Monday, April 14, 2014

Both Lord and Christ

 Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.
“For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself:
‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”’
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:33-36)

As Peter prepares to wrap up his first sermon, he again looks to David to confirm the identity of Jesus. Sitting at the right hand of God, Jesus is both Lord and Christ - the Anointed One. This passage from the Psalms (Psalm 110) is a recognition of the Messiah's sovereignty. It stands out as a reminder -- both to the Jews of Peter's day and the Christians of ours -- that God's chosen does things as He sees fit, whether those actions conform to our own ideas or not. 

Remember, Israelites longed for a political Savior to free them from the tyranny of Rome. In bringing up Psalm 110, Peter was letting them know -- perhaps reminding them -- that God is at work on a much grander scale. 

The passage serves to remind us, too, that though He is our personal savior, Jesus is so much more. He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother... but He is also King. He is the Christ, but He is also Lord. We who say we serve Christ would do well to remember that. This isn't simply a happy-go-lucky, skipping hand-in-hand friendship with Jesus. This Christianity is nothing less than service to the King of Kings.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Jesus and David: A Tale of Two Tombs

For David says concerning Him:
‘I foresaw the Lord always before my face,
For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.
Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad;
Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope.
For You will not leave my soul in Hades,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
You have made known to me the ways of life;
You will make me full of joy in Your presence.’
“Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. (Acts 2:25-32)

In his message to the people on the day of Pentecost, Peter quotes from Psalm 16. He then uses these words to do a little teaching. In Peter's statement, we learn that, in some of David's psalms, the poet wasn't always speaking of himself, but was in fact prophesying. Such is the case here, in which David declares, "You will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption." As Peter points out, David is dead, and his body long since rotted away. 

God liked David a whole lot, even calling him a man after his own heart. Yet even David was not above corruption and sin. Even David was subject to sickness and, ultimately, death. 

But Jesus is the Lord over life and death. His resurrection is the sign of that Lordship. Unlike us, who are beholden to death, our Messiah is death's master. It answers to Him. And because our Savior is Lord over even death, He is able to free us from its bonds as well. 

This, indeed, is our hope: that in Christ, we are not subject to death forever, but can be given new life. Our hope is for nothing so paltry as life in this temporary world, but an Eternity in the sight of a loving, living God.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Jesus, in 100 Words or Less

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;  whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it." (Acts 2:22-24)

On the day of Pentecost, Peter began his message by reminding his listeners of the words of the prophet Joel. His next step was to put the events of the past three years in perspective. As he stood in front of this crowd -- many of whom had reveled in the death of the rabble-rouser Jesus -- he reminded them of those things they had happily ignored. Things like the signs, wonders and miracles He performed in front of them. Clear, obvious proofs they had wanted, for political reasons, to pretend didn't exist. He reminded them of their own actions, just over a month before, to have this miracle-worker executed -- and then hit them with the Truth: that even in their wickedness they had performed God's will. And then, as further proof of what they had done, to whom they had done it, to the ultimate identity of Jesus, he presented the Resurrection. 

Many of those listening knew full well about the resurrection, whether or not they wanted to admit it to themselves. Indeed, the Jewish elders had taken part in bribing the guards at Jesus' tomb to conceal the truth. In bringing this to light, Peter was presenting a prelude to the Good News he was about to share. A summary of what he was going to tell them, by explaining exactly who Jesus was in just a few words.

But these words weren't meant only for the ears of those who were present; they're for us, too. In Peter's brief statement, we are given a clear vision of Jesus' identity; of who He is to us. He is a man, attested by God, a performer of miracles and wonders. A man who was killed by our lawlessness, but who had -- and has -- the power to defeat death, not only for Himself, but for all of us. And that, in 100 words or less, is the Gospel. We were dead and lawless. But by His death and resurrection, we are freed from both death and sin.


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Visions and Dreams

But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.
And on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy.
I will show wonders in heaven above
And signs in the earth beneath:
Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.
The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.
And it shall come to pass
That whoever calls on the name of the Lord
Shall be saved. (Acts 2:14-21)

When he and the other disciples are accused of drunkenness because of their behavior on Pentecost, Peter looks to the words of Joel as a way of explaining the workings of God in their lives. I believe this served several purposes for the newly Spirit-filled preacher. 

First, it showed the unbound power of God. It was as though Peter was saying, "You think this is something? Just wait." Many of those in the crowd -- the religious Jews -- knew by heart the words Peter was saying. They knew that, when the day of the Lord came, their young men would see visions, and their old dream dreams. They knew the servants of the Lord would prophesy.

And this is the second thing Peter hoped to accomplish: identifying himself and the Disciples as servants of the Lord. And finally, Peter was letting those who heard him know they had entered a new age; that the Lord, Christ, the Messiah, had indeed been on earth. That His Kingdom is coming. That His work is being accomplished.

This can serve as a reminder to all of us that He is returning. We don't know when, but we know He is, and that He is coming in victory. And we know that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Accused of Drunkenness

And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?”

Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.” (Acts 2:5-13)

A friend of mine recently observed, "maybe the problem with Christians is that nobody accuses us of being drunk anymore."

When I was younger, I believed the mockers thought these believers were drunk because they were speaking in other languages. Now that I'm older, I know that couldn't have been the case, because we are told everyone heard it in his own language. My conclusion, then, is that this criticism was more directly related to the message these disciples were speaking, and the boldness with which they proclaimed it. Indeed, Peter's message to the crowd in the verses that follow bear this out.

It simply wasn't normal for a bunch of people to start proclaiming Good News to everyone who would listen. To begin talking about a Messiah as though He had already been among them (most Jews, after all, were still waiting for Him). It wasn't normal for people to be so fervent, so passionate, that all who heard them should be saved. 

Come to think of it, it's not normal now. Even among the Church. But back then, it was unprecedented. So much so that the boldness of these few people caused this new religion to spread like wildfire. Here we are, 2000 years later, and nearly everyone on the planet has at least heard the name "Jesus." 

Imagine the possibilities if His church now were to carry His message with the same boldness as they did back then. If each of us were to follow the example of Peter and speak the truth with confidence, uncaring of any consequences!

God, that we might be blessed with the boldness and spirit of the early church!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Rushing Mighty Wind

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4)

I've noticed something about the Holy Spirit in Scripture. Whenever you read in the Word that "The Holy Spirit" comes upon somebody, you know something big is about to happen. Often, something world-changing.  

In Numbers 11, Moses needed to make a point. 
So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord, and he gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tabernacle. Then the Lord came down in the cloud, and spoke to him, and took of the Spirit that was upon him, and placed the same upon the seventy elders; and it happened, when the Spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied, although they never did so again. (vs 24-26)
In Judges 3, the Spirit of the Lord comes to the judge Othniel to deliver Israel again. In fact, the entire book of Judges is filled with references to the Spirit empowering men to deliver God's chosen people. 

In Judges 15, we read about Samson:
Then the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him; and the ropes that were on his arms became like flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds broke loose from his hands.  He found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, reached out his hand and took it, and killed a thousand men with it. (vs 14-15)

Samson already had great strength already, but it took the Spirit to put him into action.

In 1 Samuel 10, Saul is annointed with these words (in verse 6): "Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man."

Time and again, throughout Scripture, we read about the Spirit of God -- the Holy Spirit -- empowering man to do God's will. Indeed, it was by the power of the Spirit (Luke 1:35) that Mary conceived the Savior of mankind, Jesus Christ, in the flesh.  

So, we come to Acts 2, and the Spirit coming upon the Disciples in the upper room. For what purpose? As we shall see, for the purpose of accomplishing God's will. The Holy Spirit has a specific mission. This is the testimony of Scripture, in passage after passage: that the work of the Holy Spirit, in each of us, is that we might be empowered to accomplish God's will.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What About That Justus Guy?

“Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”

And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen  to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.”  

And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:21-26).

After the original Apostles cast their lots and determined who would take Judas's place, they chose a man named Matthias. Matthias had much to recommend him, apparently, because from among all the men who accompanied Jesus during his ministry (As you may recall from Luke 10, Jesus had a number of regular followers from whom he also chose to do His work), he was one of only two chosen as a possibility.  Ultimately, he was just as qualified for the role as a man named Joseph (AKA Barsabas), with the surname of Justus. From a human perspective, it really could have gone either way...  but ultimately God chose Matthias. So Matthias accepted a leadership role among the 11 remaining original Apostles, a place of prominence among the growing church.

But what about Joseph, AKA Barsabas, surnamed Justus? We honestly don't know what happened. We do know, because Scripture tells us, that he was a part of the extended circle of Disciples who followed Christ. But after that? After Matthias was chosen over him to replace Judas? We just don't know.

There is a church tradition suggesting he became Bishop of Eleutheropolis, and was ultimately martyred. On the strength of this tradition, he is venerated in the Catholic Church as Saint Justus of Eleutheropolis.

What I don't believe happened, however, is that this Joseph Barsabas walked away from the fledgling church. See, the selection of an office isn't the final word on a person's worth. Barsabas wasn't rejected from the body of Christ; he simply wasn't chosen for a position. He was still a disciple of Christ, still an original member of the church, still a worker for the Kingdom of God.

I like to think -- though we don't know for sure -- that Joseph Barsabas rejoiced with Matthias and the rest of the church after the choice was made, and then got back to work serving God in whatever ways he was needed. God had a plan for Joseph. We may not know now what that plan was, but that doesn't matter. Like so many Christians since, the work of Joseph Barsabas wasn't about him, but about the Kingdom.

Like Barsabas, you are chosen. You have work to do. Maybe you weren't chosen for a prominent role on earth, maybe you were. Remember, this world is temporary; the Kingdom of God is eternal. You are chosen by God to be one of His. And that's the choice that really matters.