Dead Faith

James 1-5

I have enjoyed going through the first half of the book of Acts with all of you, as the book of Acts is one of my favorite books in the Bible.  I am fascinated with the history of the church after Jesus ascended to heaven, and there is no better source to take a look at than the book of Acts.  I hope you all enjoyed the first half of Acts as well.  Today, we cover the book of James, another real solid book (really all 66 books are real solid).  James is one of the first books of the Bible that I would have a new believer read, as it has a ton of applicable information.  The book provides great stepping stones to living a godly life.  If you haven’t read the book of James before, stop whatever you’re doing (Well, I guess that means stop reading this devotion), and read the book of James for yourself.  If you have read it before, I would still encourage you to revisit this piece of gold.

            James covers a wide range of topics throughout his book.  Today, we are going to spend most of our time covering two topics found in the book.  Before we do that though, I want to mention the other topics found in James.  If there is a topic that interests you, then go ahead and see what James himself has to say about it.  The main talking points in James that we won’t talk about are: hearing and doing the word, the sin of partiality, taming the tongue, wisdom from above, warning against worldliness, boasting about tomorrow, warning to the rich, patience in suffering, and the prayer of faith.  Much could be said about each of these different topics.  There is simply not enough time/space to mention all of these topics in our devotion.

            With that being said, we will talk about the testing of our faith and the relationship between faith and works.  I wanted to talk about the testing of our faith because it connects very well with what we have been talking about with the book of Acts.  In the first 14 chapters of Acts, we saw a handful of people suffer because of their faith in Jesus.  What does James have to say about this?  Well, James says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing,” (James 1:2-4).  In summary, James says to consider it a joy!

            I don’t know about you, but it is not my initial thought or feeling to consider a trial a joy.  I think a large reason is because it is not fun or enjoyable to go through a trial.  However, when we think about the effects of enduring through trials of various kinds, we can come away with an appreciation.  When we successfully endure through a trial, it can produce steadfastness, which enables us to be a more complete, well-rounded person. 

Every single time that someone goes through a trial, they either grow closer or they grow further away from God.  The heroes of our faith that we took a look at in Acts went through various trials, and it appears that they grew closer to God.

Our next main topic is the relationship between faith and works; they have an interesting relationship with one another.  They have caused a lot of discussion and even some disagreement in Christian circles.  According to James, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead,” (James 2:17).  That means that a faith that is not accompanied by any works is useless!  We need to remember though that it is by God’s grace that we are saved, and we accept that grace through our faith, not our works (Ephesians 2:8).  However, we can’t accept God’s grace with a dead faith; it must be a living and active faith that we have to accept God’s grace.  We already mentioned that a faith without any works is dead and useless.  That means that we must accept God’s grace through our faith, but we have to accompany our faith with our works.

At an initial glance, it can appear at times that James and Paul (in Ephesians) clash with one another.  However, that is not the case at all.  They both show how faith and works have a beautiful relationship with one another.  I remember being stumped over the relationship between faith and works for some time.  It took me awhile to see how they work together, and I hope this very short explanation can help clear up the confusion that any of you may have between faith and works.

Well, there we have it, folks.  This past week we got to spend time in Acts and James.  We have learned a handful of very valuable lessons from the likes of Paul, Peter, and James.  If you have read the devotions for this week, I hope you stick with it!  There is lots of great content ahead, as we get to explore the writings of Paul and others.  As always, there is also a great lineup of writers to help us all dig into God’s Word.  God bless!

-Kyle McClain

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – James 1-5

Tomorrow we read Acts 15-16.

Passion for God’s Word

Acts 13-14

Today, we pick back up with Paul, and we have yet to mention his main companion that shows up in chapters 13 and 14 – Barnabas.  Barnabas means “Son of Encouragement”, as he was an encourager to those around him.  Barnabas travelled with Paul frequently when Paul would go to a different region to share the gospel message.  They mostly got along great and accomplished a lot, but they did reach a disagreement down the road.  Barnabas wanted to take his cousin, Mark, with them during one of their missionary journeys, but Paul did not since Mark abandoned them on a previous trip.  We are getting ahead of ourselves a bit here though, so let’s rewind to chapter 13.

            In chapter 13 of Acts, Paul and Barnabas set sail and visited a couple of places, most notably Cyprus and Antioch.  It was at these different locations that they took advantage of their opportunity to share God’s message with others.  It’s important to note that some places that they traveled to the gospel message already was presented and spread a bit, as they weren’t the only ones around spreading this gospel message.  However, they were certainly instrumental in furthering the spread.

            In verses 16-41 of chapter 13, Paul delivers a message to the people on the Sabbath.  At the conclusion of this message that he presented, “the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath,” (Acts 13:42).  From a preacher’s perspective, this would be a dream come true!  The people were so eager to hear the gospel message that they BEGGED!  They didn’t just ask or hope or want, but they BEGGED to hear the gospel message.  When was the last time that you were so eager to hear God’s message being shared?  For most of us, it probably has been a while.  Somehow, someway we need to find that passion again for God’s Word.  Pray to God today, that he would fill your heart with a passion and desire to dig deeper into His Word.  That would be a great place to start.

            We fast forward a week from Paul’s message in verses 16-41, and we arrive at the next Sabbath in verse 44.  Verse 44 reads, “The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord,” (Acts 13:44).  How awesome would that be?!  The week prior, the people begged to hear more of God’s word being spoken, as they had so much excitement.  It is evident that they didn’t contain their excitement to themselves.  Apparently, their passion for God’s Word drove them to share with their friends and family about the word of God that they just listened to.

            It’s a general notion that word of mouth is the best mode of advertisement.  The group who listened to Paul’s first message did a great job of advertising to others by word of mouth.  This proved to be extremely effective, as almost the whole city showed up the following week.  This serves as a good reminder for us to advertise God’s Word by word of mouth with our friends and family.  When was the last time that you shared a bit of God’s Word with someone who is not an active believer?

            Paul continued to gain a following in the different locations that he traveled to.  On the other hand, though, his adversaries were continuing to grow.  In chapter 14, Paul was stoned nearly to death for his faith and his part in spreading the gospel message.  My mind cannot stop thinking about the differences in how the early Christians were persecuted versus how we are persecuted (or the lack thereof) today in America.  I’m grateful that we don’t have to experience some of the trials and tribulations that the likes of Paul went through.  However, I can only imagine how much more serious we would take our faith if we had to physically risk our lives in order to share the gospel message with others.  Something for you to ponder.

            We continue to see the great works of some of the heroes of our faith in Acts.  I hope that these great heroes, such as Paul and Barnabas, serve as an encouragement and lesson for all of us.  God bless.

-Kyle McClain

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 13-14.

Tomorrow we will read James 1-5.

God’s Work & Way

Acts 11-12

The past couple of days we have really focused on Saul/Paul, and for very good reason!  Today, we get to highlight another very important figure in the New Testament – Peter.  Peter was seen as one of the pillars of this new Christian movement in the city of Jerusalem.  Jerusalem served as the central hub for the Jews.  Therefore, it served as a central hub for the Christians as well, as many of the Jesus followers were simply Jews who believed that Jesus was the Messiah they had been looking forward to for so long.  Peter was instrumental to share this news with other Jews.

            In chapter 11, Peter went up to Jerusalem.  When he arrived to Jerusalem, he received a lot of flak for eating with and associating with the uncircumcised.  Jews were circumcised, as they followed the law of Moses.  Therefore, Jews did not want to be seen around those who were uncircumcised, but Peter ate with them regardless.  Sounds like Peter learned some lessons from his teacher – Jesus.  Peter shared how the uncircumcised Gentiles received the gift of the Holy Spirit, so who was he to stand in God’s way?

            While Jerusalem was the central hub, we see in chapter 11 that many people who believed in Jesus as the Messiah dispersed because of the persecution.  This was quite common as the early Jesus followers received persecution from non-believing Jews and from the Roman Empire.  Some of the Jesus followers escaped to Antioch, and it was there that the disciples were first called “Christians”.

            In chapter 12, we see more persecution of this Christian movement.  This time, the persecution was directed against two key leaders and figures – James and Peter.  James (the brother of John, not Jesus) was killed at the hands of the treacherous King Herod.  While Herod was at it, he decided to arrest Peter because the Jews were pleased with Herod’s persecution of the Christians.  Evil!  Herod wasn’t able to persecute the Christians for much longer though, as God struck him down and killed him.

            Peter, fortunately, did not spend too much time in prison, as he broke out.  God sent an angel of the Lord to help Peter break out.  This was a semi-common theme in the New Testament of early Christians breaking out of prison, thanks to God.  After breaking out, he was then able to go meet with John, and the mother of John.  What an emotional instance that must have been.

            Praise God for leaders like Peter and James who were willing to suffer for the sake of God and his Son Jesus.  We could see more of this attitude today in 2020.  There is certainly much to take away from their relentless attitude of spreading the gospel message.  

-Kyle McClain


Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 11-12

Tomorrow we will continue with Acts 13-14.

Say Bye to Your Friends and Family; Say Hi to God

Acts 9-10

            Yesterday, we took a look at how Saul, the author of nearly half of the books of the New Testament, was introduced to the scriptures.  We were introduced to a devout Jew who was persecuting the Jesus followers.  Today, we get a taste of redemption, as Saul dramatically turns his life around.

            Before we get that taste of redemption though, we open up chapter nine with Saul still breathing out threats to the Jesus followers.  Saul went on a bit of a scavenger hunt trying to find anyone who belongs to “the Way”.  “the Way” is just another “way” (ha, pun intended), to refer to the group of people who followed Jesus, as the term “Christian” was not a thing at that point in time.

            On Saul’s diligent scavenger hunt to persecute the group of Jews who followed Jesus, he went to the city of Damascus.  On his way to Damascus, Saul has a vision of none other than Jesus himself.  Again, this is the kind of stuff that the movies are made out of!  He ended up being blinded by the vision, and he didn’t eat or drink for three days.  Then a man named Ananias came and restored Saul’s sight through the power of God, and Ananias confirmed to Saul what had taken place.  Saul is also baptized and received the Holy Spirit.

As a result of this vision that Saul has of Jesus, he performs a complete 180 in his life.  He went from being a man who hunted Jesus followers to becoming a man who tried to create as many Jesus followers as possible.  He repented of his sins immediately and started proclaiming this message of Jesus in the synagogues.  This obviously created some confusion and amazement from the people, as just a couple of days ago he was seeking to have these same types of people killed and imprisoned!  Saul was so on fire for Jesus, that now nonbelieving Jews were seeking to put Saul to death.  What a crazy, dramatic turn of events.

Chapter nine then goes straight from Saul leaving Damascus to arriving in Jerusalem.  Luke, the author of Acts, chose to leave out a three-year gap.  Yep, you read that right.  There was a three-year gap between Saul leaving Damascus and arriving in Jerusalem.  We get this notion from Galatians 1:16-18.  After Saul left Damascus and before Saul arrived to Jerusalem, he spent about three years in “Arabia”.  N.T Wright talks about this three-year gap in his biography on Paul.  If you are an avid reader, then I would strongly suggest this book.

It is very possible that Saul spent a chunk of this three-year gap at Mt. Sinai getting ready for his upcoming ministry.  It’s pretty cool when you consider Moses and Elijah spent valuable time with God on Mt. Sinai as well.  I’m sure this time for Saul was extremely valuable, as he prepared to do so many good works for God and his Son Jesus.

It’s important that we find that quiet, alone time with God to prepare for our ministries as well.  I find that as a husband, dad, pastor, son, friend, and more, that it can be difficult to find that quiet, alone time with God.  Truth be told, it does not happen unless I am very intentional about it.  I’m guessing the same could be said for you as well.  I strongly encourage you to intentionally find and make that quiet, alone time with God.  Sometimes the best thing for us is to step away from our spouses, children, parents, friends, and coworkers, and have a close, intimate encounter with God.  I find that the best spot for me to do this is out by myself at our nearby park.  I’m guessing the experiences that I have with God out in his creation, by myself, are similar to the experiences that Moses, Elijah, Saul, and Jesus had with God.  So, get out there and say bye to your friends and family for a bit, and say hello to God.  Trust me, you won’t regret it.

We haven’t even touched on Peter at all yet.  Peter did a number of awesome things for the LORD in chapter nine and ten, these include: healing a paralyzed man, raising a woman from the dead (Yeah, Jesus isn’t the only one who was resurrected in the New Testament), and sharing the gospel message with a group of gentiles.  We could discuss these great acts of Peter for quite some time.  Instead, I’d rather us conclude and focus on this aspect of Saul spending that alone time with God for three years and preparing for his revolutionary ministry.

Please, please, please, find and make that quiet, alone time with God.  You can spend time reading God’s word, praying, meditating, and reflecting on all that God has done and will continue to do in your life.  For our southern friends who aren’t freezing outside, go find a park and spend that quiet time with God.  For our northern friends who live in the cold, shut yourself in a room by yourself with a cup of hot cocoa and spend that quiet, alone time with God.  Or, you can buckle down and spend a couple hours in the cold at the park with a jacket and blanket.  I mean Jesus spent 40 days without food; surely, we can spend a couple hours outside even if it is a little cold.

Get on out there!  Say bye to your friends and family; say hi to God.

-Kyle McClain

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 9-10.

Tomorrow we continue with Acts 11-12.

Hero of our Faith

Acts 7-8

            Stephen is a great hero of our faith who does not get a lot of limelight, as he is only covered at the end of chapter six and chapter seven.  He is an honorable man we can all learn a lot from, as he was willing to lay it all on the line.

            At the end of chapter six, Stephen was seized for preaching about Jesus of Nazareth.  Some false witnesses ensured that he would get into trouble with the high priest and other Jewish officials.  The high priest had Stephen speak for himself, and that is the majority of the content in chapter seven.  In the first 50 verses of Acts chapter seven, Stephen provides a pretty nice summary from Abraham to King David.  At the conclusion of this summary, he begins to rip into the Jews for being a “stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in hearts and ears,” (Acts 7:51).

            The Jews did not take too kindly to the words of Stephen, so they decided to stone Stephen.  I can’t even imagine the level of pain Stephen would have been going through, as he was being stoned to death.  If it were me, I would have been so riled up in anger, and I would have wanted to retaliate.  However, that is not the course of action that Stephen took.  Just moments before Stephen’s death, he fell “to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’  And when he had said this, he fell asleep,’” (Acts 7:60).  What a way to go out!

            Stephen followed the example set by his Lord and Savior, Jesus of Nazareth, as Jesus prayed for the forgiveness of the people who crucified him.  There is so much to be learned in this short recording of the life of Stephen, a lesson of strength and grace.

            At the same time that Stephen’s life comes to an end, we are introduced to the man who wrote nearly half of the books of the New Testament.  It is an introduction that is only made for the movies (and, well, the Bible).  This man proved to be a foundational piece in the spreading of the gospel message.  He would go by the name of Saul.

            Saul is introduced in the scriptures as approving the execution of Stephen, a hero of our Christian faith.  Not only did Saul approve the execution of one man, but he “ravaged” the church.  Saul went from house to house finding people who claimed to believe in Jesus.  Once he found these people, he would send them to prison.  Surely, this led to many of them having to die for their faith.

            What an awful start to one’s life!  Thank the LORD that Saul did not follow this course of action for much longer, as we will see in the coming chapters.  We can learn from Saul that God is willing, able, and wanting to use anybody, no matter what someone has committed in their past. 

Let this serve as an encouragement to you, as you may struggle with some choices you have made in your past.  Don’t let decisions you made in your past prevent you from being an instrument of God’s work, as God was even willing, wanting, and able to use the likes of Saul, a man who persecuted many Christians.  Praise God that we serve a forgiving God.

There’s a lot to learn here, as we take a look at the life of Stephen and the introduction of Saul.  It’s my prayer that we all learn to have the strength and grace of Stephen, and we don’t let our past stop us from serving God like Saul.

-Kyle McClain

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 7-8

Tomorrow we continue the story of Saul with chapters 9-10. Don’t miss it!

Share Jesus – at all costs

Acts 4-6

            Earlier this year, in June, I experienced a first.  Let me walk you through the moment.  I was preaching at the North Hills Church of God in Springfield, Ohio, as I do every Sunday.  At this point in time, our church chose to worship outside because there were a lot of unknowns of the Coronavirus.  There were very strict rules in place to help prohibit the spread of the virus.  During my message, a police officer slowly pulled through our long driveway and checked what was taking place.  For a split second, I thought that I was maybe going to get in trouble for hosting a large group gathering.  I thought I could get in trouble for preaching to a group of people.  It was the first time in my life that I ever wondered whether or not I would get in trouble with preaching God’s Word.

            To say that we have it pretty easy in the United States is quite the understatement.  I praise God that we have the freedom to share God’s Word with others without even having the fear of being persecuted.  I have spent all of maybe 5 seconds in my life thinking that I could get in trouble/persecuted for sharing God’s word.  If I had to guess, I would say that most people reading this would have a similar experience to myself.  There are people today who do not have this luxury, and this was especially true in the book of Acts

            In Acts chapter 4, our heroes, Peter and John, were sharing God’s Word with others.  When they did this, they were arrested and presented before the Jewish council.  The council questioned Peter and John, and the council commanded them to no longer share the good news about Jesus and remain silent.

            I absolutely love Peter and John’s reply to this command to remain silent: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard,” (Acts 4:19,20).  Burn baby to you, council!  Peter and John made it obvious to the council, that they must listen to the voice of God over the voice of men.  They had to preach the good news of Jesus, for that is what God wanted them to do, not the council.  Peter and John did not care what the consequences would be for preaching about Jesus.

            Peter and John were eventually released after receiving more threats from the council.  Word got out of what had taken place to Peter and John.  The Christ followers responded by praying to God for boldness.  The early Christ followers did not succumb to the external pressures of the world.  Rather, they prayed to God and came together as one to share this radical message of the Messiah.

            These Jesus followers gave their all to further spread this message.  They were even willing to contribute all of their possessions to spread the knowledge of Jesus the Messiah, and that is literally what they did.  They pooled all of their possessions together for the good of the gospel message (outside of a few greedy people *cough* Ananias and Sapphira *cough*).

            My oh my!  Imagine what good we could accomplish today if we had the same mindset of the Jesus followers in Acts.  These people had no cares in the world what would happen to them for sharing the gospel message, even though the threat was very real and evident.  All they did was pray for more boldness, and it didn’t stop with just their voices either.  They were willing to give all of their possessions to help spread this gospel message.

            What great examples these early Jesus followers provide for us today.  In comparison, today, we seem to be a whole lot more reserved in our approach to spread this gospel message.  Maybe we should take a note from the early church and take some more extreme measures in our life to spread the gospel message.  If we do, God can work so many wonderful wonders in and through us. 

            Be bold and give it all to God!

-Kyle McClain

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 4-6

Tomorrow we continue the exciting, inspiring historical account of the early church with Acts 7-8. Come read along!

Be A Witness

Acts 1-3

If you have been following along with the SeekGrowLove devotions for the past 1.5 months, we have been able to take a look at the life and ministry of Jesus through the four gospels.  What a crazy, action-packed time during Jesus’ ministry on earth.  Today, we transition into the book of Acts, and we get to see how Jesus’ disciples will respond to these couple crazy years with Jesus.  As we near the end of 2020, we are all too familiar of what it looks like to live through some crazy events.  As we read through the book of Acts, we can take some notes of how Peter, Paul, and others responded to the crazy events revolving around Jesus.

Before Jesus ever ascended to heaven (yep, not even Jesus went to heaven right after his death), he spent 40 days preaching about the Kingdom of God.  Right before Jesus’ ascension, he told his disciples to, “Witness in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth,” (Acts 1:8). 

The order of locations that Jesus provides is important.  He starts off with Jerusalem; Jerusalem was basically the home base for the Jews and early Christians.  They first needed to witness to their home base of Jerusalem.  Then, they needed to witness in Judea and Samaria; that consists of the land surrounding the city of Jerusalem.  After they have witnessed to the surrounding area, then they had a calling to witness to the ends of the earth.  The book of Acts follows this exact blueprint, which I find to be so fascinating.  Chapters 1-7 are all witnessing in Jerusalem.  Chapters 8-9 consists of them witnessing in Judea and Samaria.  Then, chapters 10-28 cover the disciples, Paul, and others witnessing to the ends of the earth: Caesarea, Antioch, Asia Minor, Greece, and Rome.

We can learn a lot from this blueprint that Jesus provided for his disciples.  We have a calling to witness to those right around us, whether that be your family, friends, coworkers, etc.  Studies show that the most effective mode of evangelism is relational evangelism.  We are best able to spread the news to people we have a relationship with.  Are you using your relationships with nonbelievers, as an instrument to spread the gospel message of the Kingdom?  When you have spread the gospel message to those around you, are you helping that message be spread throughout the ends of the earth?  We have better capabilities now than ever to spread the gospel message to the ends of the earth.  Let’s take advantage of those capabilities.

We can’t go through Acts 1-3 and not mention Peter’s killer sermon in chapter 2.  It is truly one of my favorite sermons ever recorded.  Peter absolutely brings it to the Jews.  You can feel his passion for his Lord and Savior in this message, and he shares this passion with the Jews, the same people who had him crucified (as Peter so gracefully informs them)!  If you want to see someone who is on fire for God and his son, Jesus, then look no further than Peter’s message here in Acts chapter 2.  I hope and pray that we can reflect this passion in our lives today.

I look forward to covering the first half of Acts with you all.  It’s my prayer that we can all learn from the wonderful examples of Peter, Paul, and others throughout this wonderful book.  Witness to those around you, and then help spread that message to the ends of the earth!

-Kyle McClain

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 1-3.

Tomorrow we continue this exciting book, with Acts 4-6. Now’s a great time to jump on board and finish 2020 strong with a daily reading of God’s Word as we watch to see how the world responds to the life, teaching, death and resurrection of God’s Son, Jesus. Let’s get ready for his return!

Jesus – the Radical One

Luke Chapter Six

Luke 6 27 28 NIV

In chapter six, Jesus is continuing on in his ministry.  We see that twice, Jesus caused the Pharisees, a group of Jews, to get upset.  Both times revolved around Jesus doing work on the Sabbath.  The Pharisees were a sect of Jews that had a high priority and focus on following the letter of the law.  They wanted to make sure they were obeying every letter of the law as well as everyone else.

 

Exodus 35:2 states, “Six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD.  Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.”  This was the law that the Jews were to follow, and anyone who did not follow the Sabbath should be put to death.  With that said, I can totally put myself in the Pharisees’ shoes and understand why they would be so upset with Jesus not following the Sabbath rest.  However, throughout Jesus’ ministry, he had quite the radical thoughts and actions.  A superb example of this is found in the Sermon on the Mount when six times Jesus said, “you have heard that it was said… But I say to you.”  Six times Jesus took what was said in the Old Testament and radicalized it.  Jesus flipped the whole world upside down.

 

This trend of Jesus having quite the radical thoughts and actions continues in chapter six.  Jesus goes on to say that we are blessed if we are poor, hungry, weeping, and hated.  He says that in the end times, we will be satisfied, as the kingdom of God will belong to us.  He continues by saying woe to you if you are rich, full, laugh, and people speak well of you.  To the normal person, this would make no sense, but Jesus flips everything upside down.

 

One of the more well-known radical statements of Jesus is found in Luke six as well –  when talking about our enemies.  Jesus makes the bold and radical statement by saying, “love your enemies,” (Luke 6:35).  It’s common for people to disregard their enemies or even act wickedly to them.  However, Jesus tells us to take another approach with our enemies.  He tells us to love our enemies!  This goes totally contrary to how the rest of the world treats their enemies.

 

Jesus was full of radical statements and actions throughout his ministry.  He was constantly turning people’s lives upside down.  We, as Christians, need to follow our radical leader, Jesus.  He showed us the way, and it is our job to follow his lead.  Jesus did not fit in at all in his society because of his radical statements and actions, such as loving your enemies.  With that said, if we follow Jesus’ lead, then we are going to stick out like a sore thumb as well.  Be bold and courageous and live a radical life like that of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

Kyle McClain

Jesus’ Target Audience

Luke Chapter Five – Jesus’ First Disciples

Luke 5 10 11

Soon after Jesus began his earthly ministry, Jesus went out to find some people who would follow him.  One would think that Jesus would choose his followers from among the elite scholars.  After all, shouldn’t the king of kings have an elite group of close followers?  However, Jesus did not go that route.  Instead, we see in Luke chapter five, that Jesus chose the likes of fishermen and tax collectors to be his select, close followers.  Fishermen had very little to no education, and they would have been close to no one’s first choice when starting a revolution.  Tax collectors, on the other hand, had a poor reputation, as they often tried to cheat people out of their money.  Therefore, tax collectors would have been close to no one’s first choice either.  For whatever reason, Jesus chose this group to be his followers and to take over when he was to ascend to heaven.

 

A big part of Jesus’ ministry revolved around healing people of their ailments.  In chapter five, Jesus heals both a leper and a paralytic.  One would think that after Jesus got done healing people, he would want them to go tell everybody of the great miracle.  However, the opposite is true.  Often after Jesus would heal somebody, he would tell them to tell no one!  We see this in verse 14, as Jesus told the leper to tell no one.  Now, why would Jesus not want others to share of the great wonders Jesus had done?  The answer is because Jesus’ time to die had not yet come.  Jesus still had much to accomplish before his death.  If word had spread too much, they would have had him killed sooner.

 

After Jesus had called Levi, a tax collector, to be one of his disciples, Jesus went to eat with the tax collectors.  This caused the Pharisees to grumble and ask Jesus why in the world he would eat with the sinful tax collectors. Jesus replies, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance,” (Luke 5:31).  Here Jesus says that his target audience are the sinners rather than the righteous.

 

Too often in church, our focus is on the righteous rather than the sinners.  We design our services, classes, and events for those that are churched and not unchurched.  Perhaps we should consider the words of Jesus in Luke 5:31. Perhaps we should put our focus on the sinners, rather than the righteous.  It is those who are lost and sinners that really need the church!  Our churches should contain people who are not currently saved but are on the road to salvation.  Jesus says it is these kinds of people that he came to call to repentance.  Our target audience should reflect that of Jesus’ target audience.  At the same time, we do need strong Christians within the church to bring up the unchurched.  There is a healthy balance somewhere that we all must find.

 

Kyle McClain

The Beginning of Jesus’ Ministry

Luke Chapter Four

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In Luke chapter four, we finally get to see the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  However, before we get there, Jesus spent forty days and forty nights in the wilderness by himself with no food.  He was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit.  We are never told the purpose of the Spirit leading Jesus to the wilderness, but I imagine it served as a great time for Jesus to focus in on God all by himself before he began his earthly ministry.

 

While Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days, the devil came to tempt Jesus.  Three times the devil tempted Jesus, but he had zero success.  To combat the temptation, Jesus responded each time with scripture (verses 4, 8 and 12).  Scripture offers us a great way to combat temptation, as Jesus demonstrated here.  Psalm 119:11 supports this notion, as it states, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

 

Whenever we are confronted with temptation, as we all are, a great way to resist and combat that temptation is by quoting scripture.  Now, this is only possible if you have scripture memorized in the first place.  This is a big reason why it is important to store God’s Word in our hearts.

 

After Jesus withstood the temptation of the devil in the wilderness, Jesus officially began his earthly ministry in his hometown of Nazareth.  He did not have quite the warm welcoming, as the Jews tried to throw him off of a cliff (Luke 4:29).  This was just the beginning of the Jews seeking to end and kill Jesus.  They were constantly taken back by Jesus’ bold claims that he makes.  In the end, the Jews send him to the Roman government to have him killed because Jesus claimed to be the Son of God (Matthew 26:54).  The Jews seldom got along with Jesus because they did not believe that he was the Christ, the Son of God.

 

Luke chapter four ends with Jesus telling us his purpose, as Jesus states, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent,” (Luke 4:43).  Jesus himself stated that his purpose was to preach the good news of the kingdom of God.  From the very beginning of his ministry, he preached all about the Kingdom.  The message of the kingdom was at the heart of Jesus’ ministry, and it should be at the heart of our ministry as well.

 

Kyle McClain