Acts 15 and 16 Is Circumcision required for salvation?
The Jews, specifically the believing Pharisees, contended that for the Gentiles to be saved, they needed to be circumcised. Not so said Peter with his testimony about the salvation of Cornelius and his household. Paul agreed with him and expounded on it and will later write the book of Romans to justify why salvation is as Peter said: Circumcision is an outward ritual, and Paul explained that it must be Circumcision of the heart!
Further, Peter asked why do we want to add a burden that even the Jews have never been successful in keeping! So the dialog raged on until James stood up and proclaimed the truth from the OT. God said He would call the Gentiles to Himself for salvation, and it consisted of nothing more than repenting and believing in the name of Jesus.
James wrote a letter to the Gentile believers in Antioch, and the truth remains today: there is no outward ritual that one must keep. Just repent and believe, and you will be saved. That same message is still true today. Later, as Paul and Silas proclaimed that message to the residents of Philippi, the jailer came to believe it as well.
Today stop and praise God for the simplicity of the gospel message.
As a history teacher and anointed with the Holy Spirit, Stephen relayed to the High Priest and the religious council the account of Israel. He reminded them that their ancestors hardened their hearts, and now they are in danger of doing the same thing!
Stephen’s life is an example of what Jesus said would be true. The Holy Spirit will anoint you and provide the right words to say even when tried. [Matt 10:19]. When you speak, it will be the Holy Spirit who will be pricking their hearts. Would they believe, or would they choose to ignore the Truth of the Messiah? Jesus reminded the religious leaders that they were the masters of the scriptures, which spoke of the Messiah; yet they refused to believe the man behind the scriptures standing before them. Now they were also rejecting God’s messenger. God was closing their last door of opportunity.
God lovingly prepared Stephen both as he spoke and looked up to heaven. It was then that he saw Jesus waiting for him. Then, as he drew his last breath he sought forgiveness for those who would hurl their stones of death upon him; just as Jesus has done. [Luke 23:34]
You are God’s servant, just like Stephen. Trust that God will provide the right words at just the right moment. When God opens the door of salvation, do not ignore the door of opportunity.
Some came to Jesus to inquire about those, the Galileans, who died by the hand of Pilate. Were they at the wrong place at the wrong time or the right place because it was “their time?” As Jesus listened, he noted that they had the wrong question. The right question is not whether it is the wrong place or the right place; or the wrong time or the right time. Instead, one should ask, were they, and are you prepared to meet Jesus? The Hebrews author reminds us that “ALL people are appointed to die once and then face judgment.” [Heb 9:27] Only God knows our “end date.” We should not be concerned about that but concerned whether or not one has accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Know this promise: “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us [that is you] from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [Rom 8:38] if you know Him as Savior. So the real question today is, have you accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior?
John 9 and 10 The blind is made to see the “seeing” remain blind.
Will the religious leaders relinquish their man-made rules to believe? The disciples ask if the man sinned or his parents caused his blindness. Neither was the cause, but he “is” blind so that the works of God might be made manifest and cause men to choose the correct answer to this question: “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” KJV. [Jn 9:35]
The blind man obeyed the instructions of Jesus after receiving the “mud bath” and the “water bath,” and now is seeing. You would think others would stand up and praise God for this miracle but not so. Instead, he is tossed to and fro between his parents, neighbors, and religious leaders. Indeed Solomon was correct to say; the fear of man holds men. They fear men more than God. [Prov 29:25] Truly as Jesus said, they now remain in their sinful state. Jesus is the “Light” of the world, and He is the “Door.” Do you believe this?
Spiritual Truth: Some are more comfortable in their sin than in the light of seeing spiritual truths.
Matthew 9 and 10 Jesus spent a fair amount of time walking among the people, listening to their conversations. He saw those paralyzed both physically and spiritually. He saw a desperate father in need of direction when all around him was collapsing. He encountered religious leaders who could not or would not see the helpless, the needy, and unloved. Instead of meeting their needs, they watched Jesus, ridiculed and scoffed, and attributed his work to Beelzebub. They lacked the one thing this flock needed: compassion. They were just like the foolish, worthless shepherds of Zechariah 11:17 who left the flock to fend for themselves. Jesus noted that times had come and gone, but it was still like in the times of Zechariah. The sheep were scattered with no one to lead them. In sharp contrast, in Psalm 23, we see a picture of the good shepherd who leads, restores, and binds up the brokenhearted. Jesus is that Good Shepherd. His sheep hear his voice, and they follow Him, and He is even willing to lay down his life for the flock.
Somewhere there is a sheep in need of the Good Shepherd’s compassionate touch.
If Jesus came now, would I pass the test of a good shepherd?
Luke 8 and Matt 13 Ever go back to your high school reunion? If you have, you come away with ideas and thoughts about those four years. They walked with you, sat beside you in class but after high school, some stayed behind, and others went a different path. It was true for Jesus as well. He had grown up in Nazareth, but now he was busy with the Master’s business, and as he visits his hometown, he is shunned, scoffed at, ridiculed, challenged, and questioned about his family. As he is preparing to leave, he states: “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” [Matt 13:57] What does he mean by that? He means that another’s perception is based on what they remember, not what has changed. We face the same.
Circle back to the demon-possessed man. He, too, was changed, and Jesus told him to go and proclaim what God had done for him. Like the parable of the sower, he went sowing the seeds of his change; there were four reactions. Some shook their head and went on their way; some heard and were thrilled for his transformation, but then the “old gang” made life difficult, so they went back to their old ways. Some were thrilled and for a time walked with him, but then the challenges of everyday life were greater than the new life, so they walked back. But, then some heard and rejoiced with him, and they grew and prospered, and those were the ones that God used to prepare the way for a later time when the new believers would have to leave Jerusalem because of persecution.
The principle is don’t let your past dictate your “now;” go and spread the seed and leave the results to God.
Matt 12:22-50 and Luke 11 The Witness of the Spoken Word & Creation
There are many today that seek visible or tangible evidence to believe. I will believe when x,y,z happens, or when I can see God do a miracle before me. I will believe when I find the “real Bible.” I will believe when…and you can fill in the blank. Yet, as Jesus is looking about the corrupt leaders of the nation, He said to them, and He says today: neither Nineveh nor the Queen of Sheba had some miracle or some visible evidence. They believed because of the spoken word of Jonah and King Solomon, and they believed.
Paul told the Romans that God’s invisible attributes are clearly seen in His creation. Again he says faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Yet he reminded them that even when Isaiah preached and they heard, they hardened their hearts so they could not believe. Men’s hearts are no different today. That is why we must be the Jonah’s and the Solomon’s to share the good news. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” [Rom 10:15]
As John sits in prison, he may be set apart from the goings-on, but he is not unaware of what is happening beyond those prison walls. He still has connections with his advisors/disciples, and in their discussions, he sends them to Jesus to ask: “Are you for real?” Jesus lovingly answers the questioners with this statement: “go and tell.” At the end of Matthew, Jesus will again use those words: “go and tell.” So what are we to go and tell?
It is this; it is Messiah who can give spiritual insight. He alone can heal the lame both spiritually and physically. He alone can heal the outcasts of society so they can worship freely and openly. He alone can open the ears of the deaf and the eyes of the blind so that they can take in the wonderful words of life. He alone can raise to new life those who were spiritually dead and give them new life. He alone can fill the coffers of the poor with spiritual riches that are incomparable in this world.
This is the same message we have before us to “go and tell.” And, lastly, Jesus told them to say to John; those who are not offended by all of this are blessed indeed. Are you “going and telling?”
John 2 to 4: John reveals Jesus as the Lamb of God, a teacher who came from God, and God incarnate; the “I AM.” Jesus is the author of signs and miracles by changing water into wine, explaining the Spirit of God as the breath of God is and the healing work of the living water. In each one, an individual comes face to face with the Messiah.
Although the wine steward does not know what has transpired behind the scene of the wedding festivities, he marvels that it is the best wine. He is perplexed but never asks why or how. He is the person who sees the evidence but walks away unchanged and uncaring. Jesus asks Nicodemus why he doesn’t understand the spiritual principle of being born again. As the Teacher of Israel, he is perplexed but boldly asks how a person can be born again, yet leaves as he came. The Samaritan woman challenges Jesus about water but learns that there are two kinds of water; physical water that refreshes for a moment and living water that refreshes over and over and over. She is perplexed but leaves her water pot, returns to the village, and announces that Christ has told her everything she ever did.
The woman at the well is a picture of the new believer whose heart is changed and seeks to tell others about that change. Three people, three responses but only one was an instrument of a changed life, the woman at the well. Which one are you?
Gen 1 to 18 and Ezekiel 18 “The problem of blame-shifting.”
Theology is the study of God, and today’s lesson is about upside-down theology. From Gen 1 to 18, we learn that what was perfect was destroyed by sin. First, Adam blamed Eve, then Eve blamed the serpent, and so it has gone since time began. Here the elders sat before Ezekiel complaining (maybe in their hearts?) that they were in this fix, meaning in Babylon, because of their father’s sin. Ezekiel asked them just as God asked Eve and then Cain; “what have “YOU” done, not what has your father done. Each is responsible to live righteously or live in sin. You can’t use the thinking of Flip Wilson: “he made me do it.”
Ezekiel told them, “the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.” [Ezek 18:20] We are all responsible for choosing righteousness or wickedness/sin. We all must stand before God alone, and God will not hear our complaint that “it was because of so and so” or “he made me do it.” Ezekiel then points out the beauty of God’s mercy. “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord God. “Therefore, repent and live.” [Ezek 18:32]
May we all stop and thank God that we are not responsible for another’s sin.