Imitate Those Who Inherit the Promises

Hebrews 6

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Do you have any Christians that you look up to? Lately I’ve been learning about a pastor named Tim Keller who has really inspired me. Much of his teaching is sound, and he is a great preacher. He is also incredibly successful at bringing Jesus to new people. He has grown his church in New York City (a rather hostile environment for Christianity) and has helped plant over 700 new churches in 75 cities all over the world through a church planting organization that he founded called Redeemer City to City. This to me is exactly what Jesus wants to see his church doing. When he said, “Go and make disciples of all nations,” he meant it, and this is what it can look like.

If you tried to take Tim Keller, or your local church’s pastor, and teach him about how to baptize, repent or pray for people, you would look silly. These guys have been around the block a time or two and they shouldn’t be relearning these basics of the faith. I think that is what is being said in Hebrews 6. It’s just inappropriate to take the first step of the faith and then keep taking it repeatedly, walking in a circle. Jesus has a mission, and once you have come to believe in him, your next steps should always be towards the fulfillment of that mission. That isn’t to say that these topics shouldn’t be taught, but rather they should be taught as a foundation for a new Christian and other beliefs should be built on top of them. However, strong condemnation is given to those who witness the works of the Holy Spirit and yet fall away from the faith. It says it is impossible to restore again to repentance. It also says that if land bears thorns and thistles then it is worthless and will be burned. Beware of people like this, who have seen the power of God and yet never take the next step, never bear fruit and don’t help further the mission of Christ.

Instead, be an imitator of those who inherit the promises through faith and patience. Imitate people like Jesus, who taught, healed and loved. Imitate people like those Christians whom you look up to. Imitate people who never cease spreading the gospel. These people have seen the promises of God and make every effort to give back to the one who loved them first. God has been making promises to mankind for a long, long time, and his promises are true. We see the promise that he made to Abraham to multiply him, and we see the fulfillment too, albeit long after Abraham may have thought it possible. That’s where patience comes into play. God’s timeline isn’t your timeline, but his promises are true just the same. Continue to imitate Christ in all things, since he is our forerunner, the one who goes out before us. Learn his ways and walk in them. He, after having suffered, entered into the Holy of Holies, the place where God resides, and there he prepares a place for us, too.

-Nathaniel Johnson

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Who has been a great role model for you in displaying faith and patience while waiting for what God has promised?
  2. What can you do today, and this week, to practice showing “diligence to the very end” (vs 11).

Preach It!

2 Timothy 4

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

A few of my children became very skilled at working the system: if I said no to their request, they simply asked Dad! It only took a few incidents for us to catch on, and from then on, my husband spoke an automatic reply: “What did Mommy say?” This, of course, would result in a frowning, drooping head as the child was forced to reveal Mom’s veto. “Then that is my answer too. We are one.”

As humans, we search for permission, validation, and affirmation from numerous sources. If we believe or want justification for (fill in the blank), we can usually find sources to confirm that idea, no matter whether or not the data are manipulated. Usually, we don’t even want to know the other side. 

I’ll never forget sitting in my college classroom as a nervous freshman, disagreeing with the biblical doctrine that was being presented as fact. Having strong beliefs to the contrary, I politely asked the professor a question about his belief that really didn’t make sense to me. Even though I believed his position was not true, I wanted to try to understand how he came to that conclusion. He was very polite in return, and we had a good dialogue as he allowed me to share my beliefs. I hoped that the discussion would spur my classmates to search the scriptures for truth as well, but my new friend behind me basically just said, “I’ve always been taught this, and I don’t really want to be confused with facts.” 

In 2 Timothy 4, Paul urges Timothy to keep on preaching carefully and patiently, always being prepared to correct, rebuke, and encourage. “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” Though people will turn from their faith and seek affirmation of their erroneous beliefs and desires, He reminds Timothy to keep focused on his ministry and push through the challenges. 

I think Paul was aware as he penned this letter that his time in this life was drawing to a close. He pronounced in verse 7: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” What a powerful epitaph! I, too, want to be remembered in this way, don’t you? Paul continues in verse eight the hope that we share as followers of Jesus, awaiting the Kingdom: “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” Keep focused on the goal, my friends. The challenges we face will pale in comparison to the reward waiting for us in the Kingdom. 

Though Paul was left alone many times, deserted by his friends and co-laborers, he did not harbor unforgiveness toward them, nor lose hope. Instead, Paul focused on the positive: “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (verses 17-18) 

May the Lord also stand by you and give you strength as you continue to share in this most important work of the Gospel. 

-Rachel Cain

Reflection Questions: 

Consider your legacy, how you will be remembered, your epitaph. How do you want people to remember you, and what steps do you need to take to create such a legacy? 

What are some things that your “itching ears” want to hear? Are you focusing on the Bible and God’s truth to guide you, or the ways of the world? 

Rapid Spread

2 Thessalonians 3

Sunday, September 4

There is no doubt the last couple years have been in disarray. Mainly because of the Coronavirus. One of, if not the fastest, spreading viruses that has existed in the modern era. Since its unveiling, the world has shut down, economies have crashed, people have died and overall the world has changed. All because of one rapidly spreading disease.

I realized something today as I read the passage for today, 2 Thessalonians 3, if something so negative could change the world so much, why couldn’t something good change it even more. The first verse of 2 Thessalonians 3 reads, “Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you;”

Now you may see where I am going with this illustration. If a disease can be so impactful why would the Gospel not be even more impactful? Since Jesus was revealed to us by God as the Messiah, the world has changed but for the better, and people are finding more life than ever with his message. We have an opportunity to spread the Gospel, and I know that it is way more beneficial to the world than some dumb virus. With the power of God I hope that you will remember to spread the word just as fast if not even faster than any disease that exists. It is ultimately the Gospel that wins in the end.

-Jesse Allen

Application

  1. Even the great evangelistic missionary Paul asked for prayers in spreading the gospel. Who will you ask to be praying for your efforts to spread the gospel? Who will you be praying for?
  2. What value do you put on the gospel message?
  3. What other instructions did Paul leave with the Thessalonians in this chapter?What were they to do with believers who did not follow these directions?

Even in the Face of Strong Opposition

1 Thessalonians 2

Monday, August 29, 2022

Yesterday, we read about how the Thessalonians turned from their idols to serve the one true God.  However, this caused some problems to arise for them.  Those around them still worshiped the idols and chose to persecute them.  But Paul has advice for them on how to continue to stand firm in their faith in the midst of all this opposition.


At the very beginning of the chapter, in the first two verses, Paul explains that they came to witness to the Thessalonians right after they had faced persecution in Philippi.  Paul says that in Philippi they faced much suffering and mistreatment.  He continues to say that in Thessaloniki they continued to face lots of opposition when they worked to spread the gospel.


Many people would have stopped after facing serious persecution in one city.  Many more would have stopped when they saw the opposition against them in the next city.  But Paul and his companions continued to spread the gospel throughout all these hardships.  By telling the Thessalonians about his problems, Paul encourages them by showing that it is possible, when you have God, to stand firm in the faith and to continue doing God’s will.  We should let this also encourage us because we know that Paul, in the midst of all the troubles of this world, continued to be one of the greatest witnesses to the whole world.


Paul continues by describing their attitudes in sharing the gospel, even while they were faced with persecution.  In verse 7, he describes themselves as “gentle among [them], as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.”  Paul, later in verse 12, explains why they acted in that manner.  He says that it was “so that [the Thessalonians] would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls [them] into His own kingdom and glory.”


In the midst of suffering and persecution, many people would have acted in anger against those who were causing this.  However, by doing this you are more likely to drive people away from God than you would be to bring them to Him.  But, when you act as Paul and his companions did, being gentle in the midst of persecution, you become an imitator of God, showing love to those who are your enemies.  Through this love, people will come to know God and walk in the way that God has called them to walk.


While this letter may have been written to the Thessalonians, it doesn’t apply only to them.  We also need to make sure that we are not letting persecution stop us from doing God’s will.  When we continue to do the work that God has called us to do in the midst of opposition, we need to make sure that we do it in the attitude of love and gentleness.

-Kaitlyn Hamilton

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What encouragement do you gain from hearing Paul’s testimony?
  2. Can you think of a time you faced opposition while spreading the gospel? Did it stop you – or did you continue, with God’s help? If you can’t think of a time you were spreading the gospel – how can you start now?
  3. Paul says, “We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4 NIV). Can you say the same? Are there any areas where you slip into people pleasing mode rather than concentrating on what God wants to see from you? How does this relate to spreading the gospel?

Eternal Perspective

Philippians 1

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Philippians 1:10 – For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.

Perspective is everything. As a junior high school science teacher, I got to teach students about galaxies within the universe and molecules and atoms; from the macro to the micro and everything in between. And what we learned is that depending on your perspective, your observations and conclusions may vary. 

It’s very easy (at least for me) to get wrapped up in the business of each day. Which means I sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture. What I appreciate about this specific letter from Paul to the church in Philippi, is that it’s a wonderful reminder to keep the most important things at the forefront of our thinking at all times. 

When we view life with an eternal perspective, instead of a right here, right now point of view, we are able to consider what really matters. Life becomes less about grabbing drive through dinner after a long day of work and more about being pleasant to the fast food worker. It becomes more about continuing to give to your family even though you’re exhausted from making tough decisions earlier in the day. It becomes more about being grateful and expressing joy because you’re making a difference in the lives of others. 

When we live with an eternal perspective it becomes easier to give even when we don’t feel like we have much to offer. It becomes more important to meet up with your neighbor to extend assistance for a need that they have when you understand the potential impact it might bring. It becomes a joy to worship, a pleasure to study Scripture, and a relief to rest in the shadow of our Rock when we are mindful that nothing is more important than seeking Him through whom all blessings flow. 

May today be your reminder to take some time to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.

-Bethany Ligon

Application Questions

  1. What is most important to you?
  2. How does your life show what is most important to you?
  3. What situations cause you to forget your eternal perspective? How can you renew your dedication to the eternal perspective?

How Do You Save the World?

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

 Galatians 2

            The following story is based on a Poem by Loren Eiseley called The Star Thrower:

Once upon a time, there was a man walking along the shore. As he looked down the beach, he saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself to think of someone who would dance to the day. So he began to walk faster to catch up. As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man and the young man wasn’t dancing, but instead, he was reaching down to the shore, picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean.

As he got closer, he called out, “Good morning! What are you doing?” The young man paused, looked up and replied, “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I guess I should have asked, “Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”

“The sun is up and the tide is going out. And if I don’t throw them in they’ll die.

“But young man, don’t you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it. You can’t possibly make a difference!”

The young man listened politely. Then bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves. “It made a difference for that one!” https://starthrower.com/pages/the-star-thrower-story

            How do you save the world?  One starfish at a time.  That seems to be how God does it.  When you look at the history of salvation as revealed in the Bible, God often begins the work through a single person.  When God decided to create one special nation who would enter into a personal, covenant-based relationship with Him, He began with one man, a man named Abram (later Abraham).  God entered into a special bond with Abraham and promised to make him into a great nation that would eventually bring blessing to all the earth.  Abraham was the father of the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people.  Israel’s mission as God’s people was to be a light to all the nations of the world. 

            Israel struggled to fulfill that calling from God and became very inward-focused.  They elevated their unique relationship with God and emphasized their “set apart” status, worn as a badge of superiority.  They lost the mission imperative that God first gave to Abraham.

            God always had the heart to reach all people, not just descendants of Abraham by birth.  When the time came to expand his relationship with all humans and open the doors of salvation to the nations not descended from Abraham, God again started small.  Through one man, Jesus of Nazareth, God’s only begotten Son, God would open the doors of salvation to people from every nation.

            It was difficult for many of Abraham’s descendants to grasp that in Christ, God was extending his saving hand to all people.  One of the issues the early church wrestled with was “what is necessary for one who is not a descendant of Abraham, not from the nation of Israel, to do to become a member of God’s chosen people?”  The church agreed that they needed to be baptized into Jesus Christ and be obedient to Christ as their Lord and observe the basic commandments to not worship idols, not steal, kill, commit adultery or misuse the name of the Lord.  But still, for many of the descendants of Abraham who had lived separated lives, eaten special kosher food, and not shared meals with Gentiles, it was very difficult for them to imagine embracing those Gentiles, whom they had previously considered to be nothing better than dogs, as equals in the sight of God.

            While Peter, James, and the other Apostles continued to make their primary focus on sharing the message of Jesus Christ died and risen and coming again as King with their fellow Israelites, the Apostle Paul was called by God to bring that same message about Jesus to the Gentiles.  Through Paul’s preaching and missionary work, God’s kingdom was expanding to include people from every nation, and language on earth.  God made it clear to Peter in a vision that the dietary laws that they followed as Jews and the physical act of having all males circumcised were not to be a requirement for Gentiles coming into the Church.  You didn’t have to become a Jew in order to become a Christian.  But this did not sit well with many Jewish Christians who found it challenging to let go of those old prejudices and barriers.

            Paul’s letter to the Galatians was written to correct his fellow Jewish Christian and convince them to change their attitudes and practices in relation to Gentile Converts.  When they tried to make the Gentiles become Jews when they became Christians, Paul called this a “different gospel”.  They were creating unnecessary barriers to salvation.

            Do we today put up unnecessary barriers to salvation for people who are outside of the Church?  Sometimes we place our cultural preferences and traditions in the same category as the message of Jesus Christ and require others to jump through those hoops in order to be accepted into the Church.  When we create extra requirements beyond the basic teaching of the gospels and expect people to meet our cultural expectations in order to be saved, we are preaching a different gospel and keeping people away from Jesus and his saving love.

-Jeff Fletcher

Questions for Discussion:

1.  What can the young man in the Star Thrower teach us about going about the overwhelming task of rescuing the world from sin?

2.   What are some unnecessary barriers to salvation that you have observed in church or in your own witness to unbelievers?

Witnesses

Mark 16

Sunday, August 7, 2022

After numerous chapters devoted to preparing for the death and subsequent sacrifice of Christ, we finally reach the glorious reward of the Resurrection! Mark chapter 16, compared to the other gospels, is quite sparse in descriptive details of the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus. However, what it does depict breathes a message of hope and love for the future of the church, as well as a final instruction.

               When Mary and Mary were given the message to tell the remaining disciples that Christ had risen, the disciples couldn’t believe it. “When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.” Mark 16:11. In fact, it seems like one of the things the disciples are best at is not believing something until they see it. They did not have faith that the thing they had been listening to Jesus predict for the past several years would come to fruition. Don’t worry because Jesus rebuked them for not believing when he found them again. Do you struggle to believe what Jesus has promised us? Sometimes it’s difficult to imagine a world where we all get along, where there is no longer pain. But without faith, we will never see this world; not because it won’t exist, but because we lack the faith to see it. Have faith!

               The final message Jesus gives the disciples is to “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Mark 16:15. That is our grand mission! What are you doing today to increase the Kingdom of God? Some of us are not called to verbally preach the word, and some of us are blessed with such a gift. But not being good at public speaking is no excuse to not spread the word.

               Actions can speak significantly louder than words. In fact, that’s often the best way to spread the word; by living it out. To speak the message of Christ with empty words whilst living a life completely contrary is almost worse than to have never spoken a word at all. It is by watching the lives of those who follow Christ that we will be living examples of the love he provides us. In your joy, in your struggles, in your sadness, and in your blessings, praise God that you have been given this life to live. Focus on becoming the people that God has instructed us to become and devote your successes to Him. Live your life with the purpose of praising and worshipping Him, and He will reward you. As Christ commands it, do not simply speak the word; live it. Amen

-Mason Kiel

AND

2 witnesses are better than one! Today we have TWO writers for you – so below is your second devotion on Mark 16. Thank you Mason AND Jeff for writing for today. Keep sharing the good good news! Jesus is Alive!

            Have you ever been a witness who was called on to testify in court?  I have.  It was an interesting experience.  I had seen a crime committed, I reported it to the police, the criminal was arrested, I was asked to give a written statement to the police and I was later called on to testify at their trial.  I will say that when you witness something that causes excitement, gets your heart pounding, and puts you in “fight or flight” mode, it affects your thinking and perspective.  Everything seemed to be going faster than it really was.  Normally it’s more believable when several people give their eyewitness testimony.  Of course, no two witnesses agree on every detail.  Each person sees different things from different vantage points.  Each person remembers different details.  Each person recalls the sequence of events in a slightly different order.  These variations in detail are actually normal and good.  If every witness testified exactly the same details in the same way the lawyers for the other side would be arguing that they were unreliable because they obviously got together and rehearsed their testimony, which is a big no-no.

            When people read the Gospel accounts of Jesus they are seeing the story of Jesus unfold through the eyes of a variety of different witnesses.   The Spirit of God is the inspiration behind each of the writers, but God works through human beings and through different witnesses.  So it should come as no surprise when we read the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and also the writings of Paul, Peter, James, and others, that while they are telling basically the same story, they do so from different perspectives.  The Gospel writers are either reporting what they themselves witnessed or what other eyewitnesses reported to them.  They tell the same story with different perspectives and often emphasize different parts of the story or place the events of the story in slightly different orders in keeping with the overall theme of their account.  Each story has different audiences in mind, different themes, and is not carbon copies of each other.

            One very important rule that is repeated throughout the Bible is that there must be a minimum of two or three witnesses. (See Deuteronomy 19:15, Matthew 18:16, John 8:17, and several other passages).  We’ve already noted that there are four Gospel accounts in the New Testament which fulfill that important principle.

            It is also interesting to note the background of who is qualified to be a witness.  Jewish law has a list of different types of people who are not permitted to be called as witnesses: “women, slaves, minors, lunatics, the deaf, the blind, the wicked, the contemptible, relatives, and the interested parties (Yad, Edut 9:1).” https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/witness .  The Talmud, which is a Jewish Commentary from ancient times gives more details about who the “wicked” are who cannot testify.  At one point in ancient Jewish history, shepherds were included in the list of people disqualified from witnessing. “As a class, shepherds acquired a bad reputation as being lawless, dishonest, and unreliable, above all because of their habit of trespassing on other people’s lands to graze their flocks.” https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2015/20-february/regulars/out-of-the-question/shepherds-character-reference.

            Here’s what I find very interesting: two categories of people who were not permitted to act as witnesses were shepherds and women.  I’m not interested in debating the fairness of those exclusions, but simply note that at the time of Jesus’ birth, life, and death, some of the people who were not accepted as reliable witnesses were shepherds and women.  Why is this important? Consider, who were the first eyewitnesses who heard the angelic announcement about the birth of Jesus?  Luke says it was “Shepherds living out in the fields keeping watch over their flocks at night” (Luke 2:8).  It was to these “unreliable witness” shepherds that the angels appeared.  And it was these unreliable witness shepherds who went and reported to Mary and Joseph all that they had seen and then went out and “spread the word” about all that they had seen. (Luke 2:17)

            Now, maybe that was just a fluke… but maybe not.  In today’s reading, Mark 16, we fast forward to just after the death of Jesus.  Who is it who first go to the tomb after Jesus died?  Once again, it was to “unreliable witnesses” – this time it was women.  To whom did the angel appear announcing that Christ had risen?  “Unreliable witness” women.  Maybe it wasn’t a fluke after all.  Maybe it’s a part of God’s deliberate plan to choose people to be witnesses of these important saving acts of God, which the world normally rejects.  Does God choose to reveal His great acts of saving to the lowly people the world rejects?  It seems He does.  In fact, now that you know to look for it, pay attention when you read the Gospels and notice how many times the witnesses God uses come from the ranks of the supposed “unreliable witnesses.”  How many times does God use women, or tax collectors (another category of unreliable witness) or slaves, the blind, the deaf, or just plain sinners to be His witnesses?  You’ll find that from beginning to end, the Gospel is filled with “unreliable witnesses” who turn out to be very reliable.  And in a giant flip-flop of societal expectations, it is the lawyers and religious professionals from the reliable witness class who are the ones who bring false charges against Jesus.

            But the real question that each of us needs to ask ourselves today is, am I a reliable witness for Jesus?  Am I willing to tell the truth about what I have seen, heard, and known firsthand about Jesus in my own life?  Am I willing to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” about Jesus?

-Jeff Fletcher

Questions for Discussion:

  1.  Why do you think God chose “unreliable witnesses” to be the witnesses to Jesus’ birth and resurrection and other key events?
  2. When was the last time you told someone else “witnessed” what you have seen,  heard, or experienced about Jesus?
  3. Who is someone whom you could witness to today?

Training for a Crown

1 Corinthians 9

June 10

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize. (1 Corinthians 9: 24)

Being competitive is sometimes presented in a negative light.  Probably because competition can bring out the ‘jerk’ in people.  That’s too bad, because in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul is telling them (and us) to lean into that competitive spirit.

Paul is using this as an analogy, by the way, he’s not telling us that we are in competition with other believers.  He uses two phrases that I hope will inspire you as you run your race.

“strict training”

Athletes preparing for a big competition don’t eat whatever they want and binge Netflix all day.  What do they do instead?  They do things that will help them succeed in their goal.  (Winning!)  Paul’s goal, and ours, is “a crown that will last forever.”

How do we train for eternal life?

The word obey comes to mind.  In order to obey we need to really know Scripture.  If we want to hear the words “Well done, good and faithful servant,” we need to know what the Master expects of us.  And we need to do it, even when it’s hard.  Just like the athlete in training gets off the couch and goes to practice, even when he’s tired, we need to obey even when it doesn’t make sense to our human sensibilities.

“do not run aimlessly”

If you’ve ever been to a kid’s sporting event, you know that there are players that do not have their head in the game.  They are wandering around the field, chatting with friends, maybe even picking flowers in the grass.  Adorable.

Not so adorable when it’s adults in an Olympic competition and not cute when we’re talking about forever.

So many of us say that we are sharing our faith by the way that we live our lives.  But how much of that is a cop-out because we’re not comfortable evangelizing?  If we are actively sharing our faith through our life, we will be intentional in planning ways to do it.  We won’t just be going about our life, wandering aimlessly along.

I encourage you today to make a training plan.  How are you getting ready for Christ’s return?  I also encourage you to make a game plan.  How are you looking for ways to share your faith with those around you?

-Susan Landry

(Editor’s Note: Sorry this was sent out later today. It’s been fun hearing from a variety of writers this week, but today’s scheduled writer ran into a health issue and was unable to write. So, we went back in time and found this great devotion from 2019 – thank you, Susan – definitely good enough to read again. God bless you as you Seek, Grow and Love!)

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. How often do you remember that you are training for a crown that will last forever? If we remembered this more often how might it change our hearts, our schedules, our free time, our priorities, our training routine? What could you do differently this week, remembering the goal of your training and perhaps making it a little more “strict” than it has been lately?
  2. Are there any ways in which God may say you have been running aimlessly? What adjustments do you think Paul would suggest? Are you willing to do them?

A Scary Word

1 Corinthians 2

June 3

Here at the Oregon church we have really been focusing on evangelistic outreach. No other word puts quite the fear in the heart of a Christian like the world evangelism. There are many anxieties that come with the idea of evangelism: sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. There is the fear of rejection. There is the worry that you might look foolish. There is maybe a concern that you won’t say the right things. Maybe there’s a worry that you don’t know enough about the Bible and therefore you aren’t qualified to reach out to people about Jesus and the kingdom. There is just a lot of worry that goes into it.


A lot of the fear and anxiety that comes from sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with people is that we can make it about us. Look above at what was said about the fear of sharing the gospel: every fear and anxiety that was mentioned about sharing the gospel is because we focus on how it affects us. We make it about our rejection, or our feelings or our knowledge. God has made the gospel so simple and yet we can be so afraid of it. And when I say we are afraid, I’m talking about me too. Just because I’m a pastor doesn’t mean that I don’t have fear and anxiety about sharing the gospel. You don’t need a PhD in theology to share the gospel with people. You don’t need to have a deep understanding of Levitical dietary laws, or a complete understanding of ancient Greek. The gospel was made understandable so that no matter who we talk to they can grasp it. We tend to make it more complicated than it has to be.


Paul makes this very point in 1 Corinthians 2. He says: “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).


Paul was an extremely well educated man. He was well studied and well read. He knew the Hebrew Bible in profound detail. He was someone that could have really made the gospel presentation more complicated than it should have been. But instead of making a mess of things he says to the Corinthian church that he didn’t come with lofty speech or wisdom. He decided to know nothing besides Christ and him crucified. What Christ accomplished on the cross is of chief importance. Christ died as a substitute for you and me and he rose on the third day. He did this so that one day we can be in the kingdom of God forever. The components of the gospel are easy to remember this way: the kingdom, the cross and the resurrection. The other doctrines of the Bible are important but only believing the gospel is what saves us. The good news of the kingdom of God and our entrance being purchased by the death and resurrection of Jesus is what matters above all else.


Paul continues in the section by saying that we don’t use lofty wisdom and persuasive arguments in order that we aren’t relying on the wisdom of man. Wisdom is important, but ultimately the best and truest wisdom comes from God. The gospel is simple in order that we can fully rely on the power of God to work through us to share to those around us. God is saving the world through His gospel and we should want to be a part of that.


We don’t need to make the gospel more complicated than it is. The simple message of the death and resurrection of Jesus purchasing our gift of eternal life if we believe in him is as easy as it gets. Sharing the gospel doesn’t have to be scary either. It comes from the concern and urgency of wanting people to be in God’s kingdom. It comes from the outpour of our lives as a demonstration of the saving power of God working wondrously through us. Let’s choose to know nothing but Christ and him crucified and share that to a hurt and broken world. Let’s be the people that God works through to reconcile His creation back to Himself.

-Nathan Massie


Application:

  1. To remember that the gospel has been made simple so that we can share with everyone: the kingdom, the cross and the resurrection.
  2. To realize that God is the one who is working through us to share the gospel to the world. It’s His power and not our wisdom that makes the gospel effective.
  3. To realize that the gospel is the power of God and it is of chief importance since believing the gospel is what saves us.
  4. To pray about our anxieties and fears about sharing the gospel and to ask God to give us the strength to share even when we are afraid.
  5. To recognize that when we share the gospel we are making an eternal difference in the life of the hearer.

With All Boldness

Acts 28

May 16

In Acts chapter 28, Luke continues the detailed account of his and Paul’s journey to Rome. We read about their encounter with the kind people of Malta, as well as the not-so-kind viper who didn’t seem to cause Paul much distress, all the way to their long awaited arrival in Rome. This arrival was a big deal. Paul had been determined for a long time to find his way to Rome, (as seen in Acts 19:21 and Romans 1:15) and not only fulfilled this promise to himself, but also Christ’s prophecy that his disciples would be witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). 

Paul spent every bit of his time there (two years waiting for his case to be heard before Caesar) teaching everyone who came to him, sharing the message with Jews and Gentiles alike, welcoming anyone who would listen. Two whole years “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” (Acts 28:31) Even in this season of waiting and uncertainty, God did not waste a minute of Paul’s time. In fact his ministry continued “without hindrance” – despite every trial they faced, from storms to snakes, the will and word of God was unhindered; no trial, no amount of unfair treatment, nor the passing months of captivity mattered as much as the immeasurable good Paul could be doing in the lives of others. Imagine the amount of soldiers he spoke to, the amount of brothers and sisters in Christ he met in Rome, every Jew eager to meet Paul, whose famous letters they had previously received, every Gentile curious about or zealous for Christ, and eventually Caesar himself. He made a profound impact, even while in chains.

The book of Acts doesn’t have a grand finale; this story continues even today. Paul said “Yes” to God time and time again, and every person who’s said “Yes” since continues his ministry, bringing the Kingdom message to the ends of the earth. Surrender your life and boldly say “Yes” when you hear God’s voice calling you; His plans will not be hindered. 

-Isabella Osborn

Discussion Questions:

  1. In what ways can you proclaim the kingdom of God even when you find yourself in a period of trials or uncertainty?
  2. What do you hear God calling you to do to further His Kingdom today? 
  3. How did Paul continue forward with such courage and boldness despite the many tests of faith he faced? Similarly, how can we?

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