“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my dis-ciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’” John 8:31-32.
Just before Joshua received his marching orders from the commander of the Lord’s army, he asked if he was for them or their enemies. The answer is that he was on God’s side. Those on both sides of the battle for the republic in 1861 sang the hymn, “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory,” and believed themselves on God’s side. Great song as God’s wrath is loos-ed on His enemies that He is trampling—if we believe we’re on His side as most of us do! But, far too often we believe God must be fighting for our cause and so this doesn’t apply to us. It’s His truth and not our wills, how-ever, that is marching on. A great mystery is how free we become the more we submit ourselves to Him. After all, it is Jesus who did the work of salvation by going to the cross and rising from the grave. Since Jesus was made like us in every way to die to make men holy, we who have been re-made like Him in every way must live to make men free by getting them too to submit to God’s will.
Can you truly sing “Glory! Glory hallelujah!”?
“But when the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel, who saved them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother” Judges 3:9. Out of the whole generation that came out of Egypt that were twenty or older, the two good spies, Joshua and Caleb, were allowed to enter the Promised Land. Judges begins with the death of Joshua and then gives a good story of Caleb giving his daughter to his nephew as Othniel was willing to obey God and drive the unworthy inhabitants out of the land. This same man is listed as the first deliverer of Israel after the cycle of sin and deliverance is described in chapter 2. The focus is never on the willing servant, however, but God. When the people cried out in their sins for salvation, it is God who raises up a deliverer. The people never knew from where he would come but just trusted that from the very rocks that God could raise up children for Abraham. In Elijah’s day, God reserved 7000 for Himself. Today, of course, we have Jesus who always saves. But, as we look at our churches in this sinful world, we may wonder where our next leaders and influencers are. Could it be you that He’s raising up?
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” Jeremiah 29:11. Go into any store or onto any website that has Christian merchandise and you will see pictures, mugs, t-shirts, or devotional books with this verse on them. We often use this scripture out-of-context to mean that God has plans for us for our good and our future. But does it not? As with any good Bible study, we should see what it means in context first as a passage can never mean what it never meant. Jeremiah was writing to the exiles about a time when the time for captivity in Babylon were completed and they would be allowed to rebuild Jerusalem once again. It is they that God would prosper if they would seek Him with their whole hearts. Does that mean that God won’t work for a Christian’s good (Romans 8:28)? Of course not, but notice that even in that verse which is often misquoted and misapplied there is an element of seeking and living out of God’s will that is implied. And, God is not a vending machine to owe you prosperity if you live for Him, but it is out of a loving relationship that He chooses to do so. Are you in Christ?
“Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’” Acts 2:37. This question comes up in various forms throughout the book of Acts. When someone hears the gospel, God’s deep love for them in sending His Son to die on a cross for their sins and raising Him from the dead for their resurrection and hope of heaven one day and cut to the heart as well, then they want to know what to do about their lost state with God. Often times, though, we push the solution before the ones we are studying with are convinced of the problem. Without the conviction in their hearts, they may just be “getting wet” instead of true baptism and then they will drift back into sin and away from the Lord’s church to which God has added them. When Paul said he didn’t come to baptize but to preach the gospel, he was railing against those who insisted on a form of obedience but not its power. The form is im-portant as the rest of Acts illustrates, but the focus of 1st century Christians, and so ours, must be on hearts that are cut because of the gospel so we then can tell them what they must do. Has the gospel cut your heart?
“And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” Acts 2:21. We have the benefit of hindsight to read of Jesus being crucified and resurrected with all meaning revealed to us, and in doing so, we can appreciate more of what God was unfolding in the greatest triumph of love for mankind and a gospel that had been planned since the foundation of the world. It is what the prophets of old wrote about as they were moved by the Holy Spirit and yet did not understand as they longed to look into it. What the Son must have endured and the Father must have felt as no one yet understood what it all meant. But, through the Spirit, Peter revealed God’s gospel to an astonished crowd on Pentecost and, quoting Joel 2, declares salvation open to everyone who would call upon the Name of the Lord. It would take faith for someone to do this, we find out as more of the story comes together, and the place to call upon the Lord’s Name or power, or authority is in the water of baptism (Acts 22:16) as our sins are washed away. But we no longer need to guess or assign meaning to this gospel that God never intended. Have you obeyed the gospel like in Acts 2?