Fear, Faith, and Discipleship

fear is the opposite of faith

Philemon “Fear and Faith”

God in his sovereign love directed the runaway slave Onesimus from Colossae to encounter Paul, an aged prisoner, somewhere in Rome. Watching Paul and hearing his story, he would see, not fear but a peace that passes all understanding. He would learn the truth and power of forgiveness that would forever change his heart and soul. You too might be just like Onesimus, a runaway. You are fearful of today and tomorrow but God is calling you to Himself. It was because Paul took Onesimus and discipled him that he moved from being a willing slave of the evil kingdom of fear and bondage to being a bondslave of the heavenly kingdom.

Yes, Onesimus would have to return to Colossae and Philemon to “face the music.” However, before he was useless, but now he was useful not only for Paul but also for his earthly master. Don’t you want to meet him in eternity?

Are you like Onesimus? Are you running away from God? Are you living in fear of what lay ahead? Jesus says: Come follow Me and I will remove all your fears and give you the peace that passes all understanding!

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No Condemnation!

No more condemnation

Romans 8 “Therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” because you are/we are free from the law of sin and death and are alive in Christ. [Rom 8:1] They who accept the free gift of salvation can say with Paul; I am now righteous because of the sacrifice of Christ and am justified by faith.

Even though we were sinners, Christ died for us. [Rom 5:8] His life for ours freely given out of love. It is because of that truth; we can say, “I was crucified with Christ, yet am alive and live because of his faithfulness. Therefore it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us.” (Gal 2:20 author’s paraphrase) We can know for certain that if we have died with him, we will reign with him. Not only is this true: no more condemnation awaits us, but also nothing can separate us from Him. We are eternally secure. We who have heard and accepted the gospel and the Holy Spirit are to proclaim Christ’s saving knowledge and His work of redemption. You, too, can know this truth: you are not condemned and you are eternally secure.

Many do not know this, so pray for open doors to speak of His lovingkindness to them.

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Divine Opportunities

Go and Tell

Acts 25

You may be experiencing the pandemic in spades. You are stuck at home with little ones or your job is only using the technology of zoom, Google meet, or Whatsapp. No matter what, we can follow Paul’s example of using every available opportunity to present Christ.

Therefore, the question is, how are we using this down time?

God gave Paul multiple opportunities to present Christ and the resurrection. He courageously presented Christ before the Jews, Romans, Governors Felix and Festus, King Agrippa, Bernice, Drusilla, the Sadducees and Pharisees, the soldiers, the Roman Commander Lysias, the Jewish High Priest, and the crowd. Is this amazing, or what?

Paul knows that he is God’s chosen instrument to carry His name before Gentiles. [Acts 9:15] In chapter 23, the Lord came to Paul in the night and promised him that he would testify in Rome.  No matter where we find ourselves, we have His Word and a reminder to “go and make disciples.” [Matt 28]

Today as you go about your day, keep an eye out for divine opportunities to present Christ and the gospel message. It might be just a quick word of encouragement or a conversation. Wherever it may be, be alert and watchful lest these who will one day stand before a holy God have to hear “depart from Me, I never knew you” because we failed to present Him.

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What evidence does the world see in you?

Acts 22 Josh McDowell titled his book “Evidence that Demands a Verdict.” He wrote it so that those who demand evidence as to what has changed your or my life. God used that book to change and continues to use it to change lives if people will listen. But, as so often is the case, Satan draws a veil of blindness over men’s hearts lest they see the glorious gospel and be saved. Yet, we must remember this; we serve the God of impossibilities.

Just as Paul, we all have a God Story of our first encounter with Jesus. Paul’s God Story reveals to us how we, too, can share our testimony before unbelievers. Paul first acquainted himself with the listening audience: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated with strictness under Gamaliel according to the law of our ancestors,” Secondly, Paul shared with his listeners how he was just like them: “I was zealous for God just as all of you are today.” Thirdly, Paul shared what transpired to change his focus: I met Jesus the Nazarene, the Righteous One. Fourthly, he shared what transpired after that encounter. For Paul, it was to continue to Damascus, and then God’s plan would be revealed. You may have a different fourth step.

 If you have met Jesus along your Damascus road, you, too, have a God story.

Will you share it?

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“The People of the Cross”

Are you sharing about Jesus?

Acts 20 We are to be in a race of winning people to Christ and until He returns. We are the “people of the cross” with the message of truth: Jesus alone is The Way, The Truth, and The Life! [Jn 14:6]  Paul left the Ephesian elders for the last time: “testifying …about repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus.” [Acts 20:21] Paul’s testimony was: “I do not consider my life worth anything to myself, so that I may finish my task and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace.” [Acts 20:24]. Later he would write: “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith!” [2Ti 4:7]

We are to be busy testifying about the gospel message even when the wolves rear up. Remember this promise:  “Indeed, the Lord who commands armies has a plan,” and it will be fulfilled. [Isa 14:27] “Obedience is better than crumbling to the fears of speaking out.” [O. Harris] Be faithful to pray that God releases his angelic army, miraculous signs and wonders so that the enemy’s mission of destruction is hindered. Pray that unbelievers may have dreams that will convict and turn them from unbelief to the true Messiah. 

Pray that we remain steadfast as the “people of the cross.”

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God Uses the Faithful

Technology

Acts 17 Are you feeling less faithful because of the pandemic? Does it seem like you are in a holy huddle on Facebook, Twitter, and now Parler? Or are you using today’s technology to reach the unsaved with the gospel message? What is keeping all of us from our reaching our unsaved neighbors, unsaved family members, or others?

For Paul, the magistrates and the Judaizers kept repeating the words “go away, go away, go away” no matter where they were preaching. Paul could have given up, but instead, he pressed on from Philippi to Thessalonica, Berea, and then Athens. In each place, Paul presented what the author of Hebrews was saying: Jesus is better than the prophets, the unknown idols, the angels, or the Law. The Thessalonians disagreed, but the Bereans decided to check out Paul’s words. Dr. Luke records that they were more noble than the Thessalonians, for they heard and then searched the scriptures daily to see if what Paul was saying was true. Even today, they are held up as an example for us to follow. The gospel message doesn’t change and God is looking for the faithful that will step beyond the boundaries to reach the lost.

Do you hear the “Go Away” refrain over and over?  Remember: the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved; it is the power of God. [1Cor 1: 18]  Ask God to show you how to share the gospel creatively. Try using technology:

https://netbible.org/  and now https://knowinggod.org/

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God’s Hit List and Unlocked Hearts

The Holy Spirit unlocks the heart

 Acts 16 A common saying goes like this: When one door closes, another opens. In the meantime, more often than not, we are left wondering what God is up to.  Dr. Luke does not tell the how or why; only that Paul and Silas’ journey to Philippi opened the door to suffering, false imprisonment and the beginnings of the Philippian church.

Through a series of circumstances, the Holy Spirit pierced the hearts of two Philippians and they responded to the offer of salvation. First, there is the seller of Purple, Lydia, who accepts Jesus and invites Paul and Silas to come and stay in [her] house. [Acts 16:15] Later their preaching causes an uproar in the city and the magistrates beat and falsely imprison Paul and Silas. But, God has another person on His list to hear the message of salvation. He sends an earthquake to awaken the heart of the jailer by opening the jail cells. The fearful jailer thinking that the prisoners were escaping was about to commit suicide until Paul and Silas assured him they were all accounted for. He took Paul and Silas, washed their wounds, fed them, and asked this all-important question “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” [Acts 16:30]  

We may not know what God is doing but He will direct us to those who need to hear these words. “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” [Rom 10:9]

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“The Power in the Word”

There is wonder working power

Acts 13 and 14 There is an old hymn that says there is ‘power, power, wonder-working power in the blood of the Lamb.’ Jesus is the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. He came, he lived, he died, and he rose again on the third day that we might know and experience that power. Do you believe this?

Barnabas and Paul are the first winningest duo who took that message to cities far beyond Jerusalem and Antioch. They trusted in that power and souls were saved, but along with the message, the truth that Jesus said would also be true. “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. “ [John 15:20]And so it is that these two faithful servants of God would be used to preach, teach, and suffer. The words of God to Ananias about Paul are coming true; “I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”

We really have no idea about suffering. We read about it, but for the most part, we have not suffered like Paul and Barnabas or as the early Christians did. Our challenge is this:

If God called you to share the truth, would you be willing to suffer for His Name?

There is wonder-working power in the blood of the Lamb to change lives. Will you share that power with another even if it means suffering?

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“The Peter Problem”

The Peter Problem

Acts 11 Did you ever have a day when God, through the Holy Spirit, reaches down to remind us that we have the message of good news? From Genesis to Revelation, the truth is that Jesus died for all—not just for some or not as one group over another as the first century Jews did. Instead, the Holy Spirit says, “go and make disciples of ALL nations.” Peter also had this problem, and we do as well.

By our very nature, we are ethnocentric; sometimes, even unconsciously, we establish taboos regarding who will hear the good news. We stand guilty before God because we have a Peter problem. Like Peter, we establish a boundary by thinking salvation is for “us” but not for “them.” Peter finally got the message, but it took three times for it to register. How many times do we need to hear: go and make disciples?  Do we need a three-time lesson as well? We are slow to respond not because we don’t know the truth but because we live and move in a ‘holy huddle.’

Just think how life would be different for the Cornelius’ of this world if we ignored the Holy Spirit’s prompting. We must pray that God gives a fresh vision for the world that needs to hear the gospel message.

God is not willing anyone to perish, but all hear and respond to the gospel message.

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“Acceptance And/Or Rejection”

Will you follow Jesus?

Acts 6 to 9 The gospel narrative revealed a fickle populace. They wanted miracles but not the Savior. After Jesus’ ascension, the disciples were moved by the Holy Spirit’s power to share the good news but just as with Christ; the message was accepted only as the physical needs were met but rejected when the spiritual needs were noted. 

The Greek-speaking Jewish widows raised a complaint that they were being rejected in the food distribution. Out of this predicament, two men will surface; Stephen and Philip. Stephen will debate and preach but is finally rejected by the religious council, stoned, and left to die. Philip will leave Jerusalem and be used by the Holy Spirit to bring the gospel message to Samaria and Caesarea. A chief rejecter, Saul, meets Messiah on the road to Damascus, and his life is forever changed, yet he too is rejected by many. 

No matter where God has placed us, we meet fickle people. They desire but do not have because, as James said, they ask amiss. [James 4:2] No matter the circumstance, the gospel message is used to pierce the hearts of men, so they are without excuse. [Rom 1:20]

God asks, do you love me more than these? [John 21:15-19] Will you pick up your cross and follow Him—no matter where it leads.

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