousness. But, when did it happen; before he was circumcised or after? Circumcision was a physical sign between man and God as a sign of the covenant. Yet, as Paul reminds his Jewish listeners, Abraham believed God in Genesis 12 but it was not until Genesis 17 that God commanded him and his household to be circumcised. Therefore, his circumcision carried no weight regarding his justification. Again as we said yesterday, you cannot take credit for what God has done. Justification is a gift from God alone lest anyone choose to boast. Circumcision is but a wonderful sign but faith alone brings you to God:.
In the same way baptism will not save you, the exchange of rings in a marriage ceremony does not make you married and circumcision does not justify anyone. These are signs, to affirm but are not the gift itself. The blessing is that if we believe like Abraham we too have the promise of justification.
What are you clinging to for your justification?
In chapter 3 Paul reminded the Jew that no one is saved apart from the grace and mercy of God. Yet they and the world would have it otherwise and heap rewards and boastings upon those who seek to earn God’s favor through works. The prophet Isaiah said our works are as filthy rags; later Paul would say they are dung. Their foundation lies in the life of Abraham and therefore they conclude as his children they are justified by works. Paul, as a righteous Jew, sought to put this argument to rest.
Workers of the Law can boast having done not only what was expected but what is required. But if you don’t work the works of the Law but believe in what merely God says you receive grace and eternal life. You cannot take credit for a gift that is of God alone. That is what salvation is all about; a free gift undeserved. The key is this: Abraham did not believe “IN” God but he believed God. The world says I believe in a God, but Paul says you must not just believe “IN” but believe God.
So now the world asks, what about the works as James says. Both Paul and James affirm that works reveal the grace that we have received. They demonstrate our gratitude for the gift of God’s blessed forgiveness of our lawless deeds.
Are you depending upon your works heritage to get into heaven? If so, turn around and go the other way for you are on the wrong path.
Photo: Unsplash/Jordan Whitefield
Matthew records this chapter that we might see several points. One is that although there are prophets who predicted the grace that would come or righteous people; they longed to see what we see but did not see it, and to hear what we hear but did not hear it. We stop and ask why because were not prophets holy men of God who through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit spoke from God? If men were righteous why did they too not hear and see? What hindered them? Can we learn from this as to why we who claim Christ may also not see or hear? Or was it for such a time as then but for us who live now there is a greater gift of understanding.
The clue is most likely found in this. These of old “had the types, shadows, and prophecies…they desired to see the great Salvation, the Consolation of Israel, but did not see it, because the fullness of time was not yet come.” (M. Henry) But it has come now and we who live now in this century are blessed beyond measure for ‘although we have not seen him, we love him and believe in him..’ [1Pe 1:8] We have been blessed by the indwelling illuminating Holy Spirit who will teach, guide and lead us and the full Word of God that is the revelation of God Himself. The question is this: do we recognize this great blessing?
One of the wonderful tools learned in Inductive Bible Study training is that to unearth the truths of the passage one asks the “5W’s and H” questions. One needs to observe by asking “who, what, when, where, why, and how.” Yesterday the author of Hebrews answered the “who” question. Jesus Christ is the very radiance of the glory of God. Today in chapter two he continues to add more evidence to the “who” along with what, when, why and how.
Who/When: Jesus was made lower than the angels “for a little while.” He is “now” crowned with glory and honor because he is the pioneer of our salvation.
What: he suffered and experienced death on behalf of everyone. Because of that he is unashamed to call us brothers and sisters.
Why: He shared in our humanity so that through death he could destroy the one who holds the power of death. Therefore, it was fitting in order that he may bring sons to glory. He was made like his brothers and sisters “in every respect” so that he could become a merciful and faithful high priest in things relating to God, to make atonement for the sins of his people.
How: He was tempted and suffered.
All of this is important because just as one needs a Captain to guide a ship so we need a captain of our souls. The author warns us if we loosen our anchor lines, we will drift away from the Captain who has set us free from the power of the fear of death. Therefore do not become untethered lest you drift from Jesus, the very radiance of God, the one who left heaven to become human, was tempted and suffered. To keep us from drifting from the shore of truth, our line must be tethered to Him. He alone is the security that will anchor us to the truth.
Photo Credit: knowingJesus.com
There is a story that has circulated about a tour group in an art gallery. After the initial description of the painting titled “Checkmate” all moved on but one man who was an expert chess player. The painting reveals a chess game between the devil and Faust who had sold his soul to the devil. It appears from the smirk on the devil’s face that he has won and is ready to announce “Checkmate!” But, after studying the painting the chess player noted that the devil had not won and the king had one more move. The enemy of our souls wants us to think that he has won and is ready to announce Checkmate but the truth is found here in Proverbs 11: The King of Kings has one more move.
As believers in Christ, the righteous want to know how to move and live in a world that seems as complicated as a chess game. But, if we study and meditate we find that the next move is found in God’s Word which is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, [2Ti 3:16] The enemy would have us think he has the last move and that life is over. But God shows us what life is really all about using the characters of righteousness, truth, humility and integrity vs the characters of wicked, prideful, despair. Each of us chooses to moves in our walk of life and God has given us free will to choose. We can become His ears, hands, feet to a dying world devoid of the love of God or we can choose not His way but our way. Thirteen times in this chapter the word or a form of the word “righteous” is given as a trait that delivers one from all kinds of danger. The contrast is glaring in vs. 23 “What the righteous desire leads only to good, but what the wicked hope for leads to wrath.” Dr. Ross writes: “Since life and death result from moral choices, righteousness must be pursued. . .”
God made the first move which was to offer His Son for our salvation. Will you this day choose to follow Him? The King of Kings has one more move for you if you will choose.
Andrew Murray was a prolific author who wrote over 240 books and as a man of prayer he has inspired many. It is said that “God used each trial to remove all that hindered his devotion to Christ.” In one of his publications he quoted Peter who wrote : “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which… hath begotten us again unto a lively hope …and are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” That is where we find Paul today in Acts 25…being kept by God’s power that he might fulfill His assignment that Paul would “carry the name [of Jesus] before Gentiles and kings and the people of Israel.” Yesterday, Paul had the open door to bring Jesus Christ to the Governor Felix but after two years he saw no fruit. Have you witnessed over and over and yet seen no fruit? Take heart you are not alone. Today, Paul will have the opportunity to present Jesus Christ and His resurrection to a new Governor, Festus and King Agrippa and his sister, Bernice. Tomorrow we will hear his message and see the response–so stay tuned!
What things do we learn in this chapter that should encourage us? One is that we are kept by the power of God until our work is finished on this earth and for Paul that is a future event for Jesus promised him that he would one day be in Rome to preach to Nero and other notables. Secondly, as Andrew Murray explained: “We are begotten again to an inheritance kept in Heaven for us; and we are kept here on earth by the power of God.” And so we see that God’s keeping power has preserved Paul for yet another opening to present the truth of the resurrected Christ to those in need of hearing the gospel. This reminds us of another person, Queen Esther, who was “kept” by God’s power in her position so that she might be available to seek the removal of an edict to destroy all Jews that Haman had sought through flattery and falseness (ring a bell?) from King Ahasuerus.
Stop Beloved stop and think…why are you here? It is so that you, like Queen Esther, Paul and many others through the centuries may be strategically placed to present Christ to those who are lost and will one day enter a Christ-less eternity if it were not for you. This should cause us to reflect upon each divine opportunity God gives to us each day. Will you humbly thank God for each one you meet either personally or in cyberspace and be prepared as Paul was to present Christ?
We marvel at how God planted the seeds of salvation in the hearts of the early believers and how it has been transmitted to us via that same train of thought and action. One of the basic principles of the early church and Paul’s ministry has been this: “Gentiles do not need to become Jews in order to be saved. Jews who are saved do not need to completely forsake their Jewish heritage.”[Deffinbaugh] So whether you who are reading are a Gentile or a Jew, know this—God’s gift of salvation is for you based upon faith alone. Secondly, the truth of the gospel message causes one to make a choice…either for Christ or against Christ. It matters not whether you are a Gentile or a Jew, when Christ the Messiah is preached all men must choose to believe or to reject.
“In Acts, it is the Hellenistic Jews who took up the cause of opposing the gospel.” [Deffinbaugh] This occurred when Paul by saying the word “Gentiles” opened the door to reveal the heart of the Jews and their hatred of the Gentiles. They ignored the OT prophecies and the fact that God would choose to bring His salvation to them freely and that they would not have to become a proselyte to Judaism. To a Jew that would equality and that was an anathema to them. Today we find that this intolerable acceptance of certain people groups to receive salvation has raised its head. Thus what we saw in the first century has filtered down to us.
In addition we also saw that it does not take very much to incite a crowd to draw illogical conclusions. We saw it in Acts 19 when one lone man, Demetrius, incited and encouraged an entire city to drown out any presentation of the gospel message and thus that city lost the opportunity to have the precious Light of the Gospel message. But, God is in control and He is fulfilling the prophecy about Paul that he would bear witness before Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel. [Acts 9] Oh the wonder and majesty and mercy of God who has continued to draw his children from apostasy and yet as Jesus said: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would have none of it!” [Luke]
Beloved, Do you have misconceptions about others to whom the message of salvation is to be preached based upon a racial or cultural bias and ignore the avenue God has placed before you? The fields are ripe and we are to be the workers in the harvest. Will you come and work?