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.
We cannot read the shameful behavior of Peter without it resonating in our souls. How many times do we say “I won’t deny,” but then we do? We deny by our words, our mannerisms, and our choices. Jesus warned Peter that he would deny, but just like us, he vehemently said, “I won’t.” But the proof is in the pudding, he did deny, and we do as well.
It is in the next step that we want to focus on. Judas betrayed but did not exhibit shame like Peter. How often do we hide behind our shame like Judas? How often do we exhibit shame in our tears as Peter did? What caused the difference? Judas never saw the eyes of Jesus, but Peter did. The eyes tell us the heart of the individual, and as Jesus looked at Peter, the soul of Peter crashed. It was in that moment that his bravado turned to his bitterness of shame, and he wept.
But then the grace of our Lord sought to restore Peter on that day in Galilee by the seashore. As he denied Jesus three times, Jesus would restore him with three questions: Do you love me, Peter? With each question, Peter had to determine his love quotient. In his shame, he had to walk through those questions, and we do as well. Do we love Jesus? Then Jesus tells us to feed his lambs, shepherd his sheep, feed his sheep and follow Him.
Matt 26 and Mark 14 If you are a believer of the Word of God, you have come face to face with guilt, whether it is presumed or actual. Jesus had a sure-fire way of getting reactions to his statements, and these chapters prove that point. He stated that “I tell you the truth; one of you eating with me will betray me.” Immediately the guilt signals arise in the minds of the disciples. One by one, they asked, Surely not I?” When we hear the words of Jesus, we too often ask, could it be me? It makes us squirm because we know Jesus knows all things.
When Judas also asks that same question, Jesus responds: “You have said it yourself.” If that were you, how would you have responded? Judas’ response was to continue on the road to betray Jesus, and only after the dastardly deed did he repent. Too little, too late. But was it true repentance? Listen to his words: “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” [Matt 27:4] He said that before the religious leaders who cared little for his words. There is no scripture saying he ever repented before the Lord or the Father.
What about us? Why is repentance so very difficult? Why do we not admit our sin and seek forgiveness? One writer noted ten reasons, and the top three included: it confronts us with our sin, we are scared God won’t forgive, and we want law, not grace. If that is you, today do not delay; seek God’s forgiveness as 1John 1:9 says. God is waiting to hear your prayer.
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?
2Samuel 11-12, 1 Chron 20 but you can move forward
The Apostle John wrote much about the price of sin and the cost Jesus paid for our forgiveness. While John writes to help us, the accuser of the brethren, Satan, waits for us to sin, and then he begins his dastardly work. First, he watches, and then he enters God’s throne room to accuse us of what we have done. And, like King David, we are slow to learn that there is no returning to our former state of bliss once we have sinned. Just as Nathan rehearsed God’s Words in David’s hearing, we too come to realize that we “have shown contempt for the Lord’s decrees.” [2Sam 12:9] It is then that the Spirit begins his work to “convict [us] concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” [Jn 16:8] so that we might repent.
Yet, Satan will rehearse our sin because he wants us to think we are unworthy to be called a child of God. But remember this truth, Jesus was revealed to take away our sin and remove our guilt and remove the Scarlet Letter over our heart. [1Jn 3] And just as Nathan said to David, the Spirit reminds us that “the Lord has forgiven your sin.” [2Sam 12:13]
Know this truth: God’s grace is greater than the accusations of Satan and our sin. Although we cannot go back, we can move forward and tell the accuser: I am forgiven because of God’s great mercy.
Lev 5 “It is all about holiness before a holy God.”
One phrase is repeated in this chapter about sin: “even if he did not realize it…” This is not talking about intentional rebellion, but those sins that we unintentionally commit and then realize. When sin brings guilt we have a choice: we can ignore it OR confess it to God seeking His forgiveness and cleansing.
These Leviticus chapters were written to the Israelites to demonstrate the love and mercy of God upon these unintentional sins and how men were able to seek God’s forgiveness. Then people had to do it over and over and over. Jesus paid it all on the cross once and for all. Both then and now all must seek God’s mercy gift. God wanted us to realize that sin is not just against a fellow citizen, but God Himself. God is right to condemn our sin because He is holy, and He calls us to be holy. Without the sacrifice we stand guilty before God in need of atonement.
Today we have the indwelling Holy Spirit to speak to our heart. We must confess our sin; seek God’s forgiveness; trust that He is faithful and righteous and will cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [1John 1:9 paraphrase]
Do you need this today? Do not delay but listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
Advent Series #2 1John 3 to 5 Compassion is the trait of sharing and caring for others in their time of need. The Apostle John lived his last years in Ephesus, but his heart is seen for the prisoners he ate, slept, and worked with on the Isle of Patmos. He never mentions that time other than in Revelation, but we can see his heart in this letter.
First, he recalls some have lost loved ones to death, and he mourns with them. He reminds them that if they were believers, they have entered eternity coming face to face with Christ. Don Wyrtzen wrote a hymn that shares this sentiment:
“But just think of stepping on shore-And finding it Heaven! Of touching a hand and finding it God’s! Of breathing new air-And finding it celestial! Of waking up in glory-And finding it home!”
The Apostle John wants us to keep the gospel message alive, and we do it as we “love other Christians.” After years of brutality as a prisoner himself, John could have been bitter. Instead, he comes alongside us to ask: how can you say that the love of God resides in you if you lack compassion for those in need?
It may be Advent, but the message is the same all year round: Christ is the gift God has given to us, and we are to share that gift with others.
1Cor 5-8 Christ gave us a higher principle when we are faced with sin.
Luke 17:3-5 “If your brother sins, rebuke him. If he repents, forgive him.” Leave the results to God. An example from history: Corrie Ten Boom. Many years after being released from one of the worst concentration camps in WWII, met one of the guards who had foisted these atrocities upon her and many others. As Corrie came face to face with him and heard his words of repentance, she had a choice. Later she wrote that when she offered forgiveness, it was like a “flood of joy and peace.”
Paul speaks to the disputes going on in the Corinthian church, and he is distraught by their actions. They were airing their dirty laundry in the courts rather than allowing the church to determine the right response. Are there times when one must take the case to the courts of the land? Obviously, yes, as Paul did in Acts 22 and 25, seeking resolve and using his Roman citizenship as the leveraging tool. However, in this chapter, Paul addresses two individuals who had a dispute and needed to resolve it in the church, not outside where the unbelieving audience would be watching and determining Christianity’s stance.
We live and move in an unrighteous world, but our responses speak volumes to those without Christ. The greatest example is forgiving when others would say, “strike ’em dead.’ Jesus reminded us that there is a higher law that God holds us to, which is to forgive others as He has forgiven us.
Luke 8:26-39 Dr. Luke uses his pen to share with us that a true disciple loves as God loves and shows compassion as He does. In Luke 8:26-39, the focus is on the principle that works must accompany a disciple’s faith. James shared this same principle: “faith without works is dead.”
Dr. Luke shares the vibrant story of the healing power of Jesus. He removes the stigma of the devil’s works, which are impotent to His power, and as we read this story of the demoniac, we are confronted with the power of sin versus the healing power of Jesus. Jesus’ heart was touched with the compassion and love the Father has for the lost. It is His love that draws him to this Gentile that the question asked by the disciples might be answered: “who is this man?” This is a question Dr. Luke continues to present to his audience and answers through Jesus’ healing, rebuking the wind, and as he reverses the effect of the evil one’s power. In doing so, the disciples are given evidence that “the gospel, …is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” [Romans 1:16]
Lastly, Jesus, full of mercy for the swine herders, leaves them a disciple who is a witness to God’s power lest they say to God that they did not know. They are now without excuse, as Paul noted in [Romans 1:20b]. The healed demoniac is a lesson in discipleship. We are to be God’s witness, and reveal what God has done for us.