Sunday, October 4, 2015

A Devotional Thought From 1 Corinthians

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness: but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.     1 Corinthians 1:18

                Public speaking and preaching have been, as long as people have been populating this planet, among the most popular forms of teaching, proclaiming a message, and entertainment. They still are. For millennia preachers have been respected and appreciated, at least some of the times depending on the message. Here Paul recognizes that the message of the cross is a message that makes people of the world call it foolishness. They consider the gospel of the cross as foolishness, anti-intellectual, juvenile, even stupid. And, of course, that same sentiment carries over to the Savior of the cross, Jesus.

                Separated from the biblical message of sin and salvation by His death on the cross, Jesus is greatly respected outside the church. People love His kindness. They love His compassion. They love His generosity. They love His “non-judgmental love.” But the moment the other side of the coin comes up, that He came to put an end to sin, and the power it had over us, by dying on the cross in our place, that part of Jesus is the message of the cross, and it is foolishness to them. Note what Paul says: it is foolishness to those who perish, those who are non-believers, those who are on the road of sin heading for eternal destruction. Personally, I think some of those poor souls consider it foolishness because they do not think of themselves as sinners. They don’t want to see themselves in negative terms. They don’t want to admit they have need for salvation. They don’t want to believe that God would have to make special provision for them through the death of Jesus on the cross of Calvary be saved, or redeemed or whatever the proper word is. They prefer to get themselves to heaven, or into God’s presence in eternity, or into the blessings of bliss forever by themselves; by showing their good deeds and proving to the eternal One that they deserve heaven. Why do you need a savior from sin when you are not a sinner, or at the bottom line your good deeds outweigh your bad? You can’t possibly believe people who don’t receive the message of the cross are really going to be separated from God forever, they might say.

                The gospel means good news, but it is not good news unless you realize and admit you need good news. So until they admit their need and fly to the Savior, the preaching of the cross remains to them foolishness. More’s the pity because salvation is available if they will take Jesus and His cross seriously and believe. If they do they will experience what Paul concludes this verse with: unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

                So we must keep on preaching this power of God no matter what it appears to be to those that perish.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Devotional Thought From 1 Corinthians

Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their’s and our’s:                                 1 Corinthians 1:1,2

Who the heck is Sosthenes? Actually (metaphorically) we are: We Christians; We who trust in Jesus Christ as Savior. While we know little of the man himself we know that his life was tied up with Paul’s in the service of the gospel. He was a believer. He was called, as we all are, to be saints. We are summoned or invited to be a part of God’s family. We are invited into faith. Come unto Me all ye who labor and are heavy laden. Come and serve me. That is the calling that Paul received and he was not only called to salvation and service, but called to the position of being an apostle. Just so all of us who have trusted in Christ have been called. We are called to be Christians, called to serve the Lord, called to be saints (This word is a synonym for Christians. The word for saints in the New Testament Greek is agioi which literally means the holy ones, or the ones made holy by God.) We, each of us who belong to Jesus have this calling on his/her life in the same way that Sosthenes and Paul did. We have differing ministries, but we are all called to the service of Christ. The ministry of the unknown “Sosthenes” in our churches today is just as much a calling, and just as important a ministry to God as that of the pastor, or teacher, or missionary. Every Christian believer is called to be for God in this life. All of us should value one another for that reason, love one another for that reason, and work together for that reason. The  work of Christian ministry is all about our Lord who can call people to Him, build a fellowship of love, and use that fellowship as salt to preserve the world from evil, and He does some of that work through us using the least to the greatest.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

A Devotional Thought From Romans

But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith.     Romans 16:26

          A simple and clear thought manifests itself in this verse. The Scriptures (the Bible), in part given through the prophets, made plain the truth of the Gospel, the good news that God had sent a Savior. His name is Jesus Christ, and this truth is made known through those very Scriptures so that all nations will know the truth and obey it.

          In modern society people will often say something like: “Well, that’s your religion, I have my own.” “How can you say your holy book is better than the so-called holy books of other world religions?” “Do you really believe that a book written over a thousand years ago by many different authors in many different circumstances can be true, and must be accepted today?”” Why are you so exclusive when it comes to truth? Can’t there be one truth for you and another for others?”

          The response to all of these thoughts and questions is that the one and only living God has given the Bible for all the nations to follow. Ignore it at your own risk. As an individual, ignore it at your own risk. As a family, ignore it at your own risk. As a nation, ignore it at your own risk. As a body of nations, ignore it at your own risk.

Friday, September 25, 2015

A Devotional Thought From Romans

Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.     Romans 11:5,6

          In this chapter Paul is discussing the fact that though the people who were called God’s people had as a body, in large part, refused the gospel revealed in Messiah Jesus, that there was a remnant, a piece of the whole, which had seen Christ by faith, had found Him credible, and had trusted in Him as personal Savior and received salvation. How was it possible that that group, that remnant, that representation of the people who had followed the law of works had actually found forgiveness and new life and salvation by Christ?

          Paul answers that question in a word, grace (11:6). They had received God’s grace by receiving Jesus Christ into their hearts. Grace is a favor, undeserved, which God disposes. He gives it away and offers it to anyone who will love His Son.

          One does not receive spiritual salvation grace because he doesn’t lie, or is not unfaithful to his obligations, or never has a wicked thought, or is perfectly sinless, or follows a strict law of separation from anything that he thinks might be improper. If salvation were offered to that person, it would be payback, it would be earnings, it would be tit for tat, it would not be grace. So if a person is doing everything she does in life to get saved and get to heaven, and is depending on her works to get her there, she does not have the grace of salvation. Grace is the key, and without it being given to you, you cannot unlock the door of the kingdom of heaven.

          Grace is received by anyone who believes in Christ as Savior. It doesn’t depend on what one has done (it will have dramatic changing effect upon the deeds of one who receives grace so that his/her deeds will change from evil to good) but grace is freely bestowed on the cheater, the liar, the angry, the greedy, you name the sin, and that person is then cleansed of his sin and sent on his way rejoicing, and on his way the grace changes his behavior.

          Salvation is by grace not works. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost: Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:5-7).

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Devotional Thought From Acts

God… hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:   Acts 17:24,26,27

All people that on earth do dwell are “blood brothers,” are closely related, an actual family. When reading this verse and concept before Dr. Charles R. Drew invented blood transfusion that verse was understood spiritually, symbolic of humanity’s humanity held in common. Today we interpret it as both literal scientific truth and religious truth. If you need a blood transfusion and the donor has your type, or a compatible type , he/she can give you a pint no matter his race or color. And, that blood could save your life.

So the people of the world have a common physiology, and, the apostle Paul goes on to say, they also have a common call on their lives; That they should seek the Lord (Acts 17:27). So pick any race of mankind and that race, and all others, are expected to seek the Lord. Racial characteristics and religious preferences are no barrier to following the One and only true God’s will for you, which is to seek and find Him. You seek God when you follow Jesus; you find God when you believe in Jesus. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5); the greatest inclusivity the world has ever known is God’s invitation to all men, women, and children, everywhere, to seek and find Him. When asked about being saved Paul summed it up in Acts 16:31: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
A Devotional Thought From Acts

While he answered for himself, Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the Temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all.     Acts 25:8

          Paul, having been taken into custody by the Romans because of the complaints of the religious leaders of Jerusalem, now stands before Festus the governor. In response to complaints made against him, he says, “I have not broken the law. I have not broken the religious law of my people, and I have not broken Caesar’s law, the law of the Romans. Those who are making complaints against me, and want me punished, cannot prove anything. They just complain in an effort to silence my message and get me out of their hair.”

          There are two things of deep significance in how Paul defends himself and his actions. The first is that he definitely states that his faith in Jesus, the Messiah of God, is not in disagreement with the ancient law of his people. It’s a clear statement of the Jewish roots of biblical Christianity: For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of the dry ground; (Isaiah 53:2). We learn in other places that Paul specifically says that Jesus is the fulfillment of what the prophets have been telling God’s people for centuries. At the time Paul was preaching, just like today, it would require a change in their thinking to recognize that God had fulfilled exactly what He said He was going to do. But even if Paul’s accusers decided to reject Jesus it did not change the reality that Jesus was the Son of God in human flesh Who is the Promised One of ancient Israel, and savior of the entire world. It is to Jesus that all the messianic prophecies of Old Testament scripture lead, and His resurrection from the dead proves that He is the One.

          Secondly, Paul indicates that in his preaching of the resurrected Jesus as savior, and the One to Whom people of all sorts and conditions should give their hearts in faith, was not a crime against Roman governmental law. We who live in the freedom of western civilization recognize that today, and our societies should do everything possible to accommodate the religious values of people of faith, all faiths. At the same time people of all faiths must realize that God’s word declares (written by the very same Paul, I might add) Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers (Romans 13:1). The government that is governing rightly must not say to its religious citizens change your faith or go to jail, it must find an alternative that will keep freedom of religion viable, especially in dealing with Christians who, because of the teaching of the word of God, are predisposed to be good citizens, even under Nero. And, of course, Christians must find a way with God’s help to maintain their biblical faith in a country that is continually turning from the values put forward in the Bible.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Meaning Of The Gospel Of Christ

Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses… Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.     Acts 13:38,39,46

Preaching the gospel to people who had never heard it before, the apostle Paul, declares that Jesus is the Savior, and that He is the One who brings humanity forgiveness of sins. He is the One who justifies human beings and makes them right with God. The religious law of Moses or any other religious law in the entire world cannot justify any individual in God’s sight because if taken at face value laws show that each human being is a sinner in need of forgiveness. You cannot get forgiveness through those religious laws. Through Jesus and Jesus alone there is true forgiveness for your sins, and by that a right relationship with the living God.

As is always the case some who heard that message reacted with unbelief. Luke (Acts 13:45) says that some were filled with envy, and spake against those things… contradicting and blaspheming. They refused to accept this straightforward message of salvation even though Paul had linked it with all that had gone before in the Old Testament. They refused to believe in Jesus Christ as the Savior. At that point Paul makes this amazing statement: seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life… (Acts 13:46). They decided that the gospel was not for them. They decided that! They had another way, true as far as it went, but they refused to follow it to its logical conclusion that God had kept His promise given in the Old Testament and actually sent the Savior. It is this Jesus through whom forgiveness of sins was being preached.

In essence, they had said we will not have this Man to be our Savior. We will not cast ourselves upon the gospel being declared by God in the modern world. We do not feel this is for us. We will take another way. Thus they cut themselves off from eternal life. This is true, as well, of all those in today’s world, the 21st century, who will not believe that true forgiveness by God comes only through Jesus Christ. Don’t blame the gospel or the Christian church. We declare that all people can be forgiven, that all people are welcomed by God, that Jesus died for the sins of every man woman and child, but if they refuse Him they have made their own determination of what their relationship with Him will be. They judged themselves as unworthy of eternal life in the One in Whom they will not believe.