“For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Romans 5:10 NKJV
To be reconciled to God means to go from being His enemy to His friend (Vine’s Expository Dictionary). If you look up the words reconcile, reconciled, and reconciliation you will notice that it is a major theme throughout all of Scripture.
Colossians 1:13-14 NKJV “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”
Do you need to be reconciled to God today? Do you know God, have you experienced going from darkness to light, yet you have wandered away from God? You too can be reconciled to God. There is no magic formula or certain words you must pray. Romans three says no man is good and none of us seek after God. When we recognize our sinfulness and call out to God for forgiveness, when we repent of sin and confess and submit to Jesus as Lord we are reconciled to God.
Jesus came and lived the life pleasing to God that you and I can’t live. Through His death on the cross we have been reconciled to God, all we have to do is call out to Him, repent of sin and confess Jesus as Lord.
What happens after you are reconciled to God? You go from darkness to light. You’ll notice things in your life begin to change. What you used to want to do, you aren’t interested in anymore. Going from darkness to light produces change in us and we begin to be conformed to the image of Christ. We want to walk in His ways and be obedient to the Scriptures.
The gospel message is the message of reconciliation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Be reconciled to God today. If you have walked away from God, humble yourself in repentance and be reconciled today.
“Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
James 4:4 NKJV
Jesus told His disciples that He no longer called them servants but friends. He also said if you love Me you will obey me.
Again and again Scripture calls us to holiness and remain unspotted from the world. If we are friends with the world we are the enemy of God. If we bend Scripture to make a sinning world comfortable we make ourselves the enemy of God.
Abraham was a friend of God and it was accounted to him as righteousness. Abraham walked in obedience to God, when he messed up, he made things right. Let us walk with God in holiness and forsake the weight and sin that easily entangled us.
“Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!”
2 Thessalonians 3:16 NASB1995
Our circumstances can change in a moment. You’ve probably heard someone say, considering the circumstances I’m doing pretty good. No matter what our circumstances may be we can always rest in the peace of the Lord.
Jesus told His disciples just before He went to the cross that He was leaving His peace with them. Not a peace that comes from the world but His peace. Most people are tossed about by circumstances, we allow our emotions to be driven by our situations but being in Christ we have a more sure foundation than what we’re going through.
We often quote Philippians 4:13 but lets look at it in context. Philippians 4:11-13 NASB1995 “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
The verse we’ve used to encourage athletes and tell kids they can accomplish anything has a completely different meaning than what most Christians give it. Paul was telling the Philippians that he had learned to get along in any circumstance through Christ’s ability in him. That gives the famous verse an entirely different context.
Take it from Paul, take the example from numerous stories in the Bible, no matter the circumstances trust God. When things are good and when things are bad, put your trust in Him and always find something to be thankful for.
“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.””
John 8:31-32 NKJV
The word Abide is one of my most favorite words in all of Scripture. To abide means to continue in and to make constant residence (Vine’s Expository Dictionary).
The only way we can know the truth is to abide in the Word. We abide in the Word by meditating on it, committing it to memory and patterning our life by what it says.
We don’t interpret the Scriptures through modern culture. The Bible doesn’t change with the times, it is forever settled (Psalm 119:89).
If we want to know the truth, it is found in the Word. Jesus is the truth. If we need direction, the Word is light on our path. The only way we can know the Word is to spend time in it. Not just reading the verse of the day but knowing what Scripture says. We need to be familiar with our Bibles, that’s why I strongly recommend using a physical Bible and not just an app. Know the books of the Bible. Become so familiar with your Bible that you know the verse is on the left side of the right page underlined in blue.
1 John 3:24 AMPC “All who keep His commandments [who obey His orders and follow His plan, live and continue to live, to stay and] abide in Him, and He in them. [They let Christ be a home to them and they are the home of Christ.] And by this we know and understand and have the proof that He [really] lives and makes His home in us: by the [Holy] Spirit Whom He has given us.”
1 Corinthians 1:18 NKJV “for the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Paul goes on to say in chapter two, verse two, “for I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 in the Amplified Classic Bible. “AS FOR myself, brethren, when I came to you, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony and evidence or mystery and secret of God [concerning what He has done through Christ for the salvation of men] in lofty words of eloquence or human philosophy and wisdom; For I resolved to know nothing (to be acquainted with nothing, to make a display of the knowledge of nothing, and to be conscious of nothing) among you except Jesus Christ (the Messiah) and Him crucified.”
Paul had the greatest amount of knowledge in Judaism anyone could have. He was a Pharisee, yet he would write, “I count everything as dung for the sake of knowing Christ.” Paul lived in the gospel. When he came up against philosophy he still preached the gospel. Paul was a man who forsook everything else, to pursue Christ alone. He resolved to know nothing, to be acquainted with nothing, to make a display of the knowledge of nothing, and to be conscious of nothing except Christ.
Am I conscious of nothing except Christ? Do pastors display more knowledge of something other than Christ? Are we acquainted with a Netflix series more than we are Christ? “Gospel centered” and “gospel issue” are buzz phrases in the church today, but I’m telling you everything couched in those phrases is another gospel.
Paul asked the Galatians who bewitched them, he said if anyone brings you another gospel, if an angel brings you another gospel, if he himself returned with a different message it was to be rejected. What is the gospel? Christ crucified, buried, and resurrected.
Galatians 3:26-29 NKJV ““For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
What is the gospel? We are all one in Christ. What is a different gospel? Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality. It is a message that pits white Christians against black Christians. It’s a message that says “whiteness” is sin. The Bible says that each of us is fearfully and wonderfully made, that includes skin color. I came across a new phrase yesterday, biblical diversity. There is no “diversity” in the Kingdom of God, we are simply in Christ and to try and manufacture ethnic togetherness as a gospel issue is wrong. To say we need the black experience to interpret Scripture is wrong. We don’t need a black, white, Asian, Mexican, or any other experience to interpret Scripture. Scripture interprets Scripture. All this other stuff is anti biblical nonsense. It’s time to wake up and return to the gospel and reject Critical Race Theory as an analytical tool. No ones race is a gospel issue. Are there racists, yes, in every color. But to paint every white person as inherently racist is not in line with Scripture and must be rejected.
What does the gospel produce in our lives? Holy living. 2 Corinthians 6:17 NKJV “Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.”” Do we believe the gospel is enough? If you look at the modern church you would have to say no. We always have a gimmick. Be it giveaways, super bowl themed messages, summer at the movies, and going great lengths to make the church not look like a church. We hear more stories than Scripture, pastors are more hip than holy, (it’s probably not even cool to use the term hip anymore but I’m trying to be relevant by having each word begin with the same letter). We are so focused on getting people in the church we have lost the gospel. We love to say methods change but the message does not. Look around at what is taking place in churches and ministries, our methods have changed the message. We have no fear of God, but we do offer restoration without true repentance.
As Christians we should be living in the gospel. We don’t outgrow it and signs and wonders don’t replace it. Jesus rebuked the cities where most of His miracles were done because the people didn’t repent and believe. Let us heed the words of Paul and determine to know nothing, to be acquainted with nothing, to make a display of the knowledge of nothing, and to be conscious of nothing among them except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Let’s drop philosophy, hit music with bad theology, let’s see fifty year old pastors dress like pastors instead of wannabe celebrities. Let’s drop all our gimmicky series and return to verse by verse preaching and teaching. Let us go back to Paul’s epistles and reacquaint ourselves with the gospel and let’s live there.
How do we walk in blessing? According to Psalm one; we don’t walk in ungodly counsel, stand in the path of sinners, sit in the seat of the scornful, instead we delight in the law of the LORD and meditate in it day and night.
Matthew 5:3-12 NKJV “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Psalm one and Matthew five paint an incredible picture of living a blessed life. It’s a picture most of us may not associate with blessing but those are the words of God concerning blessing.
All throughout Scripture we are told to meditate on Scripture. That simply means to ponder the meaning and think about continually. Today, meditate on being blessed.
Ask yourself the following questions based from Psalm one:
Am I listening to ungodly counsel?
Am I walking in continual sin?
Am I scornful?
Do I delight in the Scripture (do I give myself more than five minutes in the Bible)?
Do I let my mind think about Scriptures throughout the day?
“Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.”
I John 2:3-5 NKJV
The evidence of knowing God is in our obedience to Him. Jesus said, if you love Me you will obey Me.
So many times we find ourselves seeking words from others, desiring a feeling of closeness, and so many other things to know God, yet we know Him through His Word.
It seems to simple to just know Him through the Bible, there has to be something more. Countless times I’ve listened as people talk about wanting more. We talk about the latest book we’ve read, we listen to someone share a dream or some great vision, yet so many times the Scripture is lacking.
Let us return to a true and simple knowing. Let us return to Bible reading, prayer and studying the Word. All the other things we find ourselves seeking after are of far less value than the depth of the Scriptures.
“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:2-3 NKJV
When it comes to commandments or law a lot of Christians automatically think legalism or works based salvation. We are saved by grace and salvation is maintained by the same grace of God. That being said the law of God in the Old Testament is not bad.
Paul said it was a schoolmaster that leads to Christ and it has no power to save. Time and again the New Testament says that are love is proven by obedience.
Jesus said my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Yoke and burden are phrases rabbi’s used to describe their teaching and practice. Jesus also said if you love me you will keep my commandments.
To rightly understand the place of commandments in the new covenant we actually need to go back to the Old Testament where it is first mentioned.
Jeremiah 31:33 NKJV “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord : I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
Now you may say that is Israel not the church. That’s true, however that is the foundation of the new covenant. We are grafted into Israel.
Like I said we are saved by grace. Law cannot save nor sanctify us. 1 John 3:4 says everyone who practices sin practices lawlessness. The Bible both Old and New Testaments is given for our example. All Scripture is used for correction and instruction in righteousness. We are not under the law but are we really going to disregard the ten commandments? No, lying is still not okay, adultery is still sin and we still are to have no other God’s.
Don’t buy the lie of the enemy that commandments are bad. Yes there are people who take things to levels they shouldn’t but remember Jesus’s problem with the Pharisees wasn’t that they obeyed the law it was that they made up their own law. As Christians we love Jesus. The New Testament says that love is demonstrated in keeping His commandments.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life. He who despises the word will be destroyed, But he who fears the commandment will be rewarded.”
Proverbs 13:12-13 NKJV
Those are not verses you typically find on a coffee cup or in a journal but they really do hit home if you think about it. We’ve all heard the term false hope. People just keep leading people to believe in something that they know is not going to happen.
Hope deferred can be the same thing. You keep hearing messages on breakthrough, people have been talking about revival for years and you see nothing on the horizon. Then some guy talks about the cloud the size of a man’s hand and it does nothing but lead to more despair.
Don’t despair, the next verse shows us where our hope should be, “but he who fears the commandment will be rewarded. The emphasis and placement of our hope should be in the written Word.
Hope deferred makes our heart sick when our hearts are not secure in God. Proverbs 13:12-13 may not be on coffee cups but Proverbs 3:5-6 is everywhere.
Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”
That’s how you beat hope deferred. You direct your heart to the Lord and His Word. Proverbs four says you incline your ear to His sayings and keep them in the midst of your heart.
Keep your heart by staying in the Word. From your heart flow the issues of life. When you abide in the Word you will always have light for your path.
“Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, Saith your God.”
Isaiah 40:1 KJV
The comfort of His people has always been a priority to God. Not comfort as in a life of ease but the comfort of knowing God is there, that He is watching over us and that the Scriptures guide us.
When Jesus was talking with His disciples at the last Passover meal they would share together He told them He would send the comforter, the Holy Spirit to be with them.
John 14:26-27 KJV “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
The comfort of God also brings with it peace. Philippians 4:6-8 NKJV “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”
We have a Comforter that never leaves us. We have the Scriptures that are always a light unto our path, we have a God who always hears us and a Savior who is always making intercession for us. Be at peace knowing that whatever you may face, the Comforter is right there with you.
“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:”
Matthew 1:1 NKJV
The Hebrew Bible ends with the books of Chronicles. The books that tell the history of Israel. The last prophet is Malachi who says, “Behold I am sending My messenger” and “Behold I am going to send you Elijah the prophet.”
The New Testament opens with the genealogy of Jesus. Declaring up front He is the Son of David, the Son of Abraham. Jesus would later reveal to his disciples that John the Baptist came in the spirit of Elijah, thus fulfilling Malachi’s prophecy.
When we read the great faith chapter of Hebrews 11, all those mentioned died in faith waiting for the coming of the Messiah. From Genesis to Revelation the Bible is about Jesus.
The book of Revelation even begins with the words, “The revelation of Jesus Christ”. When you get to the last few chapters it explodes with the majesty of the person of Jesus Christ. The book of Revelation isn’t about the beast, a dragon, or even the nation of Israel, it’s all about Jesus.
The significance of Israel is found not in the nation itself but in what God declared concerning it. All of the Bible centers on Jesus. The types and shadows of the Old Testament, the ministry of the Apostles, the letters of Paul and even the book of Revelation is all focused on Jesus. See Him on every page.
A familiar story in the gospel of John is Jesus’s encounter with the woman at the well. What’s interesting is the topic she brings up once she perceives that Jesus is a prophet.
John 4:19-26 NKJV “The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.””
When she perceived Jesus could answer her most pressing spiritual curiosity she asked Him about worship. We’re not much different. Ask most anybody going to a church for the first time, what did you think and their response will most likely have to do with the worship music. We were created to worship. Angels surround the throne singing holy, holy, holy. At the end of days every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Worship is a very important part of our lives and it is more than just singing. Even the preaching is worship because it declares who God is. The theme of Jesus response in the dialog with the woman at the well was truth. Jesus said true worshippers will worship in spirit and truth. What does it mean to worship in truth? To deal faithfully or truly (Vine’s Expository Dictionary). How do we deal faithfully with the worship of God?
Psalm 24 NKJV ““The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein. For He has founded it upon the seas, And established it upon the waters. Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the LORD, And righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, Who seek Your face. Selah Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, The LORD mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah”
Psalms, the song book given to us by God has plenty to say about worship. If you read five Psalms a day you can read through the book every month. Reading through Psalms each month will help us keep us focused on true worship by keeping our minds focused on God. When we read through the Psalms we see a range of emotions. We hear praise, worship, adoration, triumph, and more.
True worship is focused on God; His wonder, power, majesty, glory, marvelous deeds, the works of His hands and so much more. Worship is about exalting His name in all the earth. True worship is done in honor, through obedience and with a lifestyle of holiness. If we are living in a lifestyle of habitual sin we may sing in church but our worship is not true. Psalm 24 asks and answers the question, who can stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted his soul to another. God didn’t change between Old and New Testament, He didn’t lower His standard. David was a worshipper, a man after God’s own heart. Many like to point to the fact he committed adultery and murder as proof that God can use anyone. What is left out is the fact that we have David’s prayer of repentance recorded in Psalm 51. There is no record of David committing that sin again. David wanted to build a Temple but God said no because of the bloodshed on his hands. The holiness of God is a very serious thing, far more serious than we take it most of the time. We like to think God understands our struggles and He sympathizes. Jesus does sympathize with our weaknesses but He does not excuse sin.
Let’s look at a how seriously God takes worship in an example from Old Testament. Leviticus 10:1-8 NKJV ““Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. And Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.’ ” So Aaron held his peace. Then Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said to them, “Come near, carry your brethren from before the sanctuary out of the camp.” So they went near and carried them by their tunics out of the camp, as Moses had said. And Moses said to Aaron, and to Eleazar and Ithamar, his sons, “Do not uncover your heads nor tear your clothes, lest you die, and wrath come upon all the people. But let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the LORD has kindled. You shall not go out from the door of the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die, for the anointing oil of the LORD is upon you.” And they did according to the word of Moses.” God struck people dead for worshipping Him in a way that wasn’t true. Before you say, that’s Old Testament, remember, Acts chapter five is not and two people dropped dead for lying about an offering they gave. Giving is worship as well. We may see these things as an overreaction, there in lies the problem, we want to hold God to our standards, not rise to the standard of His holiness.
How we worship God is serious. Our character is serious. You may not see anyone dropping dead for worshipping with impure hearts but you can know this, a worship leader living a lifestyle of sin off the platform is a stench to God. They may be able to fool people but God sees all.
We hear lots of talk about feeling and wanting the presence of God in worship but look around at modern worship. It is virtually indistinguishable from a worldly concert; dark sanctuary, colored lights, smoke machines and lyrics that have nothing to do with God. Most modern songs are written from God to us, not us to God. Words like He is jealous for me, love like a hurricane and I am a tree. What about reckless love. God is not reckless and it is not over the top or religious to question the lyrics we sing in church. We talk about wanting God’s presence, if we look at how people responded in the Bible versus how we respond when we “feel the presence” it proves what we’re feeling isn’t God’s presence. Heaven is full of light and there are no shadows there. Are our sanctuaries full of white light? Most aren’t, all the lights are off and the only thing you can see is colored lights on a stage. How is worship about, for and to God when you can’t distinguish our worship atmosphere from a rock concert? How are preachers preaching the gospel when you can’t tell the difference between most sermons and a life coach pep rally or a Ted Talk?
We set at atmosphere for ourselves and the unsaved to feel comfortable, yet anything God could possibly require is set on the back burner. I’m not against colored lights. But I do want you to ask yourself a question, could it be that we need to turn the lights off, install colored lights, screens and smoke machines because something is actually missing in our services? We feel so many emotions during the music but a few minutes after it stops the feeling is gone, could it be that the feeling is fleeting because it isn’t the Holy Spirit you feel but simply the same goosebumps you could get being at the concert of your favorite band?
Jesus said that those who worship the Father must worship Him and Spirit and in truth. If all you could sing was the book of Psalms and that gives you a feeling of let down or church won’t be that good, it’s a sign that we’ve made worship about us and not God.
“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’”
Isaiah 41:10 NKJV
Be not dismayed
Fret not thyself because of evildoers
Consider not the deadness of Sarah’s womb.
And the list could go on. We’re all familiar with how many times the phrase fear not is used in Scripture, yet it’s even more impactful to think of the other fill in the blank not phrases we find.
These could be seen as negative commands because we’re being told not to do something but in reality they are positive.
As you go throughout your day keep this in mind; if God says fear not, don’t try to not fear, rest in the fact that because God is with you, you have nothing to fear. When Psalms says fret not thyself because of evildoers remember that they may think they are getting away with something but in the end they will face judgement. Romans chapter four reminds us of the faith of Abraham, that he considered not his own body or the deadness of Sarah’s womb.
The “not” commands in Scripture are a reminder to trust in God. No matter what things look like, God is God and He will accomplish His purpose. Rest in that as you face trials, difficulties and uncertainties.
“I will praise You, O Lord , with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works.”
Psalm 9:1 NKJV
Praise. To celebrate, glory, to boast (in God), and give thanks (Vine’s Expository Dictionary). Praise has such a depth of meaning to it and to praise God with our whole heart has to mean more than simply singing on Sunday morning.
Boast in God, tell of what He has done. It is interesting that before Stephen was stoned he basically summarized the entire Old Testament and the ministry of Jesus. Moses continually rehearsed the works of God. To boast in God is to remember who God is and what He has done.
Celebrate and give thanks for who He is and what He has done every day. Think about His sovereignty, how He watches over you. Rejoice in the God of your salvation.
If you read five Psalms a day you can read through the entire book each month. What a way to increase your praise life. When you face difficulty, praise. When you’re in a panic, pray and praise. Let the Psalms be a reminder of God’s sovereignty and let them guide your praise.
“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
Acts 2:42 NKJV
If there is a verse that can sum up the activity of the Church it is Acts 2:42. Doctrine, fellowship, communion, and prayer.
To continue steadfastly means to hold earnestly, to look fixedly, and to be established.
The early Christians, the first century church knew what they were about, the great commission. They knew why they gathered; to be taught the Scriptures, to fellowship, to partake in communion together and to pray.
We often talk about returning to the book of Acts, this is where it starts. We must emphasize sound doctrine again, fellowship, share in communion and pray together. We often hear that prayer meetings are the least attended services, that should not be so.
Take time this afternoon to think about these four areas and how your local church emphasizes them. Look at your structure and emphasis compared to what Acts 2:42 says. Are we the church according to Scripture?
“This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.” II John 1:6 NKJV
We talk about God’s love often and that is good but there is another area of love to focus on as well, our love for God. God’s love for us is full of grace and mercy, our love for Him is demonstrated by our obedience.
In His last moments with the disciples Jesus talked much about love. Let’s look at some of what He said.
John 14:15 NKJV “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”
John 14:23-24 NKJV “Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.”
John 15:10, 14 NKJV “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.”
As Jesus spoke of the love He would soon demonstrate, He also explained what their love would look like. As we receive His love for us, let us be mindful of loving Him as well.
“He who deals wisely and heeds [God’s] word and counsel shall find good, and whoever leans on, trusts in, and is confident in the Lord–happy, blessed, and fortunate is he. The wise in heart are called prudent, understanding, and knowing, and winsome speech increases learning [in both speaker and listener].”
Proverbs 16:20-21 AMPC
Any and all true wisdom we have originates with God and specifically comes from His Word. The book of Proverbs is considered a book of wisdom but the Proverbs don’t actually start until chapter ten. Prior to all the Proverbs you’ll notice how much the Scripture is emphasized. That’s actually one of the things that I love about Scripture, God constantly talks about the Bible in the Bible.
Proverbs 1:7 says, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” How do we know and walk in that fear (meaning reverence and awe)? By knowing Him, by knowing the Scripture.
If we want wisdom, we need to realize it won’t come from natural thinking but the Word of God. Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”
If you will take some time today and read every verse with the Word wisdom in it in the book of Proverbs you may be pleasantly surprised to see what wisdom is, how it is attained and what it produces. People who are involved in the stock market watch news, listen to tips and want help to make better decisions. Many jobs have continuing education training. These are ways of gaining wisdom. What wisdom can be found in the Word of God? What insight and understanding could we gain if we looked to the Scriptures for wisdom?
Proverbs 4:5-7 NKJV “Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you. Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.”
The anointing. It’s a phrase I heard a lot growing up. So and so ministers under such a great anointing, the anointing is in this place, the presence is in this place. So many phrases, so many buzzwords but what do these things mean? Presence, anointing, power?
I’m sure by now most have heard about the Ravi Zacharias scandal, the firing of Carl Lentz from Hillsong and the “weariness of ministry” getting to Perry Stone. What in the world is going on here!? Isn’t “the anointing” supposed to protect these guys. Let’s be honest, in the case of Ravi, there was no anointing present, his ministry was a sham and as far as we know he denied allegations up till his death. I pray for his victims, his family and those who worked for the ministry who were manipulated into believing the lie that he was a good man.
I have no desire to talk about these three men but to deal with underlying issues. I am thirty two years old and I have been charismatic most of my Christian walk. After having walked away from all of it I really began to examine things. Most of the leaders in the early movement and even many leaders today struggle with habitual sin. We can’t say but David because David repented and never committed adultery again. Read Psalm 51 and see the heart of repentance. David also lost the child birthed through Bathsheba.
Many leaders in the church today excuse sin. Holiness isn’t preached, practiced or expected. We have replaced pastors with wannabe celebrities, worship with concerts and sacraments with with sycophants. Young guys like me are conditioned to want to build a mega church, we’re encouraged to look up to a well known minister instead of our local pastor. It’s a crowd these days not a congregation. I’m ranting a bit but here’s where I’m going, what I thought was the anointing, it turns out most of the time it was just a guys ability to draw a crowd. If these guys truly had an anointing or a close walk with God, especially those in the charismatic and prophetic circles who are always going to heaven, there wouldn’t be adultery, drunkeness, etc. If you truly walk that close with God, there would be holiness of heart and life.
Oh that we would hear holiness preached again. We must reject the lie that holiness is legalism. We must reject the notion that God “understands our struggle”, no, call your struggle with lust what it is, sin. Call your drinking “problem” what it is, sin. Start using the word sin again. Call people to repentance. If you’re going to a church where you don’t hear about sin, repentance, salvation, holiness, sanctification and growth in godliness – get out and find a biblical church.
It’s time to ditch celebrity pastors, motivational talks, light shows and the idea that the Bible is about us. Why are we seeing all these scandals? Because wolves masquerade as shepherds and true shepherds have bought the church growth lie that we need to bring in the goats. It’s time for the church to be the church. Sing songs to God instead of songs about us. Preach the Bible, not your experience. Christian, study the Bible. Don’t be spoon fed by someone not even giving you the Scriptures. Look for a true pastor; a shepherd who preaches and teaches the Scripture. Someone you can actually know. Multi campus may be popular but we don’t have a biblical model for that and the Paul argument doesn’t work, he set pastors in place at every church he started. I know we make fun of the old school stuff these days; hymns, verse by verse preaching, no lights and pot lucks. Yes, every generation had its issues but as I look at the state of leadership in the church today, I think we’re here because we’ve abandoned our true mission. Oh, we say we exist to love God and love people but we aren’t by and large making disciples, we’re growing our churches brand, pastors are networking so they can turn their church into their ministry. It becomes less about the local congregation and more about the people online you don’t know. Instead of building your brand, build the Kingdom for real. Don’t “plant campuses” in other states. Send Pastors to start churches and take your hands off.
As a young guy, I confess, I wanted a mega church. I wanted to be the next guy to make a huge impact. Now, that just makes me sick. Don’t get me wrong, you can have a large church and not become a commercialized commodity. But to do that you have to stay focused on the text, know that God has given you a local congregation and if God chooses to bless you with more than that, let others handle it and continue being a pastor. As I look at things and I think back on what I’ve seen and what I used to want to be, I simply pray that by God’s grace I would remain humble. I’ve asked for my desires to change. I’ve known for years I was called to be a pastor, now I want that – for real. A local church where I know my congregation and they know me. I want to be a shepherd, not a hireling. I don’t want to always be looking for the next rung on the ladder or a bigger church. I’ve always desired that my first church be my only church. That I believe is right, I went wrong when I wanted to emulate the modern celebrity pastor culture that is glorified in much of the charismatic, prophetic, and evangelical movements of today.
“For You are my rock and my fortress; Therefore, for Your name’s sake, Lead me and guide me.”
Psalm 31:3 NKJV
When Jesus asked the disciples who do men say that I am, they responded some say Elijah, some say John the Baptist. But when He asked, who do you say I am? Peter responded, You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus said on this rock I will build My church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
The rock wasn’t Peter, but the revelation that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
Ephesians 2:19-22 NKJV “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”
Jesus is the cornerstone built on the foundation of the apostles (New Testament) and prophets (Old Testament). Throughout the Psalms God is referred to as our rock. The fact that Jesus is the son of God is the rock the church is built on. When you build your house on the rock, the rains come and the waves crash in but the house still stands.
Build your life on the rock, Jesus Christ and you will be able to withstand anything that comes.