Scholars tell us that there are over 300 prophecies that Jesus fulfilled during His earthly ministry. I am not going to list them here, but I do want to talk about what it means to be given prophecy from God. Prophecies are God’s promises to us. They declare what will happen. They warn of possibilities if our present direction isn’t changed. They reveal who God is. Prophecies also reveal what type of people we are. Ultimately, prophecies are God’s way of helping us see around the corners of life. They are gifts of wisdom and foreshadowing that help us understand what’s next. They prepare us for God’s plan.
Sometimes we see ourselves as mere cogs in God’s great machine. However, if that were so God would not let us in on His plan. He would leave us in the dark. Jesus told the disciples, ” I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15). If you have never thought of it before, think of it now… You are God’s friend. At least, that is how He wants to be with you. That is one of the things that prophecy tells us. It tells us that God cares so much about us that He wants us to know in advance what He is going to do. He wants us to know what is important. He wants us to know what will bring us life.
That is why He has given us His Word. That is why He has given us Jesus. He loves us. Because of that, He shares His heart and His plans with us.
The title of this post comes from the Apostle Peter. When he was commanded to stop preaching in the name of Jesus he declared to the Pharisees he said, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)
When we hear those words today, I think that we get confused. I see folks flipping which things we are supposed to stand firm on and which things we should soft pedal. We get real testy about our opinions. We dig in our heels for our preferences. And then we shy away from talking openly about Jesus. Yet, this wasn’t what early believers were doing. Jesus came first. Rights, privileges, and opinions came last. In fact, the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9 that he makes himself a slave to everyone so that he could share Christ to everyone. (1 Corinthians 9:19-22)
So for the believers in the Bible, their obedience to God rather than men centered around Jesus. They wouldn’t compromise or bend when it came to Him. Other things could bend. They even joyfully embraced imprisonment for His truth. They would not soften or back pedal the message of Jesus.
The question I ask myself is – do I have this same commitment? Which do I hold strong for? Do I really hold out Jesus as the life of my life? When it comes to telling others about Jesus, do I have this commitment? When it comes for standing for God’s righteousness, do I have this commitment? If I am persecuted for the faith, will I respond like Peter? When my world or culture declares that it will reject me if I don’t reject God’s truth, will I respond like Peter?
The point of course is that Peter, John, and the other disciples discovered something. They discovered that Jesus is worth it. He is worth the sacrifice. He is worth the disdain and mockery of others. He is worth whatever the cost. He is our ultimate good. Because of how wonderful He is, we won’t bend. We won’t compromise truth. We do it all for Jesus.
I read this passage and it makes me think about what kind of man I am –
You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.
1 Peter 3:7
What kind of man seeks to understand his wife, protect her, and honor her as an equal heir of this grace of life? That is quite a man, isn’t it?! This isn’t the brash or arrogant strength that we see so often shown by the immature. That brash strength is fleshly and just a shallow imitation of true strength. Such arrogant brashness leads to war with those closest to him. This isn’t what God wants. This isn’t living out grace.
Did you notice the words, “in the same way”? What way is that? It is the way of Jesus! Peter started this discussion in chapter 2 verse 13 with the word “submit”. Citizens, slaves, women, men, and all of us are called to submit like Jesus. That command is as true for men as it is for the others. We are called to submit. We submit to the way of the Kingdom. We give our life to live like Jesus.
People who live in understanding, protect others, and honor others are the ones who look like Jesus. Jesus submitted to his Father. He understands us. He protects us. In order to do that, he gave up his own life for us. He did not demand glory or respect. He served. He showed us the way. We can’t say that Jesus wasn’t strong. He stood against hypocritical religious leaders, corrupt politicians, and even Satan himself. Yet, we don’t see His being cruel, callous, or selfish. Jesus followed the way of the Father.
How do we do this? How do we become like Christ? Well, we start with stopping the wars in our lives that are with the people we love. We crucify our tendency toward selfishness and flimsy imitations of strength. When we treat those we are closest to as enemies we show that we are struggling with submitting to Christ. However, if we treat them with love, respect, and gentleness we will be actively submitting to Christ. Which choice will we make? Will we submit to way of Jesus and choose kindness and gentleness or will we keep fighting with those we love? Men – is it time that we decide that we are fighting a different type of war? It is not a war against the people in our lives. It is not a war that can be won by anger, force, or bravado. It is a war against Satan. It is a war against sin. It is a war against pride. Which war are we fighting?
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
In today’s world we lament a lack of commitment. We applaud and show excitement when people last long in in their job or position. Why? We applaud because we don’t see it very often! We lament that people just can’t stay committed. We complain. Yet, when talking about encouraging commitment to God’s church we get shy about it. We sometimes say we can’t push for it because it will drive people away. This makes me ask – What does it mean to be a disciple?
When Jesus was asked what it meant to be a follower of His, He described discipleship in two ways. First, He described it as a type of love. In fact, the type of love we were to have for Him was supposed to make all other loves look like hate. He said, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26) No shying from commitment there! In fact, this teaching almost offends us, doesn’t it?
The second way Jesus talked of being a disciple was in cross-carrying. He said, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) Two words leap out at me from that description: cross and daily. Both of those words speak of commitment. A cross is tough to carry. It is especially tough when you think about the end of the journey: death. Doing anything daily is a conscious decision that requires commitment. Put the two together, and you and I receive this call – commit permanently to a hard choice: follow me.
As we consider what is necessary in the Christian life, we must take a close look at the type of commitment we are giving Jesus. Without a Jesus-level of commitment, what are we saying about Him? What are we saying about this truth upon which we say we are risking our lives? If His call doesn’t demand much from us, then what is it? It is past time for God’s people to commit to His purpose for them. Are we committing to that purpose?
Last time I shared a bit about seeking our purpose. Today I want to talk more about “buckshot” living. If you missed it, refer to my last post. However, to simplify things, buckshot living is the living we do and we don’t really know why we are doing it. It doesn’t really have a purpose and we wouldn’t call it fun. Now, if this purposeless living was every once in a while or if it just affected the non-essential areas of life it wouldn’t be a big deal. I have observed that many people live full-time in the buckshot zone.
Many people parent in the buckshot zone. They don’t have a plan to lead their children closer to God or to become better people. They are just surviving. Many people go to work in the buckshot zone. They don’t have a plan to witness. They don’t have a plan to shine for Christ through their industry and trustworthiness. They are just working. Many people are married in the buckshot zone. They don’t have a desire to help their spouse grow in godliness. They don’t have a way their marriage is going lead other couples to Christ. They are just existing together. They love each other. Hopefully, they have fun together. But, their life together has no greater purpose than just living.
This aimless living hurts us. Aimless living breeds discouragement. Aimless living undermines our personal purpose. Paul declared that his approach was to live with aim. He wasn’t just going to beat the air. He lived with his purpose always in mind. As you think about the apostle Paul, do you see a man discouraged or just floating along? Isn’t he a man who knows what his life is about and how he is going to spend it? How did Paul get that way? He got that way on purpose. He lived with clear purpose. That purpose gave his life eternal meaning.
If your life seems too aimless, will you fill the activities of your life with that eternal purpose? Your life may be full of activity, but is it activity for a reason? Isn’t it past time to bring purpose to the activities of your life? Will you settle for mere activity or will you dedicate your activity to the purposes of God?
Worship, evangelism, Christian growth. Which of these are the purpose for your life’s activities? No, we aren’t saying that having the occasional fun for fellowship’s sake is bad. Nor are we saying that every little activity of life must fit neatly within these three purposes. But – if there is something we do all the time that involves other people and it doesn’t regularly have one of those purposes, then aren’t we selling ourselves short? Aren’t we answering the question of why so much of our life seems pointless? Give it some thought. Isn’t your life more than just doing things? Doesn’t life have meaning? And don’t the individual events of life gain greater meaning when we imbue them with purpose?
Have you ever really considered this question – “What would God have me do?” Our church wants to reach people. We want to grow both inside and out. Our first priority, though, is to be obedient to God. We want to know what He wants. So, we need to be asking the specific question, “What does God want us to do?”
“Whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
1 Corinthians 10:31
However, shouldn’t we also be asking the broader question – “What’s our purpose?” Let’s consider that there are three clear Biblical purposes for all that a Christian does for God. There are also a couple of practical purposes that we do things that lead up to those purposes. The first purpose is: to worship God from full hearts. When we think of this purpose we put things like Sunday morning and Bible studies in this category. The second purpose is: to minister to the needs of others. We put practical ministry, prayer, and certain fellowships in this category. The third purpose is: to reach out to the lost. We put things like outreach activities and evangelism in this category.
The practical purposes we do some of the extra stuff we do fall into the categories of fun (we do it just cause we enjoy it) and planning (preparing to do one of the previous 4 purposes). We have a final category of our purposes – something I will call “buckshot”. You know, we don’t know why we are doing it. We don’t really enjoy it all that much, we aren’t really focusing on God, others, or reaching people for Christ. We just do it. We don’t really have a point. It is just activity.
I want to talk about I can live my life always putting those activities into one of the three purposes outlined above. However, I think I have to start by thinking about how much the things I do can be called “buckshot” things. These are things that I do without thinking, without planning, with no real purpose in mind, and I find that getting the most out of them is not really on my mind at all.
As I think about the stuff that I place into the “buckshot” category, it almost frightens me how many of those things include the things of God. Prayer, worship, personal time with God, helping out around church, and even communion can so easily become “buckshot” items. They become part of my list of things to do. They aren’t done intentionally. Take prayer, for example. I’ve got a list. I go through the list. Once I am done with the list I go on to the next task in my day. Was I trying to worship as I prayed? Was I trying to minister to others through my intercessory prayer? Was I trying to beseech the Lord of the harvest to reach the lost through my prayer? Maybe. But, maybe I was just checking off a list. Prayer. Check. Laundry. Check. Lunch made. Check.
Perhaps, if I planned for my purpose and sought to fulfill my purpose then the things I do for God would be the worship, ministry, and evangelism they are supposed to be. Perhaps, if I practiced intentionally living with the things of God, then the ordinary things might take on a greater significance too. I would have less “buckshot” and more purpose. I would be living for my purpose rather than searching for my purpose like I do my lost keys. Paul had it right. Whatever I do, I must do for the glory of God.
Think with me about the word tribulation… If that is a hard word to get your head around, pick something like these: struggle, hardship. What words do you think of when you think of those words? Do you think of words like pain, suffering, or hurt? When you think of your emotional response such situations, what words come to mind? Commonly, we think of words like escape, flee, or endure. What did Paul think of? He thought of rejoicing!
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
As we read these verses, it is easy to get wrapped up in the list: tribulation, perseverance, proven character, and hope. However, I want to think about the first few words, “we also exult in our tribulations.” Did you catch that? Paul declares that he rejoices in the tribulations that he faced! How can he do that? It wasn’t because he expected them to be brief or easy. It wasn’t because he could see an immediate blessing from them. So, why does he exult? He exults because of God’s promise. Paul believes God’s promise because of what God has done in Christ. He believes God’s promise because of God’s power seen through the working of the Spirit. He believes God’s promise because of God’s love.
Here’s the point – Paul believes God and it makes him do something. In this example, Paul believes God’s promise of salvation and so he knows that God is doing something great through his struggles. He doesn’t know because he can see it right now. He knows because God has promised it. God’s promise makes Paul live differently.
How about us? Do we respond to God’s promises the same way? Do they change how we see life? Do they change our attitudes? Do they change what we are going to do in our everyday lives? If not, what does that say about our belief? Let me give you a physical example… If you believe you are going on a trip, don’t you pack? Of course we do! We do it, not because the car is going down the street. (it would be too late by then!) We do it because we believe it is going to happen. Do you do the same with God’s promises? That is the crucial point of faith, isn’t it? So, let’s do something in response to God’s promises. Let’s believe!
It is one thing to talk about how much we need God to save us. It is quite another to talk about how much He wants to save us.
For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15
My need may be big, but the need I understand. We don’t act like we have been created to act. We sin. We don’t think like we have been created to think. We lust, covet, hate, etc. In other words, we sin. We don’t love like we have been created to love. We ignore God, blame God, and generally devalue God. We sin. No wonder Jesus had to die! We have an incredible need. A need that I do not have the facility to overcome. I don’t have the ability to change my nature. I certainly cannot change the past and undo my wrong. I need someone to make it right! It is impossible for me to do it. I need Jesus.
Yet, the second question is even bigger. Why? Why does God want to save me? Why does He want to take my sin upon Himself in Jesus? Why does He want to trade Himself for me? It can’t be my goodness. I have none. It can’t be my great brains, abilities, or strength because He doesn’t need any of it. It can’t be that I add anything that He lacks because He lacks nothing! That is the definition of what it means to be God. He has no lack in His person, perfection, power, or glory. I can add (especially in my sinfulness) nothing to Him. So, I am left with the question: why?
This is what Paul, Peter, John, and the other followers of Jesus understood as well. There is nothing we bring to God that would win Him over to save us. Instead, there is simply something in Him that does it. He loves. He loves us. It isn’t an earned love (like the beginning of a romantic relationship). It isn’t a needy love (like a lonely person who reaches out to others). No, God’s love is an intentional love. It is who He is. And, it is a sacrificial love. His love is willing, not because we deserve it but because He chooses to shine His love on us, to sacrifice even Himself for us. We can’t say, “Of course He loves us, look at the cool people He gets.” Instead, it is absolutely astounding that He would love us. So, Paul says, “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”
I notice that word ‘compel’. It speaks of an act that so affects someone that it forces a response. We usually mean coerce when we use the word compel. We use it with things like shackles, rope, and handcuffs. Yet, at other times we use the word ‘compel’ to talk about actions that just bring out a response that we cannot control without denying who we are (like crying at weddings or cheering when our team scores a touchdown). This is the ‘compel’ that we see here. Paul was so moved by what God had done for him in Jesus that he was compelled to now live for Jesus. What a glorious love that would lead such a One to die to make us alive! What type of love is this? Has it moved you too? There is no better time to think of it than right now. May we think deeply about it and never miss its glory…
Calvary Baptist Church is going to the Warren County Fair! Our Sunday worship service will be at 8:30 AM at the Warren County Fairgrounds. The service will be held at the Friends of 4H/Bill Riley Talent Search free stage right between the Rabbit barn and the Lester Building. This service will include a time of praise, a time of prayer and a clear declaration of God’s Word.
Calvary at the Fair
When: Sunday, August 1, 8:30 AM
Where: Free stage at the Warren County Fair
Who: Open to anyone!
Fee: Free! (there will be an offering bucket available for Calvary folks to give as God leads)
Have you said in your heart or heard a friend say, “I just don’t feel that God is very close to me.”? In that moment, although we may not realize it, we are wrestling with who to believe – our feelings or God. I think it matters who we believe!
Let’s think today about that word ‘feel’. In a world that proclaims that we should follow our feelings, we have almost been trained to make our feelings what determines our decisions. In other words, “feeling” has become truth. So, what happens when what God has promised doesn’t mesh with how we feel today? I wonder how many who have put their faith in Jesus struggle with who to believe. The question before us many times is – will I believe what I feel and act on that, or will I believe what God has said or promised and act on that.
Consider this when going through a really hard time or struggling with a particular sin. The Lord has said, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah31:3) and, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) He has promised this. He has declared it throughout His holy Word. Yet, don’t we sometimes ‘feel’ as if God is far away from us? Let me be clear, all of us go through times when we feel that way. We see even some of the heroes of the faith feel that way. What is the difference those heroes and us? They did not make decisions by what they felt. They made decisions based upon what God had said. Did they still feel alone? Did they still wonder what God was going to do? Yes! Yet, they acted upon what God had promised. That is the key of faith. That is the path of biblical hope. That is where we find joy.
We find victory as we trust God’s promises. Trust is not a simple feeling. It is a profound choice. It is a choice to believe even when we feel differently. God has declared his love for you and me. He has demonstrated it on the cross. We are now invited to trust Him. There are times when we won’t automatically feel loved. Yet, will we be ruled by what we feel or by what is true? Here is the awesome promise – by trusting God’s promises in faith we will discover that God has been there all the time. Does it matter if we trust God in this way? Yes! It makes all the difference!