Tag Archives: Apostles

The Green-Eyed Monster

31 Jul

Last week, Pastor Zane went over the characteristics of the early church. We saw some incredible signs and wonders being accomplished through the apostles. The people had such faith that they would carry the sick into the streets hoping that Peter’s shadow would pass over them which led to others bringing their sick and afflicted to the apostles so that they could be healed and people flocked to get closer. God was using the apostles to do incredible things, and He wants to use us to transform the world. This morning, we’ll see what happens when people in authority get jealous.

I encourage you to take the time and real our passage for today found in Acts 5:17-32.

We start with a very important word: but. Signs and wonders were taking place by the power of the Holy Spirit through the apostles. Sick people were healed; the afflicted were made unafflicted. The popularity of the apostles was growing and as people heard the message of the Gospel, they responded with decisions to follow Christ. The church was growing to the point that the number of people became multitudes, there were too many to count.

And then we see something that can plague any ministry leader. “The high priest rose up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealously.” And there it is. Jealousy is not always a bad thing. Divine jealousy is a single-minded pursuit of things that are holy. Ex. 20:5 speaks of God as a jealous God in the exclusivity of our worship. 2 Cor. 11:2 refers to jealousy in the exclusivity of the marriage relationship because you need that to make the marriage permanent. Not jealous because your spouse was talking to someone else or because they have a job. It’s jealousy over the importance of the marriage covenant. In modern English, jealousy is defined as a feeling or showing envy of someone or their achievements and advantages. In this context, jealousy is not good. In fact, I think I’ll paint with a broad brush and say that jealousy in ministry is rarely good. When we start looking at what others are doing for the Kingdom, or how many people they have, or how many salvations they experience, it can lead us to feel inadequate or somehow that we’re missing the mark. I’ve been there and it’s not a good place to visit. Your pastors regularly pray for other churches and pastors in our area. We must be Kingdom minded and not inwardly focused and that takes effort.

The high priest and all his associates were jealous of the apostles because of what was going on. They were filled with or consumed by jealousy. So, the high priest orders the apostles taken into custody and they were physically dragged to jail – again. Remember they were thrown in jail in 4:3. The next day, there was an inquisition as to what and why they were doing the things they were doing. Remember after the last encounter with the Council, they were, “commanded not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” (Acts 4:18) Don’t forget the important conclusion from that story: the Sanhedrin that Pastor Mike spoke about: the Pharisees and the Sadducees found no fault in them and let them go – they didn’t do anything illegal, immoral, or unethical. We don’t know the exact time frame between that day and the day we’re talking about now, but it couldn’t be long. The Council was jealous of the success experienced by the apostles. Success is very difficult to define, especially in church. I’ve experienced this myself when I was seeking a job in ministry. Search committees wanted measurable means of success that they determined. The Sadducees were envious that people were responding in droves to the truth that the apostles were teaching and demonstrating in their lives and in the lives of countless individuals that responded to the message.

So, into jail they go with the intention of being tried the following day just like in Chapter 4. The Lord had something else in mind. The Spirit of God is moving mightily and things are happening that are inexplicable – they are by definition miracles: people healed, demons cast out, people selling stuff and giving to those in need. These miracles could only be attributed to the power of God. And He shows up again in the form of the angel of the Lord. The angel of the Lord, “Opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, “Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.” This isn’t just a great escape, this is miraculous! They were let out and were told something very specific: “Tell the whole message of life.” Keep doing what you’ve been doing; tell people about the resurrection, tell people about the transforming power of God, tell people how He dragged you from the miry clay, tell people how you’re a new creation, tell people how you’ve been redeemed, redeemed, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. Don’t miss this! The apostles, “entered into the temple about daybreak and began to teach.” No prayer service, no consideration if they should do it again and risk being thrown in jail again – it’s already happened twice, they simply obeyed. The high priest sent his minions to get the apostles out of jail, but those guys find the apostles gone and the jail locked up tight as a drum with the guards in place totally unaware that the prisoners had been set free. The officers report back to the Council and tell them what they found inside the jail – nothing.

“Now when the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them as to what would come of this.” They didn’t understand how those guys weren’t still locked up. As they’re scratching their heads, someone comes in and says, “The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!” The Sanhedrin are not the kind of people that take too kindly to having their orders ignored. Back to the temple the captain and his officers go to do over what they did yesterday. Remember the captain is second in line after the high priest and is responsible for what happens in and around the temple. If you want something done right, do it yourself, right? Something different happens from the previous day, the captain and officers brought them back to the Council, “without violence (for they were afraid of the people, that they might be stoned).” Normally, the punishment for disobedience would be stoning and the captain probably wanted to make that happen, but the apostles were so popular that if they were harmed, the captain and his officers feared retribution from the crowd. Remember the Council was filled with jealously over these men of God.

Here comes the stand-off. The stand-off includes one of the most often misquoted and misused phrases in Scripture. The apostles are brought before the Council again to be questioned by the high priest. The high priest reminds them, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” Remember in Peter’s first and second sermons, he placed responsibility for the death of Jesus on those he is standing in front of. Of course, the Council is responsible for Jesus’ death just as we are in the sense that we needed atonement for our sin. The difference is the Council thought their religiosity would save them. Their message was not received by the people. The message of the apostles was received by many people and the Council sought to shut that down once and for all.

After the high priest’s accusation, Peter and the apostles respond by saying, “We must obey God rather than men.” I want to spend some time here to clear up this phrase. I have heard this used as justification for civil disobedience, for not submitting to a husband, for trying to dominate a wife, and for beating children. I’ve heard it used to justify witnessing for Christ on the job and not working. I heard it used as a legalistic proof text for anything and everything church related. What Peter says has nothing to do with any of that. If we are to take 2 Tim. 2:15 to heart, and we should, then we must understand what is happening in the context of the verse you’re looking at. I think we often get interpretation and application mixed up when studying scripture. Just to set the record straight, there are some things in Scripture you can read and understand the meaning in the context in which it was written. But there is great danger in carelessly handling the Word of God. It must be studied with the understanding of the human author, the intended audience, the time in history, the culture at the time, the language, and a host of other important aspects. Wait a minute, you’re thinking, that sounds a lot like work; I thought we’re supposed to sit back and enjoy so great a salvation! Let me put it in perspective. The average American spends just over 8 hours a day at work. That same guy spends almost 9 hours a day in personal care which includes sleeping, 2.5 hours a day in leisure pursuits, and just over an hour eating. The average American spends about 7.5 minutes a day in pursuit of religious activity. Hold on now, I’m not an average American, I am a Christian! How you spend your time reveals your priorities. When Jude says to, “Earnestly contend for the faith” in Jude 3, he means it. I cannot comprehend how people will work so hard at things of this world and casually pursue the things of eternity or perhaps even ignore them all together. If you find yourself without time to study God’s Word, to spend time with God, to pray, to fellowship with believers, to go to church, or to pursue God, you need to reevaluate your time.

“We must obey God rather than men.” Do you think God would tell us to, “Obey your leaders and submit to them,” (Heb. 13:17) yet not really mean it? Do think He would tell us, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God,” (Rom. 13:1) and not really mean every person? If you’re at work and your boss says you cannot witness on the job, consider what he is saying. Are you witnessing when you should be working? Do you have an attitude that you’re going to do whatever you want regardless of the authority? Do you think that God would have you sin no matter what you do? Obey God and sin against the authority. Obey the authority and sin against God. No win situation. If your boss really, really says you cannot mention God or Jesus at all, ever at work, find a different job. There are breaks that legally cannot restrict your conversation, but when your boss expects you to work, then be the very best worker you can be. Be a model employee. If you’re going to use the obey God card, you better know what God says and many, many times, people use that to justify their own desires.

Peter concludes his defense before the Council in vs. 30-32. He reiterates what he said the last time he was before these men. God had given these men the privilege and responsibility to carry the Gospel message to the people. The Council was attempting to stifle the message of hope the apostles carried to the people. What the apostles were doing was not illegal, but teaching about Christ did not line up with the goals of the Council. The message of hope carried people from the burden of religion to the freedom found in Christ.

I do not believe that God will put you in a situation where you must sin to honor Him. Believers absolutely should obey God, but it’s rarely an either-or situation. If you want to use the obedience card, you better play it consistently in every avenue of life. So, what happens next? What will become of the apostles? Will they be able to escape the clutches of the Sanhedrin? We’ll have to wait until next week to see what happens to these heroes of the faith.

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Sharing is Caring

10 Jul

You can watch and listen to the message here.

Last week, the disciples were ordered to stop preaching in the name of Jesus and they responded in prayer. They established a pattern for prayer that we should follow in our lives: pray first, pray together, pray with confidence, pray biblically, and pray expectantly. As we continue our journey through Acts, we’ll see how vital prayer is in accomplishing the mission God has set before us. This morning, we’ll see what happens when people are truly transformed by God.

Acts 4:32-35 says, “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.”

Let’s be clear on something. The disciples have just prayed and God answered by shaking the place where they were and they were, “filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.” This is not a contradiction to 2:4. They were empowered again by the Holy Spirit which leads to v. 32. Luke tells us, “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul.” The word congregation is better translated multitude. At this point in the young church, there are at least 8120 men. There had to be lots of women and children that aren’t numbered so it’s reasonable to conclude that the number of believers far exceeds 8120. Don’t use this as an excuse to justify the attendance at a particular church as a measure of success. The point Luke is making here is that of those people that made up the assembly that believed in the finished work of Jesus Christ, those that made a profession of faith and lived like Jesus, those people, “Were of one heart and soul.” You’ve heard that phrase heart and soul before. It should be obvious that Luke is not talking about a physical heart or soul, but a spirit of oneness, a spirit of togetherness, a spirit of community. This passage is very similar to 2:42-47, but one theme stands out in this passage compared to the previous passage at the end of chapter 2.

The overarching premise here is that of unity. This spirit of unity led them to do something very contrary to our way of thinking. “And not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.” That doesn’t mean they didn’t own anything themselves. This isn’t some justification for socialism or a misguided notion of fairness. The idea of fairness is running rampant through our society. We think it’s not fair that someone has a better car than we do. It’s not fair that my kid doesn’t get a trophy. It’s not fair that they got promoted and I didn’t. The idea of fairness has spread to the church too. It’s not fair that they get to teach and I don’t. It’s not fair they get to sing and I don’t. Thankfully, we haven’t really experienced those kinds of things at 3RC.

The defining point where selfishness gives way to selflessness is found in that word, “believed.” Jesus always transforms the heart. Show me someone that remains the same after salvation, and I’ll show you someone that is not genuinely saved. Only in the modern church do we deemphasize the power of God and accept simple profession of faith without corresponding transformation. The murderer Saul was radically transformed into the Apostle Paul. The greedy tax collector Zaccheus was transformed to the point that he gave away half his wealth and if he cheated someone he paid back four times the amount. Peter was an uneducated fisherman and forsook all he knew to follow Christ and was transformed into the leader of the Apostles. Don’t tell me that God doesn’t have the power to transform lives today. The same power that transformed those Bible guys, transformed me. Paul told us, “In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” (Eph. 4:22-24)

These believers were so radically transformed, they had all things in common. We tend to think of things as our own. I earned it; it’s my money; it’s my room; it’s my toy; it’s my guitar. This selfish nature is destroyed by Christ. Our attitude should be, what’s mine is yours. If you need it, I have it. “And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all.” The apostles continued telling people about what they saw after Jesus died. The resurrection of Christ is a pivotal event in the history of the world. I don’t have the time to go through all the reasons why it’s so important, but the short answer is that Jesus’ resurrection confirms the Old Testament prophecies of Messiah and it validates who He said He was.

At this point, Luke focuses on one particular aspect in the life of the new believers and that is sharing. This idea of sharing is nothing new to these people. Luke mentioned the idea of common property in v. 32. This goes back to the ideals of Greek society attributed to Pythagorean and Plato that there is no private ownership of anything. That ideal likely never materialized, but the concept would not be foreign to the people that the Apostles are now teaching. This idea of sharing is more in keeping with the Old Testament promises of God. Deut. 15:4-5 says, “However, there will be no poor among you, since the Lord will surely bless you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, if only you listen obediently to the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all this commandment which I am commanding you today.” These believers were experiencing the power of God and, “abundant grace was upon them all.” Peter referenced the last days in 2:17 and they are experiencing God’s blessing in 4:33, and now they are working toward the ideal that there should be no poor people among them.

Is this an ideal or is it something that can actually be achieved? Again, we can point to society today where we have so called experts saying it’s not fair that executives make so much money. We have government programs for people that fall below a certain income level. We have government grants that are available for some people to go to college. We have Obama phones because everyone needs a cell phone. These are all programs designed to even the playing field of society. But did these first century believers seek to even the playing field? I can answer that with one emphatic word: no.

So how did it work? Look at vs. 34-35. There were believers that had property. They voluntarily and willingly sold property when there was a need. There is no evidence to suggest this was mandatory, but when a need arose, they sacrificed some of what they owned and laid the proceeds at the feet of the apostles. Before you go and put your house on the market, this is what they used to do. Now if the Lord is leading you to do this, by all means go ahead and do it. In reality, we have to go back to the first century context of what a need is. A need is to require something because it is essential or very important rather than just desirable.

Over the years, I have become very jaded over the subject of needs. The vast majority of people that have come across my path wanting help from the church are not affiliated with any church and are not affiliated with Jesus Christ. Somewhere along the way, the church has become the go to place to make ends meet. From car repairs to cable bills, from rent to utilities, from gas to medical bills, I have seen a lot. Strangers coming to the church expecting to get what they want. They want the church to help them because they think that’s the way it should be. Before you get all judgmental on me and say we should help our folks, most people that come to the church wanting money are not in need; they are in want. I have watched people spend foolishly then come to the church and expect to be bailed out. If you have ever been involved with church finances, you will quickly agree. We will help our members in one way or another. It might be with money, but it also might be with biblical, financial counsel, and accountability. Sometimes we talk about giving up that Starbucks or passing on a new outfit, or you’ll be encouraged to eat at home instead of eating out and then we can give to a good church cause, but these early believers were selling property and land to meet the needs of other believers.

We have such abundance in the church. We fill our homes with stuff and when it overflows, we put stuff in the attic, then is spills into the garage, then we build a shed, and that overflows so we put our stuff in a storage unit. We end up paying money to store stuff we don’t use and likely won’t use. Why? Because we’ve bought into the idea of the American dream. I’ve never heard of the Honduran dream or the Brazilian dream, or the Paraguayan dream. The American Dream was publicly defined in 1931 by historian James Truslow Adams. He coined the phrase in his book, Epic of America. In the book, he says, “The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” He goes on to say the American Dream is not, “. . . a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.

The America Dream seems contrary to the example of the early church. Maybe you’ll point out that what the early church did was descriptive and not prescriptive. You might say, “We don’t have to sell our houses and land to meet people’s needs,” and I would agree. I think it would be appropriate to look at an Old Testament passage from a book few people have read let alone studied. Take the time to turn to Haggai 1. To quickly set the context, a remnant had returned to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon. There is economic hardship in the land of Judah. Look at the five things Haggai says is going on in vs. 5-6. Even though they’ve planted a bunch of crops, they’re not getting much in the way of harvest. Since the harvest isn’t so good, there’s not much food to satisfy their hunger. There’s not enough to drink to quench their thirst – the word drunk here means satisfy fully. They just can’t keep warm with the clothes they have. For the people that do work, it seems like they just put their money into a pocket full of holes where it disappears. The people have got to be thinking, “How in the world can we afford to rebuild the temple when we can’t even afford to take care of our families?” Many today would ask the same question, “How can I afford to sow into the work of the Lord, when I’m having trouble making ends meet?” I cannot afford to tithe or give.

In v. 7, the Lord says, “Consider your ways.” Haggai doesn’t stop there. Look at vs. 8-11. The real call is to evaluate your priorities. Have you ever thought that perhaps your current economic situation is a result of misplaced priorities? The people of Haggai’s time sure didn’t. They were content to hang out in their paneled houses all the while neglecting God’s house. In other words, they were more concerned about how their own houses looked. Their priorities were messed up. These early believers Luke is talking about are way different than the remnant that returned to Jerusalem. I think it’s fair to ask, is your attitude more like those exiles that returned to Jerusalem or these early believers? The early believers sold their stuff when there was a need and brought the proceeds to the Apostles. In the church today, we operate a little differently. We receive tithes and offerings as a way to support the mission of the church God established in Scripture and to fulfill the vision of your pastors. That financial support typically comes in through giving a portion of the wages people earn through their vocation. The attitude of these first century believers demonstrates an attitude of sharing. We are grateful for all the Lord provides for us at 3RC and I don’t take for granted the blessings He has poured out on me. But sometimes, we focus more on what we don’t have than on what we do have and on what God can do. These believers used what God had blessed them with to meet the needs of others in the church.

What’s mine is yours. If you have a need, we must be willing to see those needs met. There is no reason anyone in the church should walk around naked or hungry, but if you have Netflix and the fastest interned available and can’t pay the electric bill, there’s some issues. As Paul said in Phil. 4:19, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Sweet Promises

11 Feb

God's GloryYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we saw God has granted us everything we need to live a life of godliness. It’s not just possible for the elite, professional Christians, but it’s expected of all Christians. This morning, we’ll check out some sweet promises God has in store for us.

2 Pet. 1:4 says, “For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.”

By these. Because of God’s glory and excellence. Last week we didn’t really explore God’s glory. It’s a state of being great and wonderful. It is the manifestation of God’s nature and His presence with humanity. It was the glory of God that led the children of Israel out of Egypt through a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day. Ex. 24 tells us that the cloud rested on Mt. Sinai and Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights with the glory of God. In Ex. 40, the glory of God filled the temple. Ps. 96:3 says to, “Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.” In the great Christmas story, Luke says in Lu. 2:9, “And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.” The glory of the Lord is an incredible thing. 1 Cor. 11:7 says that man was made in the image and glory of God. The church takes the glory of God and we turn it into a verb when we glorify God in all that we think, say, and do. The glory of God is reflected when we, “. . . give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:6) When we share the life changing message of Christ, the glory of God is released because Jesus is, “The radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Heb. 1:3) By God’s glory and excellence we have been granted, “precious and magnificent promises.”

What are the promises? Is Peter talking in generalities or specifics? He says that the promises have been granted to us. The promises that come from faith in the Gospel of Christ. Not everyone benefits from these promises. We often see the promises of God turned into catch phrases and used by people that do not know God. God won’t give you anything you can’t handle. God works all things for good. God’s promises are not to be used as some magical incantations to ward off bad things. Christianity is more than snappy one liners. If we would just realize the incredible promises of God, maybe our faith would be something more than what it is. Peter is not talking generalities. As we’ll see as we move through this letter, Peter is talking about the second coming of Christ. God never breaks a promise and the hard part for us is playing the waiting game. We’re too impatient to sit back and wait. But Paul provides some instructions in 2 Cor. 7:1, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” We have a responsibility while we wait. Interestingly, Paul is talking about defilement from idols. When we recognize and understand the promises of God, it should motivate us to eliminate anything in our hearts that causes a separation between us and God. That’s called idolatry in the Bible. People say they can’t participate in the things of God because they’re too busy – the Bible calls it misplaced priorities. People say Sunday is the only day they have to spend with their family, but they neglect the family of God. People say you only live once and you have to grab life for all it’s worth – the Bible says your life is a vapor and you’re not guaranteed tomorrow. Eternity is forever and John writes, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” (1 Jo. 3:2) Life on earth is preparation for life in eternity.

What’s the point? God’s promises have been given so that we, “May be partakers of the divine nature.” Remember that we have been given everything we need, “pertaining to life and godliness.” But that doesn’t mean we become God. Even if we are partakers of the divine nature, Christians are not deified. We do not become God, we do not become a god. Peter means that we take on the moral characteristics of God. The Holy Spirit of God takes residence in our hearts and leads us and guides us. Behavior matters! We don’t act godly to be saved; we act godly because we ARE saved! When we are truly converted, we begin to know God and are changed by Him into the likeness of Jesus Christ. It is the continual process called sanctification. We are growing more and more like Christ; becoming more and more like Him through the influence of the Holy Spirit. Peter says we have, “Escaped the corruption that is in this world by lust.” When he says corruption, Peter is talking about the way the world works. John told us, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world.” (1 Jo. 2:15) Peter tells us we’ve escaped the world because of Christ. Since we belong to Christ, we’re no longer held hostage by the world’s influence. Paul told us that, “Our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to son; for he who has died is freed from sin.” (Rom 6:6-7) Peter and Paul are talking about the same thing. Humanity is born dead because of the curse; because of sin. But when we trust in the truth of the Gospel and are born again, we are set free in Christ! We’re dead to sin and alive to God in Jesus! (Rom. 6:11) Peter didn’t think the world was evil or bad. It’s the desires and attitudes of people that are evil. The root of this corrupt world is the opposition to what is right, and holy, and pure, and godly. It is the opposition to God and all things that relate to Him.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a part of the world’s corruption. You are free in Christ. Free to follow him, free to be like Him, free to live for Him. Gal. 6:8 says, “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”

How is Your Temple?

9 Oct

Our guest blogger today is Matei Branistareanu. He is our dear friend and Brother in Christ who is a church planter and missionary in his native Romania. We have partnered with him for over a decade making disciples in numerous villages in Southeast Romania. In today’s message, Matei talks about the Temple. I encourage you to listen here as you follow along. I have made some grammatical changes to the text for understanding.

In Acts 3-4 we see Peter and John evangelizing by helping people to enter the Temple through the gate called Beautiful. What is your mentality about the Temple? You will always go to the temple if that is the true temple of God. It is a place unto which you will be always be going up. Meaning that you are below and the Temple is up high. When you are sad or upset, down trodden, had a rough run in with the wife, instead of wandering the streets to drown you troubles, or to wash your laundry in public, you go up to the Temple. There is where you can find the blessings of comfort and help.

Is the Temple that kind of sight to you? In Luke 19:1, Zaccheus climbed a sycamore tree to be able to see Jesus. He was up and Jesus was down? No! Jesus said to him, “Zaccheus get down in a hurry for today I must remain in your house.” In Luke 18:10 and 14, “Two men went up to the temple to pray.” The temple was located on Mount Moriah. It is a fortress of escape located in plain sight. A Christian is a Temple. 1 Cor. 3:16 says, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”

How do you see the Temple? The way you perceive this Temple will lead your work and your service. Are you heavily burdened coming to the Temple? Are you anxious to come to the Temple? Would you bring your children who are doctors or engineers or that have some high position to the Temple? Would you not? When you enter the Temple without humility, the Temple is low in your estimation and not high. Then I understand why you don’t invite them to the Temple!  Be honest! Is that the way that you are seeing the Temple? The impotent saw the Temple inaccessible. He might have thought that he would never be able to make it into the Temple. Are you needful of forgiveness or healing ? How do you see the people in the Temple?  People of low esteem? Do you believe that there is God’s presence here and he can heal people and let them enter through this Wonderful Door which is Jesus Christ ? Who is going up to the Temple? Peter was going up with John. Would you invite someone to go up with you? With whom do you fellowship during the week? Who is your John or Peter?

Solomon’s Temple had 12 gates. The beautiful gate was toward the sun rising (Neh. 3:29) which led to the women’s court. This gate made of Corinthian bronze and shined in the sun light as if it was made of gold. This beautiful gate is a powerful contrast to the impotent [people] sitting by it. In today’s time this is still remaining true. We are having now-a-days churches and some of them even cathedrals, but at their gates people are sitting impotent. In that it is seen the beauty side by side with the helplessness. At the Temple people were coming to give in order to have good success. In our times not even this is practiced anymore. Therefore we do not have the impotent or beggars; someone [that] we might lead into the Temple. Those people gave money in the Temple in order to find favor with God. There was wealth study of today churches. It was found that there is so much property and assets that it could be said of it to be the richest organization in the world, but without spiritual power. What a contrast! An impotent man and a beautiful gate. The impotent could not enter in by it, but he was not allowed in in either. Was he unkempt?

There was once a beggar who used to come to church. He had an odor. The brethren of the church were irate over this man coming and they appealed to the Pastor to ask him not to come any more. The Pastor has addressed the man as follows, “Please go home and ask the Lord regarding our church and see what the Lord will say.” The next Sunday the man came back. He was the same smelly and unkempt. At the door of the church the Pastor asked the man and he replied, “I prayed, but the Lord said he does not know about this church anything either.” Obviously, He never entered that church. Oh how well it would be if the impotent man would enter that gate. He would not have to beg anymore. He would not have to stay at the gate hoping for a few copper coins, oh the riches that are found on the other side of the gate. If he would only know…. the little servant girl in the house of Naaman the Syrian. Brethren we do not live to just give help to someone, but to evangelize them and help them to enter through the gate. I believe if the two Apostles that were passing by the gate they would have had a problem if they had money. They might have given him [the beggar] money but not healing and acceptance before the Lord. Unfortunately with money it is easier to deal with some people’s matters, but if we evangelize them, then we have to follow up. (John 5:6-8)

Who wants to be like Peter and John? Who is the beggar? Does still exist beggars waiting for something that they do not know? If you think that there is nobody in spiritual need that means you are not a Christian. Peter and John did not meet by chance. They worked together. Do you have a Peter or a John? As a nation, the people of Israel have problems from birth as it is said in 1 Kings 18:21, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions?” In Acts 3:4 Peter and John were one in the Spirit. They spoke together, “Look at us.” What authority, what spiritual might, what testimony! We cannot go to heaven with our testimony damaged. Acts 3:5 reveals the lack of wisdom of the world. Romanians think that money is the main problem of our country, but it is not. It is not money that gets us out of our lack, but it is our faith and that faith in Jesus will heal our nations. (2 Chr. 7:14)

What part of the Temple program do you like the most? A father said to his son who was asking for money that, “If you can open up my fist than you can have the money that are there.” The son grabbed the father’s hand and began to wrestle with that fist to get it opened, but after some time he was getting tired to no avail. Then the father made like he was getting tired too and let go for the son’s sake. Somebody has asked the father why he is doing all this with his son. The father answered, “I want my son to have fellowship with me by having to go through this. I want his heart attached to mine and get real close to me.” There is no need for us to tell to God what our needs are. He already knows, but he is giving us a time of wrestling with Him. In this way a dialog is being developed and fellowship takes place. He wants us close. He does not want to be just a store house from where we get what we need. You could not tarry with me for one hour? The hour of prayer. Do we spend an hour in prayer? Well we do not come to the prayer service and at home we are very busy. Spiritually impotent! Among us the youth do not pray; neither do the kids in the secular schools, but they are having very much success. First in the things of the world but last in the things of God!

At what time are you going up to the temple? At 3:00 p.m. during the heat of the day? Were the camel rides air conditioned? For these people it was not difficult to go? We can tell why – spiritual impotence – I believe that is more like it. When the clock strikes sharp on the hour, it is time to go. What was your reason for going up to the Temple? I do not know, the Lord knows. The Jews would go to the temple three times per day. What is wrong with these Christians? They are lazy people that is why they go to the church so often for they don’t like to work. At the ninth hour again is the time of the sacrifice when the High Priest would offer the incense with the prayers of the saints. Are you coming at the church presenting your life pure and well like incense?

“But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk! And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God” (Acts 3:6-8) Once he was healed, his healing was authentic and he stayed close to the Apostles. The accent therefore it is put on, “In the name of Jesus Christ” [because] He is the One who can heal. Later on in Acts Chapter 4, we see this same man staying by Peter and John in prison full of joy in the Temple, but also in jail. We are not only Christians in good weather, but on bad weather too, right?

An Introduction to 1 John

13 Sep

You can listen to the podcast for this here.

We begin a new series this morning into John’s first letter. This letter is written to the church at large and so it has bearing on us. It was written for a specific purpose and I pray you will be able to see why it was written as we move through it. In fact this letter lays the foundation for Christian conduct.

Take a look at 1 John 1:1-4.

John begins his letter with a description of the object of the letter. The object of this introduction is the Word of Life. The Word of Life was from the beginning. They heard about the Word of Life. They looked at and touched the Word of Life. This description is strikingly similar to John 1:1-5, 14. The first phrase in v. 1, “What was from the beginning” indicates what the Word is inherently. The word “was” is in the imperfect tense indicating ongoing action. He is from eternity. When the beginning happened, He was already there. The tense of the verbs indicate a stark contrast to what John says about “What was from the beginning” and touching and seeing Him. He was talking about something that had occurred in John’s past. John was an eyewitness to Jesus; the Creator of the heavens and the earth; the One that was in the beginning with God.

Just in case you didn’t get what John was saying in v. 1, he goes on in v. 2 to say, “And the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us.” Jesus is real, John saw Him, touched Him, experienced Him. “The eternal life was with the Father.”Eternal life refers to Jesus Christ. He was with God in the beginning. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we saw His glory.” There’s a reason John emphasizes that he actually saw and heard and fellowshipped with Jesus. In the early church there was a growing false teaching regarding Gnosticism. Gnosticism has two main points. First, the Gnostics maintained that spiritual enlightenment came from special knowledge that the ordinary Christian was unable to have, but once you did get it, salvation resulted. Second, the Gnostics believed that matter was evil and the source of evil. They denied the physical birth of Jesus and thus had to make their own way to God – knowledge.

Look at v. 3. John is writing to tell us what he has seen and heard. His reasoning is so that we could have fellowship with him. The word fellowship here is the Greek word koinonia. It gives us the idea of a oneness of community; a common participation or sharing of something. Who does John want to have fellowship with? The people he’s writing to – the church. Does that mean you can’t hang out with lost people? No, but you’ll never have the level of fellowship Christ desires us to have with Him and one another. “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3) We should do what John did. Whatever we see and hear about Jesus, we need to tell other people. If fellowship is common participation in something, then that something in this context is the noun eternal life. “The eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us.” (v. 2b) Manifested to us – revealed or shown. Eternal life was made known to John and he wants to make eternal life known to us. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6) That’s how John can say, “Our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” If your fellowship or your community is with God and with Jesus, then your fellowship is also with believers. Jesus said the same thing, “That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:21)

John’s purpose is revealed in v. 4. Don’t think John is being selfish. He’s not writing just so he can experience some joy in his otherwise troubled life. “These things” refers to what he has seen and heard and his proclamation of these things. The emphasis is on the message, not the messenger. True joy is not something we make happen. Joy is a by-product of our fellowship with God and other believers. “You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” (Ps. 16:11) That’s the joy John is talking about. His joy is complete when people respond to the truth of the Gospel.

So what is joy? The web defines it as the emotion of great happiness. Is that biblical joy? There are some amazing parallels in the Gospel of John that will help us understand biblical joy. Read John 15:9-11. Christ found joy by keeping God’s commandments. We are to keep Christ’s commandments and abide in His love. That’s what gives us the ability to keep the commandments. Biblical joy comes from abiding in Christ.

It all comes down again to the way we live. We’re going to see in this letter how vitally important our behavior is. How important our conduct is. How we act in life, the things we do, the things we participate in all reflect the reality of Christ in our life. John 16:22, “Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.”