When The Son Of Man Comes In His Glory

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His throne in heavenly glory.  All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”

                                                                                                                                                                Matthew 25:31-32

                It is a humbling experience to engage in a prolonged study of the Word of God.  When examining a Gospel like Matthew’s for instance we often find ourselves amazed to see how the whole book fits together, along with the rest of the Scriptures to bring us to a real and Biblical faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Immanuel, God among us.  In Matthew 25:31-46 we are brought to consider the final judgment of God upon the nations.  It is presented within the framework of the work of the Gospel in calling us to real faith in Christ.  When the Son of Man comes in His glory He will gather everyone to Himself for judgment.  Matthew quotes the Lord Jesus Christ as saying here that this coming, what we call the Second Advent, is first of all a certainty.  He does not say “if He comes” He says “When He comes.”  There is no doubt about it.  There will come a day when He will come.  We are never told when it will be.  We are however told that it will be.  Therefore we are called by the Gospel to prepare ourselves for this reality.  We will stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  Our only hope on that day will not lie in our works or goodness, it will be found in one fact only.  This is that our names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

The second point that Jesus makes here is that this coming will be in His glory.  When He comes we will see Him as He is.  His full character, His holiness, purity, power, sacrificial love, and infinite wisdom will be perfectly revealed on that day.  What we will be confronted with on that day will be such and encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ that all of our pretension and rationalizing of our sin will be done away with.

What seems apparent here is that there will be a clear connection between His first and second advent when He comes.  In His first advent the Lord Jesus Christ came in humiliation.  He set aside all of His glory as God in order to become human flesh.  He humbled Himself in His death on the cross for us.  The Bible makes it clear that the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ was most fully revealed in the cross.  As the Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 2:6-11, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  The backdrop to the judgment throne of Christ is the cross.  Our judge is also our sacrifice.  He gave His precious life in order to redeem us from our sin.  That is the glory which will be revealed when He comes again.  Nowhere is this pictured more clearly for us than in Revelation 5:5-6 where the Apostle John writes, “Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep!  See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed.  He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.  Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne.”  What unfolds in the rest of the book of Revelation are warnings and judgments all carried out from the throne of God and right at the centre of that throne is a little slain and resurrected lamb.  Here is the glory of the Son of Man as He comes to gather us together for judgment.

The price for your redemption has been paid by the Lamb.  When you stand before Him on the Day of Judgment know this the judge is also the sacrifice.  Today He is calling you to faith in Him.  Will you come to Him and receive life?

Preaching Christ

“Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.  Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there.”

                                                                                                                                                                Acts 8:4-5

When Luke begins to write the second volume of his account of the spread of the Gospel of Christ he introduces is as a description of the continuing work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  His Gospel was the beginning of the works of the Christ.  The book of Acts continues to describe what the Lord is doing.

This is a good way to think about the task that we have been given as believers.  We are called as individual believers, and together as the Church to be witnesses.  Darrell Johnson in his Discipleship on the Edge writes about the fact that as witnesses we are responsible to describe the works done by the one who is the defendant in a court of law.  This one is the Lord Jesus Christ who has come as the light and life of this broken world.  We point to Him.  It is He who saves us.  He is the One who gave His life for us.  When the Apostle John describes the two witnesses he points out that they do their work dressed in sackcloth.  Again Johnson points out that this point us to the prophetic call to real repentance towards God.  We cannot follow the living God without turning from every other thing that we worship.

Luke describes the witness of one follower of the Lord, a deacon by the name of Philip who took the Word of God to a city in Samaria.  As Luke describes the witness of this man he uses several powerful words to present the key themes before us.  We wonder about the words that Philip used, looking to discern the correct approach to take in reaching our own city.  Luke takes us much deeper here as he points to the reality of what Philip was bearing witness to.

First Luke tells us that Philip was part of a movement of many believers.  Perhaps this was a work done by the Church together as led by the Holy Spirit.  They preached the word wherever they went.  Luke here uses the term made famous by the Apostle John in his Gospel.  They preached the logos.  David Pao in his Acts and the Isaianic New Exodus writes about this word that it refers to the Word of God in a personal, powerful way, as the one who comes into our world and speaks powerfully.  Whenever this word speaks its sovereign purpose is accomplished.  This personal, powerful nature of the Word we preach is confirmed as we continue to look at what Luke writes here.  Philip went to a city in Samaria and preached the Christ there.  This preaching was attended with the power of the Lord who confirmed its genuiness by the powerful way He worked in that city.  To preach the logos is to preach Christ.  This is our task as witnesses for Christ today in our cities.  It is not our task to produce the power of the word of God.  We are responsible to preach the Christ expecting that His power will be at work among us to convert the sinner.

John tells us that if the Lord Jesus Christ is glorified by being lifted up on the cross, being proclaimed as Christ crucified, then He will draw all men unto Himself.  The question for us is this, “Do we believe that He is still at work in this way today?”  Do I believe it?  Does the Church believe it?  If we do then we will be out proclaiming the Christ to everyone who will listen.  That is in fact our calling.  It takes courageous faith to walk with the Lord in this way, bearing witness to His saving power.  Whenever we do, we become fruitful.  When we find ourselves seeking some other way, then we begin to decline.

For He Himself Is Our Peace

“For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in His flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.”

                                                                                                                                                                Ephesians 2:14-15

                Sometimes we are swept away in wonder over the power and the beauty of the Word of God.  It has a way of sweeping away the cobwebs of our cluttered lives in order to breathe in the pure wind of the Spirit.  It is useful, at times, to step back and take a wide angled view of the Word noting the huge context of the message.   In the book of Ephesians the Apostle Paul gives us a powerful description of the Body of Christ, the Church in all of its wonder.  God has created something new, a new creation, in which He will overrule all of the distinctions that we draw up in order to determine who we think, is acceptable to God.  In Paul’s world, the Jews rejected the Gentiles, calling them a lesser form of humanity, the Gentiles rejected the Jews calling them the enemies of all peoples.  Each one used human distinctions to reject people who were not like them.  We are guilty of this as well.  We are perfectly willing to accept others provided they change and become like us.

Paul tells us, in the wider view that God’s solution is to create one new people in Christ.  There is now no longer Jews or Gentiles, there is now Christians, those who are like Christ.  That is the wide angled view of what God is doing in the Lord Jesus Christ.  We must take a closer view however.    John Calvin, in his Sermons on Ephesians (Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 1998) draws us in closer with these words.

“Furthermore, the title that St. Paul gives to our Lord Jesus Christ, namely, that ‘he is our peace’, ought to be carefully considered,”

A.Skevington Wood in his commentary in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1978) takes us further as he writes the following.

“”He Himself” is emphatic (cf. V. 15, “in Himself”).  Christ and no other “has solved the problem of our relationships with God and man” (Barclay, p. 120).  He draws men to God and to each other in His own person.  It is not simply the message He proclaimed or even the message proclaimed about Him that effects this reconciliation.  It is Himself.  There is an echo here of Micah 5:5.  “Peace” is recognised by the Talmud as a name of God.  So Paul can announce that Christ is peace as well as life (Col. 3:4) and hope (Col. 1:27).  The “I am” sayings recorded in the fourth Gospel provided a foundation in the claims of Jesus for such assertions.”

When we take a close look at what Paul writes here it is clear that his focus is not on the message of Christ which urges us to be at peace with others.  It is that Christ Himself is our peace.  It is only in Him that the deepest needs of our lives are met.  It is only in Him that we are reconciled to God.  Wood points us to a quotation from Micah 5:1-5 which speaks to us about the coming Messiah.

“Marshall your troops, O city of troops, for a siege is laid against us.  They will strike Israel’s ruler on the cheek with a rod.  But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me on who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.  Therefore Israel will be abandoned until them time when He who is labour gives birth and the rest of His brothers return to join the Israelites.  He will stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the Name of the Lord His God.  And they will live securely, for then His greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.  And He will be their peace.”             

I Am He

“Even to your old age and grey hairs I Am He, I Am He who will sustain you.  I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will carry you.”

                                                                                                                                                                                Isaiah 46:4

                What a wonderful text of Scripture containing one of the most precious of promises for every human being.  Charles Haddon Spurgeon preached upon this text in a sermon preserved in the second volume of Spurgeon’s Sermons (Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Massachusetts, 2011, p. 361-379).  The sermon entitled “The God of the Aged” develops the theme of this text in Isaiah 46 by looking at the text’s doctrine and application to believers who are advancing in age.  To me this is becoming a doctrine which grows sweeter with age.  It has now been 41 years since I first gave my life to Christ.  In the beginning years of my walk with Christ my faith was strong but untested.  Now it has been tempered in the testing fires of life and has as a result become more precious.  As Spurgeon focus our attention on the doctrine in this text his desire is for us to focus upon God’s faithfulness to His covenant promise to us in love.  He is unchanging and therefore remains faithful in the carrying out of His unchanging purpose to redeem us through the cross of Christ.  There is more here however.  When we take a careful look at this text some other doctrines leap out at us.

1)      As Spurgeon stated our God is unchangingly faithful to His promise to love us sacrificially.  For Him to become unfaithful would be to deny His very nature.  Isaiah cries out “I Am He!”  God’s Name, His very nature tells us that He will be faithful because He is the eternal, covenant keeping God.  He will not become ill, or weary, or uninterested in the promise He has made to us.  This is true over the whole span of our lives.  It is also true over all of the years since the LORD Jesus Christ was crucified.  In fact it is true over all of the years of recorded history.

2)      The doctrine of humanity is found here as well.  We are described as those in old age with grey hair.  There was a time when we were youths.  All of the future was before us.  We revelled in our strength and energy, feeling that nothing was impossible for us.  The years have passed and the toxic consequences of sin have borne their fruit in our lives.  With each passing day we find ourselves feeling that our best days are behind us.  Here is a wonderful learning opportunity for us however.  The LORD is preparing us for eternity.  We may be weakening but we are also discovering that He is unchanged.  As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)  He is trustworthy to continue to lead us in the same way He did when He first called us to faith.

3)      This is a promise of great scope and comfort for all who put their trust in Christ.  For the youth just beginning to follow Jesus it is a promise that the ending of their lives they will find that He is still faithfully with them.  For the middle aged who are just beginning to see the weakening of their physical bodies it is a promise that He who called you is still faithfully working out that same calling today.  For the aged who feel that they can no longer serve the LORD with the vitality they once had it is a promise that His grace is still sufficient for their every need.  It has always been about grace.  It has never been about our own personal strength.

4)      For each of us, no matter what our age it is another promise as well.  This is that He is mighty to save us today.  Many have reflected upon the necessity of evangelising the young.  It is then that they can most easily be brought to Christ we think.  The reality is that the work of evangelism is an impossible work at any age if we are depending upon our flesh to accomplish it.  It is not our work, it is the LORD’s.  Nothing is impossible for Him.  He can save the youth and how we rejoice when a youth comes to put their faith in Christ.  He can also save the elderly.  It brings even greater joy to us when an aged man or woman comes to faith in Christ.  About twenty years ago an eighty eight year old man surprised his young Pastor with a simple question.  “Can you baptize an old man?”  It seems that after a lifetime of living as an unbeliever this man had come to understand the Gospel and had given his life to Christ.  He then said to his Pastor “I have been living for myself all these years.  Now I want to live the rest of my life for Him.  I must bear witness to my faith in Christ because I have children and grandchildren who must come to know that it is necessary at any age for a person to begin to follow Christ.”  About a year later an eighty year old woman with a heart condition moved into a home near our Church, she began to attend services and gave her life to Christ.  One Sunday she showed up at the Church Service with a doctor’s note stating that her health was sufficiently good for her to be baptized by total immersion.  She had done her homework so that she could bear testimony to her new found faith before family and friends.  As each of these senior saints was baptized there was not a dry eye in the Church such was our joy in what the LORD had done.  The lesson that we learned on those days was that our faithful God has the power to save anyone at any age who comes to the LORD Jesus Christ in faith.

Who Is Jesus?

                ““I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.”  “Who are you?” they asked.  “Just what I have been claiming all along,” Jesus replied.”

                                                                                                                                                                                John 8:24-25

                James T. Dennison Jr. Called my attention to a thought about the Gospel of John in his May 1992 article, The Structure of John’s Gospel The Present State of the Question (www.kerux.com/doc/0701A3.asp).  This was that the centre of John’s Gospel is found in the passage John 8:12 through 12:50 and that it is centred upon the LORD Jesus Christ.  I am with Dennison on the Christ Centred nature of John’s Gospel.  I am still exploring questions about the overall structure of the book.  His thesis is intriguing however and I find myself wanting to explore this question in future months.  For the purposes of this devotional today I want to simply focus on that which John, as an evangelist, makes so abundantly clear here.  He is demonstrating in his Gospel that Jesus of Nazareth is in fact the one who we find in the Scriptures as God with us.  Here in these central chapters in the Gospel John begins to appeal to a wide variety of evidence in order to make his case.  Between chapters six and fifteen John quotes Jesus making a series of seven “I Am” statements which point to Jesus as the fulfillment of the various types of Christ which we find in the Old Testament.  Interspersed among these seven powerful identity statements John also quotes Jesus as using the term “I Am” as a means of identifying Himself as the One whose name means “I Am”, that is God Himself.  In Exodus 3:14 we are given this Name for God, “God said to Moses, “I Am Who I Am”.  This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I Am has sent me to you.””  Jesus makes use of that identification as He seeks to witness to the Pharisees and Scribes in John 8:24.  They will die in their sins unless they believe that I Am.

Jesus is calling these leaders into a state of believing that an astounding truth has been revealed right in their presence.  This truth calls them to a decision.  It is this decision, or point of division that is being confronted in this passage of Scripture.  Eternal forgiveness of sin is at stake.  The only way to receive that forgiveness is by believing that the man Jesus standing before them was in fact the Living God who has revealed Himself first to them through His Word, and now in person.  These leaders, as well as you and I are brought to this point of decision.  The question which John repeats from the lips of the leaders is this, “Who are You?”  This is the question which John forces us to ask Jesus as well.  If eternal life is dependent on Him then we need to know who He is.

Two things are brought to our attention here.  The first is that we are called to believe Him when He tells us that He is I Am.  John points to this fact in the first chapter of his Gospel when he writes concerning John the Baptist that, “He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.  He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.  The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognise Him.  He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.  Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:7-13)  This is a faith which dramatically reorients every part of our lives.  It centres every part of the life we live upon the LORD Jesus Christ who is God with us, and who has come to redeem us through the cross.

The second thing that John points out to us here is that the answer that we give to this question will dramatically change us.  God has come to us, and given His life as a ransom for us on the cross.  Faith in Jesus as our redeemer gives us the forgiveness of sin.  Faith in Him become as radical and complete commitment to Him.  John calls it a receiving of Him in which we become born again.

The question is do you believe that Jesus is I Am?

Loving God Biblcally

“Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him?  But you have insulted the poor.  Is it not the rich who are exploiting you?  Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?  Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of Him to whom you belong?”

                                                                                                                                                                James 2:5-7

When we focus our attention upon the teaching that James gives us regarding the life that we are called to as people of real faith in the Lord Jesus Christ we are confronted with his convicting teaching on the true nature of faith and unbelief.  James centres that teaching upon a word that we find in the second chapter and the fourth verse.  It is a word translated as distinction, or better as doubt.  It describes an inner conflict between trust and distrust of God.  Such an attitude comes to know what God’s will is yet it distrusts Him, so it goes off in its own way.

When Jonathan Edwards wrote his masterful Religious Affections he began with a clear definition of what real faith looked like.  He put it in these terms, “True faith mostly depends upon having the emotions of God, loving the things He loves.”  As Edwards writes this it seems as if he has these verses in James 2 in mind.  Real faith finds itself loving the things that God loves, and hating those things which He hates.  This means that the believer finds themselves increasingly living in agreement with the Scriptures.  This must be especially true in the area of where we put our affections.  It is hard to see how a Christian can fail to love those things that our God loves in Christ.  It is equally hard to understand how we can love those things that God hates.  This is the essence of sin, in which we find ourselves being unbiblical in our affections.

Jay Adams in his The Christian Counsellor’s Commentary on Hebrews, James, 1 &2 Peter, and Jude calls us to Biblical living with the following advice to counsellors.    

                “Then James did one more thing – without which it would be very difficult to allow matters to stand as they are.  He showed the counselee how he may discern his own motives.  When James quotes Leviticus 19:18, he gives the biblical basis for examining motives.  He points out the biblical standard by which they must examine their motives.  He makes it clear that sin is determined, and one is convicted of sin, by the Bible.  It is utterly essential to make all determinations of sin by comparing the act (word, attitude) with the biblical injunction that relates to it.  You must never allow the counselee to turn to extrabiblical lists that others have drawn up and added to the Scriptural Standard.  This is the essence of pharisaical legalism. He must be warned against it.  In addition, you must deflect his thinking from experience, feeling, tradition or anything else other than explicit biblical teaching.”

                James points us back to the teaching of Scripture in order to define the evidence we rely upon for assurance of faith.  A true believer loves sacrificially in the way that the Word of God calls us to do.  We love those things that God loves.  We determine the reality of our salvation by these Biblical means. There is no other way for us to live but in obedience to the Word of God.  Those who claim to love Jesus must live in obedience to His commandments.

Christ Centred Living

“One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, He was being carefully watched.”

                                                                                                                                                                                Luke 14:1

                As I reflect upon the Gospel of Luke it becomes increasingly clear to me that Luke is writing a carefully researched, well organized Gospel with the intention of convincing his readers that the LORD Jesus Christ is in fact the promised Messiah who has come in fulfillment of the Scriptures.  In the centre of his Gospel, running from Luke 9:51 to 19:46, Luke carefully crafts a travel narrative, the longest in the gospels, in which Jesus leads His disciples on the road to Jerusalem and the cross.  Here we are shown just what real discipleship is all about.  We also see clearly that the LORD Jesus Christ is in control of the whole process.  Along the way we are confronted with powerful descriptions of just what a life of Discipleship is all about.  This is shown us not only as it impacts our personal lives as individuals but also how it shapes the life of the local church.

In looking at the first few verses of the fourteenth chapter of Luke we discover just what true Christian discipleship is all about.  As Jesus carries on His ministry, faithfully leading His disciples to the cross at Jerusalem He is invited to a banquet at a prominent Pharisee’s house.  This is to be a testing time for Jesus, as He is being carefully watched.  It is also however a testing time for the Pharisees.  They have been examined by God and found wanting.  Now their wickedness will be exposed.  It will be exposed however in a way that shows us just what the Christian life is all about.

Here we are shown what it is to develop a Christ centred ministry in our world.  The Kingdom of God is advancing in our world as we, empowered by the Holy Spirit are brought to fully follow Jesus from the heart in a life of Christian service.   This is characterized in the following way.

1)      We are to be following Jesus to the cross.  It is a crucified life that we are to be called to.  The Apostle Paul describes this as he writes his joyful letter to the Philippians from prison.

“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:20-21)

This is the life, under the power of the Holy Spirit that we are called to follow Jesus into.

2)      This life is to be characterized by our compassionate care for one another, and especially for those who are in need.  Jesus heals the man with dropsy, even though it will bring even greater hostility down upon Him.  This needy man would have been considered unclean in his day.  His disease was thought to be a well deserved curse from God.  We Disciples of Christ must be known for the same courageous compassion in our world today.

3)      The Kingdom of God was to be known for its genuine humility.  True disciples always humble themselves.  They rightly understand to reality of their sin and the debt we owe to the mercy of the LORD Jesus Christ.  This humility must spill over into our relationships with one another.

4)      Finally life in the Kingdom of God is always a giving life.  We don’t live for what can be done for us.  We are not self-centred.  We give ourselves in service to others.  Is this the reality of the life you are living?

The Heart of the Message

“Ask the Lord for rain in the springtime; it is the Lord who makes the storm clouds.  He gives showers of rain to men, and plants of the field to everyone.  The idols speak deceit, diviners see visions that lie; they tell dreams that are false, they give comfort in vain.  Therefore the people wander like sheep oppressed for lack of a shepherd.  My anger burns against the shepherds, and I will punish the leaders; for the Lord Almighty will care for His flock, the house of Judah, and make them like a proud horse in battle.  From Judah will come the cornerstone, from him the tent peg, from him the battle bow, from him every ruler.”

                                                                                                                                                                Zechariah 10:1-4

                In these four brief verses we encounter a wonderful call to biblical praying, a judgment upon all praying to idols, and then one of the most powerful of promises of the coming Messiah, His nature, and His ministry to the people of God.  The central message of these verses is the personal presence of the Lord in the lives that we are living.  He Himself will intervene and care for His people.  He will come to them as the fulfillment of a whole host of biblical prophesies.  What His people must do is turn to Him and seek a real communion with their Lord.

In Zechariah 7:5-6 the prophet confronts His people with this penetrating question.  “Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for Me that you fasted? And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves?’”  Zechariah calls us to take a careful look at our motivations for our praying, fasting, and mourning.  Are we looking to get something from God or do we want to know the Lord Himself?  Think about it this way.  When we pray for revival are we praying that we will experience all of the events which surround a revival, including the increases in numbers within the Christian Church?  Do we want the phenomena or do we want to know the Lord?  Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 6:33 that we are to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  It is a matter of our priority.  God calls us to a type of repentance in which our priority is to know and love Him supremely.  Everything else, no matter how necessary, must be secondary to this great purpose of our lives.

It is this that is at the heart of Zechariah’s prophetic message in 10:1-4.  Our calling is to pray biblically, seeking help from God within the context of His covenant promise to us which is centred upon His person.  This is why He tells His people that He is going to come personally to be the Good Shepherd who will care for their needs.  For too long they, and we, have wandered around as sheep without a shepherd, being lost, and latching on to any new fad which promises to make sense of our sin ravaged lives.  We turn to lotteries, and fortune tellers, self help guides, and all kinds of other helps looking for a way out of our lostness.  It all leads us more deeply into hopelessness.  Even more dangerously at times it might seem to meet our needs, only to bring us more powerfully under the judgment of God.

There really is only one way out and that is through the personal knowledge of God.  He will come, Zechariah shouts, in order to redeem us.  We are called to seek Him with all of our hearts.  Is it your desire to know the Lord personally and deeply?

Praying Together For Boldness

“On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.  When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.  “Sovereign LORD,” they said, “you made the heaven and earth and the sea, and everything in them.  You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:  ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?  The Kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against His anointed one’  Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, who you anointed.  They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.  Now, LORD, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.  Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the Name of your holy servant Jesus.”  After they had prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God boldly.”

                                                                                                                                                                                Acts 4:23-31

                This is a wonderful passage of Scripture in which we are instructed in the reasons and the methods of godly praying.  Luke brings us to this passage with a lengthy description of a notable miracle, the healing of a man crippled from birth, and the controversy which arose out of it.  It is interesting that here we see that the Church is given a wonderful opportunity to proclaim the Gospel out of the crisis that arose out of the healing of the crippled man.  How often do our open doors for the proclamation of the Gospel come out of a crisis?

There is an opportunity here for the Gospel.  There is also great danger for believers.  They are threatened with harm if they persist in preaching and teaching in the Name of the LORD Jesus Christ.  What are they to do?  What would you or I do in their shoes?  It is here that Luke gives us some wonderful insight into the prayer life of the New Testament Church.  This insight helps us to discern our way forward as we seek to proclaim the Gospel to our generation.

1)      They prayed together in response to the crisis they were facing.  Luke tells us that they “lifted their voices together in prayer to God.”   They did not each come to this prayer meeting to present to God the differing insights that each of them had.  They came to god in agreement in prayer.  It seems as if they began their time together with meditation upon the teaching of Scripture.  They meditated upon God’s Word and obediently allowed it to direct their way forward.

2)      The Scripture that the LORD brought them to was Psalm two which had been understood as Messianic for at least the century before the coming of Jesus Christ.  The New Testament writers in fact go out of their way to apply this particular Psalm to the LORD Jesus Christ.  This Psalm describes clearly the situation in which the Church found itself in and also pointed the way forward for them.

3)      To arrive at unity in our praying together it is vital that we begin with a meditation together upon the Word of God.  Our goal is not to convince others of our particular interpretation of Scripture, but to let God mould us into a fellowship that obediently follows the leading of the Spirit of God.  We are to be reformed by the Word of God.  This is what we see the New Testament Church doing here in Acts 4.

4)      They then prayed asking God to enable them to boldly obey His calling upon them.  Recently I have been reading about the powerful way in which the LORD has been revealing Himself to people in various parts of our world.  Those who have been writing about these powerful movements of God’s Spirit consistently are asking one key question.  What is the Churches responsibility in response to what God is doing?  The answer that they have been coming up with is exactly what we see happening here in Acts 4:23-31.  We are to be a fellowship which is praying in unity for the boldness to testify to the grace that God is pouring out upon this world.  This is always the consequence of meditation together upon what the Spirit of God is revealing to us through God’s Word.

One Day

                “One day Peter and John were going up to the Temple at the time of prayer – at three in the afternoon.  Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the Temple gate called beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going up to the Temple courts.  When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money.  Peter looked straight at him, as did John.  Then peter said, “Look at us!”  So the man gave him his attention, expecting to get something from them.  Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you.  In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.  He jumped to his feet and began to walk.  Then he went with them into the Temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.”

                                                                                                                                                                Acts 3:1-8

                What a wonderful passage of Scripture.  Luke has been presenting the account of the birth of the Church on the day of Pentecost.  After describing the powerful scene of the events of that day and Peter’s first Christian sermon followed by the conversion of three thousand people, Luke then gives us, in chapter 2:42-47 a description of the routine life of the Church.  He describes how the LORD was working powerfully among His people bring people daily to salvation.  Part of his description focuses upon certain sigh miracles which the Apostles where used to accomplish.  These were miracles which demonstrated that the LORD Jesus Christ was in fact God’s promised Messiah come to redeem for Himself a people.  The miracle was meant to bring people to faith in Christ.  Usually such a miracle pointed to Biblical teaching which was meant to be believed and obeyed.

Luke begins chapter three with a clear connection to this teaching at the end of chapter two.  “One Day,” is the way this chapter begins.  Luke is telling us that this will be an illustration of the type of things that the LORD was doing.  In looking at this miracle we are immediately confronted by several facts about the New Testament Church.

1)      This Church was committed to prayer.  It was the time for prayer at the Temple and Peter and John were on their way up to the House of God to pray with others.  They had come to understand that there was nothing more important than communion with God in Christ.  They knew that God answered prayer in the Name of Jesus and so they availed themselves of every opportunity to pray.  What place does prayer have in your life or Church?

2)      The sign miracle glorified the Name of the LORD Jesus Christ.  This was its purpose.  The LORD dealt with the crippled man’s real need.  He was begging for money.  What he needed was healing.  It was this that the LORD gave to him through the ministry of the Apostles.  The whole event pointed beyond just a restoration to health however because the man’s response I the praise God and to believe in Jesus as the Messiah.  Luke makes this clear in the third chapter.  What we are called to be and to do as Christians must always point to that one who can meet the deepest needs of our lives.  We are called to live out a faith that is centred upon the LORD Jesus Christ as the Messiah who delivers us from all that separates us from communion with God.

3)      The text breathes with faith.  Peter and John are revealed as men who have faith in the power of the LORD Jesus Christ to answer prayer and fulfill His promises.  So too is the crippled man revealed to be a man who comes to faith in Christ.  Are you finding that you are increasingly being called to a life of faith?  For this is a key point in God’s plan for our discipleship.