Tuesday, May 22, 2012

AMIDST OPPOSITION

Acts 12:1, “Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church, in order to mistreat them.”

Acts 13:49, “And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region.”

The exciting message of the book of Acts is not just how the gospel spread but that is spread despite intense opposition. This opposition was ongoing and pervasive and was directed towards the church in various ways. But the gospel spread nonetheless. God’s work done God’s way for God’s glory will always be met with opposition, but God is greater and He has His own ways of supporting and encouraging His children. Take courage, believer, “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one,” but “whatever is born of God overcomes the world” (1 John 5:19, 4).

There are those who seek to DESTROY the church. Saul himself had been amongst them: “For you heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure, and tried to destroy it” (Galatians 1:13). Herod the king was too: “Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church, in order to mistreat them” (Acts 12:1). He had “James the brother of John put to death” (Acts 12:2). He put Peter in prison (Acts 12:4). But Peter was set free from an angel of the Lord (Acts 12:7f). God dealt with Herod (Acts 12:23). And “the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied” (Acts 12:24).

There are those who DESERT the ministry. God called Barnabas and Saul to go forth from Antioch to preach the gospel (Acts 13:1-3). They took along John (Mark) as their helper (Acts 13:5). We are not given the reason why, but later he deserted them (Acts 13:13). The situation so grieved Paul that he refused, on a subsequent journey, to take Mark along (Acts 15:37-38). The desertion of a fellow soldier is a discouraging thing to those who remain to fight the conflict. Every servant of the gospel knows of such instances. But God is able to strengthen and restore His children. Mark was likewise restored and later proved himself useful for service (2 Timothy 4:11).

There are those who work to DISTORT the message. Paul and Barnabas made their way to Paphos (Acts 13:6). They found there a magician, Elymas, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, who sought to hear the word of God (Acts 13:7). While Paul and Barnabas were sharing with the proconsul, Elymas was working to “turn the proconsul away from the faith” (Acts 13:8). Paul understood him to be “full of all deceit and fraud,” working “to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord” (Acts 13:10). For every action there is a reaction. The preaching of the true gospel is met with enemy opposition. The evil one is at work to undermine and distort and keep blinded the eyes of the unbelieving. Many distorted gospels are widely taught and are readily accepted in our day (Cf. Galatians 1:6-8; 2 Corinthians 11:4). God used Paul to blind Elymas (Acts 13:11). “The proconsul believed when he saw what had happened, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord” (Acts 13:12).

There are those who work to DISTURB the hearers. Paul and Barnabas made their way to Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:13) and preached the gospel on a Sabbath day in a synagogue (Acts 13:14-41). “As Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath” (Acts 13:42). “The next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of God” (Acts 13:44). But the enemy was at work. “The Jews saw the crowds” and “they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul” (Acts 13:45). But Paul and Barnabas turned to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46). The Gentiles heard the message of salvation and rejoiced and “as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:47-48). But the disturbing and distorting efforts of the Adversary did not stop. “The Jews aroused the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district” (Acts 13:50). So Paul and Barnabas “shook off their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium” (Acts 13:51). In Iconium “a great multitude believed” (Acts 14:1).

The early church flourished in spite of such things. And the true gospel is met with similar opposing forces today. Any proclamation of the true gospel, be it from a pulpit, a Sunday School class, at a VBS, with a friend or neighbor, or via missionary endeavor, will be met with opposition. Such is the clear teaching of Scripture and the reliable testimony throughout church history. A gospel that does not incite opposition is likely not the true gospel at all. The devil is well-pleased with contrary gospels that diminish Christ and His work and entertain the notion of salvation by human effort. The gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Christ and His finished work—that’s a different matter. It is this gospel--the glorious gospel and the power of God unto salvation--that the devil hates. It stirs up trouble. It did exactly that throughout Paul’s ministry. He preached the gospel and riots broke out. Persecution intensified. Trouble came. But he fought the good fight of faith and was not deterred. His counsel to his “beloved son,” Timothy serves as a great encouragement to us: “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me His prisoner; but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:8).

Don’t be surprised by opposition! It is standard fare for those who endeavor to speak God’s truth (2 Timothy 3:12). Remember that the God who raised Christ from the dead is at work to guide, strengthen and provide for His children in the midst of it (Cf. Ephesians 1:19-21). Paul and Barnabas were fiercely opposed, but “the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region” (Acts 13:49). People heard the message and were saved.

Pastor Jerry


Friday, May 18, 2012

DIVINELY DIRECTED

  • Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
  • Acts 10:22, “And they said, ‘Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous and God-fearing man well spoken of by the entire nation of the Jews, was divinely directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and hear a message from you.”
  • Acts 11:18, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.”

Peter had a message to share. Cornelius had a need to hear the message. The challenge was bringing the two together. God sovereignly and miraculously did just that.

Approximately seven years had passed since Jesus’ commission to the Apostles to be His witnesses “even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). But it did not go forth from Jerusalem until persecution scattered believers “throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:1). Even then there was no apparent attempt by the Apostles to take the message to the Gentiles. The gospel outreach to the remotest part of the earth was apparently of remote concern (with the exception of Philip’s outreach to the Ethiopian eunuch and the Mediterranean coast—Acts 8:40).

The problem was that there were longstanding religious traditions and prejudice that stood in the way. It was unlawful for “a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him” (Acts 10:28). It was unlawful for a Jew to eat with Gentiles (Acts 11:3).

In NT times the Jews had little regard for the Gentiles. So strong was their animosity that a common Jewish prayer went something like this, “God thank you that I was not born a woman or a Gentile.” There were a number of Jewish laws the prohibited contact with Gentiles. The very dust of heathen countries was unclean, and it defiled by contact. It was not permissible to enter a Gentile’s home. It was not permissible to converse with Gentiles. A Jewish woman was not permitted to help a Gentile woman, even when she was about to become a new mother. A Jew was not allowed to drink milk drawn from a cow by a Gentile’s hands or eat bread prepared by a Gentile. If a Gentile was invited into a Jewish home he was not to be left alone, lest every article of food and drink be henceforth regarded as unclean. If cooking utensils were bought from them, they had to be purified by fire or by water. It was not lawful to rent a house or field to a Gentile, or to sell cattle to them. The animosity by the Jews towards the Gentiles (and vice versa) was pervasive. It impacted every aspect of life. It was possible for a Gentile to be proselytized to Judaism, but as a matter of course, it rarely happened. Gentile converts were rarely treated fairly. They were commonly looked on with suspicion. There was little desire or effort to see Gentiles converted.

The Apostles had been Jonah-like in their outreach efforts. God would have to intervene if the gospel were to be taken to the Gentiles. And of course, Christ’s sacrifice had already worked to include them. From the cross He declared “It is finished.” The veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. He “broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity” (Ephesians 2:14-15). But the benefits and consequence of His work had not yet borne fruit in this sense. Religious traditions and prejudice kept the gospel message bound up in Jerusalem. God worked though Peter and Cornelius to set it free.

Cornelius was Spirit-prepared to hear the message. He lived up the degree of revelation he had received. And angel of God appeared to him. He instructed him to “dispatch some men to Joppa, and send for a man named Simon” (Acts 10:5). And so he sent them on their way.

The next day, as they were on their way, Peter went up on the housetop to pray. Being hungry, while others were preparing food, he fell into a trance. He was given a vision (Acts 10:10-15). Three times (Peter experienced many things 3X) a sheet was let down from heaven. It was filled with creatures of various kinds. He was instructed to “kill and eat.” Peter refused recognizing the creatures to be “unclean.” A voice came to him, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy,” it said (Acts 10:15). But the vision had to do with much more than just food. While Peter was perplexed and considering the meaning of it all, the men sent by Cornelius arrived. They spoke to Peter. He went away with them to Caesarea (accompanied by some others from Joppa). Peter and Cornelius then met. They explained to each other how God had sovereignly worked to bring them together.

Peter shared the gospel with Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:34-43). “While Peter was speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message” (Acts 10:44). The seed of the gospel message fell on the fruitful soil of well-prepared hearts! What a joyous day! What a wonderful scene that must have been. Circumcised believers had accompanied Peter. They were there with him. They were “amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also” (Acts 10:45). They would have never expected it. They were unprepared for it. In an instant the gospel message worked to tear down century old barriers.

The news of that event spread. The apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard of it. Peter went to Jerusalem and those who were circumcised took issue with him. Peter carefully explained to them all that had transpired. He knew that the news would be both hard to believe and to accept. They heard Peter’s explanation and declared; “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18). It wasn’t long afterwards that men of Cyprus and Cyrene “began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus” (Acts 11:20). The hand of the Lord was with them and “a large number…believed” (Acts 11:21).

The good news of the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). It had the power to save a Christian murderer like Paul. It had the power to break through strong prejudicial boundaries to bring salvation to those who were thought to be “unsavable.” It spread from that day forth to faraway places. It has been taken since to the four corners of the earth. One day a great multitude, people from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation,” will be gathered in heaven and will sing a new song of praise to the Lamb who is worthy” (Revelation 5:9). We will praise Him. “In Christ Jesus (we) who were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13).

Praise God, brethren, inasmuch as He has made the good news known to you. It was a wonderful day indeed when your Spirit-prepared heart heard that message! But long before that day God divinely directed a man with a message, Peter, to meet a man who needed to hear, Cornelius. The gospel has been spreading throughout the globe, by divine appointment, ever since. God has some divine appointments in store for you. He has given you a message. There are those who need to hear.

Pastor Jerry

RADICALLY TRANSFORMED

Acts 9:1-2, “Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, when to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.”

1 Corinthians 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am.”

I love to read Christian biographies and especially about how God intervened in the life of a man or woman to save them. Conversion stories are my favorites. There is typically much variety as to the particulars, but some things remain consistent to all of them. There is a life before conversion, the conversion experience itself, and the transformation that follows. Sometimes the transformation is radical and profound—such was the case with Saul.

The church has known no greater missionary than the Apostle Paul. Countless souls were saved and churches established as a result of his missionary endeavors. He authored more books of the Bible than any other man (all inspired by God of course). He was a man of profound theology and was privileged to be given a foretaste of heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2-4). He suffered willingly and ongoingly for the gospel message he was compelled to preach (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). But he rejoiced in his sufferings as he understood their contribution to his life purpose--to know Christ better (Philippians 3:10). His life was devoted to ministry (Philippians 1:21-24, 2:17). He fought the good fight and finished the course (2 Timothy 4:7). He has left to us an example worth emulating (Philippians 3:17).

It is amazing to reconsider who Paul was. I remember the first time I read through the account of his conversion (when I was first Spirit-enabled to understand it). I was amazed that God could save such a man. Several passages in Scripture give Paul’s testimony. Collectively they speak to his radical depravity (something that is true of all of us by nature but not always so obvious; Cf. Ephesians 2:1-3; Colossians 1:21).

  • Acts 9:1-2, “(He) was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.”
  • Acts 22:4, “And I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women in prison.”
  • Acts 26:9-11, “So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death to cast my vote against them. And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.”
  • Galatians 1:13, “For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure, and tried to destroy it.”
  • 1 Timothy 1:13, “Even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor.”

Saul was not in any way seeking after Christ. He was engaged in his murderous activities at the time of his conversion. He would have undoubtedly been voted “least likely to be saved,” had any such vote been taken. So repelling was his reputation that God had to convince Ananias to go to him after Saul’s conversion (Acts 9:10-14). It was to such a man that Christ appeared.

How are we to account for his salvation? Obviously there was no Pauline contribution to it--no goodness of heart or work of his own which led up to it. He was headed in the wrong direction when God turned him around. Years later Paul himself explained that which transpired—“And yet I was shown mercy, because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 1:13a-14). By what means was Saul saved? By the love, grace, and mercy which are found in Christ Jesus. Mercy is God not giving to us what we deserve. Grace is God giving to us what we don’t deserve. We deserve judgment. Through Christ we are granted salvation and unfathomable riches. The distance between what we deserved and what we have received is infinite and speaks to the “more than abundant” grace that is found in Christ. That is what Paul experienced in salvation.

1 Timothy 1:11-17 is Paul’s glorious testimony to God’s saving work. The “bookends” of the passage speak to the glorious nature of the gospel of the blessed God (1 Timothy 1:11 & 17). In between these two verses we have Paul’s own testimony. The testimony leads to a “trustworthy statement”: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). Paul appeals to his own testimony as evidence of the veracity of this wonderful truth—“Among whom I am foremost of all” (1 Timothy 1:15b). And then Paul gives the reason why he was shown mercy: “And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:16). In other words—if Jesus Christ could save me (the foremost of sinners), He can save anyone. His ability to pardon exceeds our ability to comprehend (Isaiah 55:6-9).

What a glorious and radical transformation! It speaks to the abundant nature of God’s amazing grace. It reminds us of Jesus’ ability to “save to the uttermost” those who draw near to God through Him (Hebrews 7:25). Paul was always speaking of God’s grace. And his proclamation of the gospel was not theoretical; it was rooted in his own person experience. “He loved me and delivered Himself up for me” was his testimony (Galatians 2:20). He was saved by grace and it was salvation by grace he declared (Ephesians 2:8-9). “By the grace of God I am what I am,” he said (1 Corinthians 15:10). By God’s grace he was saved and radically transformed.

Pastor Jerry

Friday, May 11, 2012

SERVANT READY

Acts 6:3, “But select from among you, brethren, seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of the task.”

The early church was characterized by its eagerness to show loving concern for the needs of others (Acts 2:44-45, 4:34-35). The church cared for widows by providing meals for them. In this matter “a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food” (Acts 6:1). The twelve Apostles were overwhelmed by their many responsibilities, so they purposed to delegate the task of serving meals to other well qualified men. “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables,” they explained (Acts 6:3).

They brought the matter to the congregation and said, “Select from among you, brethren, seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of the task” (Acts 6:3). The na├»ve might suppose the qualifications to be too demanding for such a menial task, but that would be a wrong assumption. Left unresolved the complaints of the Hellenistic Jews would ultimately work against unity—therefore undermining the well-being and growth of the church. It was a task that demanded well-qualified, Spirit-led men.

These “prototypical deacons” were to be men of “good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3). The term “reputation” translates the verb form of the Greek “martureo,” (i.e. witness). They were to be people that were maintaining a good and credible “witness” before others. The same term is used (in its noun form) in referring to the qualifications of an elder (1 Timothy 3:7, “He must have a good reputation with those outside the church”). The men chosen for the task were to be men that others could vouch for.

The men to be selected were to be “full of the Spirit and of wisdom.” They were to be “full of the Spirit.” We are commanded to be “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). The Spirit’s presence is revealed in glorious Christ-like virtues (Galatians 5:22-23), of which Christ-like, sacrificial love, is the main component (Cf. Galatians 5:22; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7). The “full of the Spirit” person is distinguished by his love for Jesus and love for others. His heart overflows with worship (Ephesians 5:19). To be full of the Spirit is to be full of wisdom. The Spirit imparts wisdom, that practical knowledge which equips a person to make wise decisions.

The congregation was given the task of selecting seven men, and apparently they had little difficulty in doing so. They chose “Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch” (Acts 6:5). We are given no other information-- in the immediate context—regarding their backgrounds, resumes, or accomplishments. They were apparently not chosen because of their connections, popularity, or business acumen. It was enough that they were of good reputation and filled with the Spirit.

Stephen fulfilled that role and others. He was not only “full of the Spirit and of wisdom,” (Acts 6:3) he was “full of faith” (Acts 6:5) and “full of grace and power” (Acts 6:8). He was so full of the Spirit’s presence that he overflowed. He “was performing great wonders and signs among the people” (Acts 6:8). That later proved problematic for him. But that’s another chapter.

What lesson can we garner from this episode in church history? An effective servant is not so because of his own qualifications or ability, but his availability to be used by the Spirit of God. Stephen was “full of it” in the positive sense. Being full of the Spirit he was well-qualified to serve in various ways. He was open to the Spirit’s leading and empowered to do things that he could have never done otherwise. “To be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18; Colossians 3:16) is of preeminent relevance to the would-be servant of Christ. By this means alone are we made “servant ready” to do whatever God calls upon us to do.

Pastor Jerry

Friday, May 4, 2012

ACTS 29

Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

Today we embark on a wonderful journey through a precious portion of God’s inspired Word. The Book of Acts is entitled, “The Acts of the Apostles.” The book could most properly be called “The Act of the Holy Spirit,” for it is He who empowered and strengthened the church in its growth and expansion.

Acts 1:8 is a key verse in the book. Jesus’ parting words to His disciples serve both as an overview and outline of that which takes place in the book. The “Acts of the Holy Spirit” continue to this day (Acts 29). The mandate given by the Lord Jesus on that day still stands. Christ’s witnesses still proclaim His message. They do so by the sufficient means He has provided in the indwelling of the person of the Holy Spirit.

It is good for us to re-consider the straightforward instructions of the Lord Jesus regarding our witnessing efforts. There is much confusion in our day. Perhaps a re-write of Acts 1:8 might be helpful. Here goes: “You are strong, and wise, and powerful in yourselves. I want you to look to church growth experts, establish many programs, and carefully choose your music. Do whatever it takes to make Me and My message attractive to folks. I’ll leave these matters up to you. But make sure you do your best. I’m depending on you. You can do it. I know that a lot of folks are not going to accept the message I’ve given to you. I know, I know—the message of the cross is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. Do whatever it takes to make the message more palatable. Dress it up with promises of health, wealth, and prosperity. If need be—don’t talk about sin—it only makes people uncomfortable. Add some degree of human works and efforts to the message—people like that. By all means be culturally relevant—that should help. And don’t expect too much success. But that’s okay.”

I don’t know about you but I much prefer the inspired version! It is a simple formula that Christ has given to us. A Mandate > The Means > A Message. What is the mandate? “Be My witnesses.” The noun form of Greek term translated “witnesses,” is “martur,” from which we get the English, “martyr.” It means “one who can or does aver what he has seen or heard or knows.” The verb means simply “to bear witness to.” The disciples were eye-witnesses to Christ’s resurrection (Cf. Acts 1:22). We have not seen that (His resurrection), but we are witnesses to His work in our lives. Every born-again believer in Christ has experienced the reality of the saving and transforming influence of the Risen Christ. He is therefore a witness, personally, to Christ’s power to save. The mandate given to the disciples applies to all of us. We are to be His witnesses. We need to start close to home. And work from there to wherever God might sovereignly lead us (Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the remotest parts of the earth). The concept of witnessing is really quite simple, share with others what God has made known to you.

He has not left us powerless in the task. And it would be foolhardy to attempt it in our own strength. “’Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). Jesus promised “that (they) would receive power.” That power came to them by the Spirit. He would empower them to do that which they could never otherwise do. Peter is a great example of the Spirit’s ability to empower a witness. Before Jesus’ sufferings and death, Peter had boldly declared his unwavering commitment to stand by Jesus. But then he denied Him. He failed as a witness. He denied Jesus not once but three times. He denied Him, not before leaders or soldiers, but before bystanders and slave-girls. “I do not know the man,” he said (Matthew 26:72). That was Peter’s experience when he depended on his own strength. Note the transformation the Spirit made in Peter’s life (Acts 2:4). Empowered by the Spirit He spoke boldly of the death and resurrection of Christ to a crowd of thousands (Acts 2:14-41). Later, when threatened by the religious leaders, he responded, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen or heard (Acts 4:20).” It was by the Spirit that “with great power the apostles were giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 4:33; Cf. Acts 4:31). We are to witness by our walk and our words (Colossians 4:5-6). We can do neither apart from the Spirit’s instruction, leading, and empowerment. Every born-again believer is indwelt by the Spirit of God, to be filled with Him is to be equipped and empowered as a witness of Christ.

The mandate and the means are directed towards the declaration of a message. As those “sent-forth,” the Apostles taught many truths (Cf. Acts 2:42; 6:4). But preeminent in what they declared was the message of Christ’s death and resurrection. They were His witnesses, declaring the message of His work. Time and time again this is the repeated truth that they declared—“Christ died and rose again” (Acts 2:23-24; 3:15; 4:10; 4:10; 4:33; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30, etc.). This message is, in fact, the gospel message, the good news (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). It is the “glorious gospel of the blessed God” (1 Timothy 1:11). It is powerful to save (Romans 1:16). It is the good news, of which, we are to be not ashamed (Romans 1:16). Some consider it to be “foolishness,” but we see it for what it truly is—“the power of God and wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24). Others distort it (Galatians 1:7-8; 2 Corinthians 11:4); we are to defend it at all costs. The good news of salvation by grace through faith in Christ is the message by which we have saved, it is the message given to us to declare. It is a glorious, powerful, and life-changing truth. The proclamation of the gospel was preeminent in the ministry of the Apostle Paul: “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”

No mandate under heaven is more important than the mandate that has been given to us. No means of accomplishment for any task can measure up to the provision that has been made for us in the person of the indwelling Spirit. No message can rival the glorious and powerful good news in its ability to save and transform. What happened in the book of Acts? The Spirit, working through the Apostles and the church, unleashed the message of the gospel—it spread throughout the land, from Jerusalem, to Judea and Samaria, and ultimately to the remotest part of the earth. It did so in the midst of opposition and despite persecution. It kept on spreading and ultimately reached you. And you were saved. And you’ve been given a mandate. The same one. The Acts of the Holy Spirit continue to this day. The mandate still applies. The means is still available. The message is still powerful to save. And God is still saving souls. He privileges us to be a part of it. He works not according to our ability, but our availability and willingness to depend on His provision. “You shall be My witnesses,” He said (Acts 1:8).

Pastor Jerry