“12 All those who sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all those who sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For the hearers of the law are not righteous before God, but the doers of the law will be declared righteous. 14 So, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, instinctively do what the law demands, they are a law to themselves even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts. Their consciences confirm this. Their competing thoughts will either accuse or excuse them 16 on the day when God judges what people have kept secret, according to my gospel through Christ Jesus.”
So, who is it then that does the Law that will then be declared righteous? It is good for us to desire to obey God. It is good for us to act in that obedience, walking according to His statutes. But in reality, none of us are capable of keeping the Law. We will break it, struggling against our own sin, even as we try our best to walk according to the will of God.
Does that mean that we are without hope? No! Because of the grace of God given to us in Christ Jesus, He who does not allow for sin has made a way to continue to lift us up even when we do stumble. Through Jesus, He has made a way for us to be made holy even when we have been soiled with sin. Now, does that mean we kee on sinning, knowing that God will forgive us? As Paul will later say, “By no means!” we cannot continue in our sin, intentionally living in rebellion. We must make the consious effort to walk according to the will of God, choosing His ways over our own. The desire to do this comes from the movement of His Spirit within us, not from some sense of weighted obligation. It is based in love & thanksgiving, coming from that change of heart that He works in us through His grace.
Being a doer of the Law is evidence of this, not what draws the Spirit to us. That would put the power in our hands, as if we had some authority over God. No, we work and move according to His will, under His authority & because of His grace. Every marker, every bit of evidence points toward Him, bringing Him glory & honor. It isn’t about us. It isn’t about putting ourselves up on a pedestal. It’s about humbly submitting to Him, letting His light shine. In showing that the Law of God is written on our hearts, we show that He has worked a miracle in us, changing our sinful inclinations into righteousness. It is by His power that we live & move. It should then be for His honor that we do whatever it is we set our minds to, whatever tasks are produced by our lives of faithfulness.
God’s desire for man is plain. Even without the Law, people still know that murder, theft, lying & other such activities are wrong. There is no mystery to this. God has set a compass in the hearts of mankind that point us toward a sense of right & wrong, a desire to see justice done. So, as Paul says, the Spirit speaking through him, we are all without excuse. People will ask about the groups that never hear the Gospel, the people who were never taught the Law. Well, God’s answer to that series of questions is found here, too. Those who hear it are judged by it. Those who do not are judged differently, but they are still judged. God is fair & He is just. We must trust Him to do what is right & to weigh the hearts & lives of men. He will not act contrary to His own nature or statutes. He is unchanging.
As we GoLove others, we must tell them about the expectations that God holds for us, every single one of us. We who know are responsible. We who have the truth are the ones who have been commissioned to share it with the world. We do not bear the weight of judging the souls of men, but we will be held accountable for bearing the message to them. We do this, partly, by walkingin the rhythms of His grace every day, walking according to His will.
“24 As he was making his defense this way, Festus exclaimed in a loud voice, ‘You’re out of your mind, Paul! Too much study is driving you mad!’
25 But Paul replied, ‘I’m not out of my mind, most excellent Festus. On the contrary, I’m speaking words of truth and good judgment. 26 For the king knows about these matters. It is to him I am actually speaking boldly. For I am convinced that none of these things escapes his notice, since this was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you believe.’
28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Are you going to persuade me to become a Christian so easily?’
29 ‘I wish before God,’ replied Paul, ‘that whether easily or with difficulty, not only you but all who listen to me today might become as I am — except for these chains.’
30 So the king, the governor, Bernice, and those sitting with them got up, 31 and when they had left they talked with each other and said, ‘This man is doing nothing that deserves death or chains.’
32 Then Agrippa said to Festus, ‘This man could have been released if he had not appealed to Caesar.'”
Read verse 29 again:
‘I wish before God,’ replied Paul, ‘that whether easily or with difficulty, not only you but all who listen to me today might become as I am — except for these chains.’
The chains, being jailed…that was secondary to what was happening for Paul. He had audience with people who did not know Jesus, and so he was going to do whatever he could to share the Good News of the Gospel with them. He wanted them to see and understand the hope that he had in Christ. His heart was going out for them, he was concerned for their salvation, and his personal situation did not play into consideration.
Personal ease, an easy walk? These are not guaranteed. Jesus has promised to help us through every hardship, but we must keep our focus on Him. It’s not about making everything comfortable for us, but having us in a place where we are needed to do the Gospel work. Ease and comfort are not factors that determine whether or not we do what is required of us. If they were, there would never even be one permenant gathering of belivers. We would get upset with each other and scatter to the wind. Instead, we focus on Christ, not seeking excuses, and we do the work together, the work laid out for us in the Gospel.
If Paul was a consumer, he would be dissatisfied, but as a disciple he was simply doing what his Master asked of him. It could have been easier, yes. He could have settled down in Ephesus and had a fulfilling ministry, sure, but that wasn’t what God wanted of him. And so he did what was required, he pressed on through the difficulty, God giving him strength to do so.
As we do the work of Christ, answering the call to GoLove others, we have to remember that the work laid out before us is so much more important than our ‘feeling’ comfortable. We must seek our joy in Him, not in situations. We must find our joy in Him, not seeking out what the flesh calls ‘happiness.’ Ministry, our walk as Christians, is not about what is easiest, it is about what is required of us as disciples of Jesus. So, stick with it, power through in His Name and be faithful as Christ has been faithful for you, God getting the glory and giving you the strength to do so through His Holy Spirit.
[Paul speaking to the Ephesian Elders] “And now I am on my way to Jerusalem, bound in my spirit, not knowing what I will encounter there, 23 except that in town after town the Holy Spirit testifies to me that chains and afflictions are waiting for me. 24 But I count my life of no value to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of Gods grace.
25 And now I know that none of you will ever see my face again — everyone I went about preaching the kingdom to. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of everyone’s blood, 27 for I did not shrink back from declaring to you the whole plan of God. 28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock that the Holy Spirit has appointed you to as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood. 29 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 And men will rise up from your own number with deviant doctrines to lure the disciples into following them. 31 Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for three years I did not stop warning each one of you with tears.
32 And now I commit you to God and to the message of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyones silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands have provided for my needs and for those who were with me. 35 In every way I’ve shown you that by laboring like this, it is necessary to help the weak and to keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, for He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
36 After he said this, he knelt down and prayed with all of them. 37 There was a great deal of weeping by everyone. They embraced Paul and kissed him, 38 grieving most of all over his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they escorted him to the ship.”
What a tough time. What a short amount of time to say what most needed to be said to a people who have your heart. And, again, what does Paul come back to?
Just stick with the Gospel. Remember the grace of God. Pay attention to the people He has appointed you to your care. Do not deviate.
In essence, he was reminding them to keep the main thing the main thing. Stick with the Gospel message. Don’t swerve to the left or to the right. Don’t even side step a little. Keep your eyes, heart & mind focused like a laser on Jesus Christ & the cross. This is our core. This does not change.
And while they had invested a lot in each other, building deep and abiding relationships, Paul knew & they knew that this was all about more than any one person. This was all about more than a man’s agenda, reputation or ego. This was all about Jesus and that had to maintain long after Paul was no longer around, and after they had passed from this life, too. At the end of the day, they wanted to be able to say, like Paul did, that they did not shrink back. They did not opt for human comfort or prideful posturing. Instead, they left it all out on the field, and they ended their race still pressing forward. No shrinking back.
That’s what we all want, what we all know we should be striving for, but what our flesh tries with all its might to keep us from accomplishing. We have been called to GoLove others in the Name of Jesus Christ, and we need to do it with some gusto. We need to unleash the passion that the Holy Spirit of God puts inside of us and work under the power that He provides. We need to seek His wisdim daily, and ask for teh strength to act on it in holy discernment. This is our calling, and its not a lot of lolly gagging and killing time. When we see things with Kingdom eyes, with a Gospel centered vision, we come to understand that the time is now, the opportunities are abundant and we need to pray that God will send even more harvest hands into these fields to do the work alongside us. It’s not just about revival. It’s about multiplication, disciple making, church planting and the expansion of the Kingdom for the glory of God!
This isn’t something we shrink back from. This isn’t something that we push off until later. Too many of us are distracted by too many things that have absolutely no eternal significance. Seek Him first & His Kingdom & all the other things that we really do need in life will be added to us as well.
Everything else is chaff. Give it to the wind.
“1 After the uproar was over, Paul sent for the disciples, encouraged them, and after saying good-bye, departed to go to Macedonia. 2 And when he had passed through those areas and exhorted them at length, he came to Greece 3 and stayed three months. When he was about to set sail for Syria, a plot was devised against him by the Jews, so a decision was made to go back through Macedonia. 4 He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus from Asia. 5 These men went on ahead and waited for us in Troas, 6 but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread. In five days we reached them at Troas, where we spent seven days.
7 On the first day of the week, we assembled to break bread. Paul spoke to them, and since he was about to depart the next day, he extended his message until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the room upstairs where we were assembled, 9 and a young man named Eutychus was sitting on a window sill and sank into a deep sleep as Paul kept on speaking. When he was overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was picked up dead. 10 But Paul went down, fell on him, embraced him, and said, “Don’t be alarmed, for his life is in him!” 11 After going upstairs, breaking the bread, and eating, Paul conversed a considerable time until dawn. Then he left. 12 They brought the boy home alive and were greatly comforted.”
Our Western culture is very time conscious. We want things to begin and end on time when we say they’re supposed to and to 3-5 minutes beyond that begins to encroach into personal territory. I have heard preachers apologize for the length of a church service because people were making decisions and getting baptized. I have seen people rush out the moment the invitation hymn started. I grew up at a mega-church and there were days where the number of people leaving at invitation became such a distraction (because they wanted to get out of the busy parking lot and off to lunch early) that the Senior Minister had to take time to explain to people why it was rude and inappropriate to leave right as someone was being given the opportunity to have their eternal desitination changed. Wouldn’t that be worth sticking around for? Wouldn’t that be worth celebrating? The population of Hell has just been decreased, let’s praise God together for that, right?! But people still hold their own schedule and time as more valuable. There is still an issue with ‘timing’ at church services. “Let me have my hour and then let me go.” It’s a self-centered focus that has nothing to do with the Gospel message and everything to do with honoring self.
Paul knew his time in Troas was short, he was leaving in the morning, so he wanted to invest in this church family as much as he could before he left them. This meant a marathon session of unpacking the Word and filling their hearts with the things of God. And so Paul began speaking. It became dark, so they lit a few lamps. It got darker, so they lit a few more. They grabbed every lamp they could, so that everyone could see and be seen, and they invested themselves in the exposition of the Word and the Gospel message. It was time well spent. They were disciples of Jesus, after all, and so what better use of their time than to see what their Master desired of them, to learn more of what it meant to walk like Him? And so, no one was trying to leave, rather, they were settling in for the night to hear what mattered most. They wanted to hear from God.
We devote so much time to so many things, but how much of our time is truly well spent? How much time do we spend that is truly devoted to God each week? Are we tithing our lives like we tithe our income? Are we serving, worshipping, reading the Word, all in equal measure, so that we grow closer and closer to Christ every day? Is our time well spent? Or is much of it wasted? How much is spent in front of screens, time we call ‘me time,’ that should be spent in other, more God-honoring ways? Is there work that needs to be done? A neighbor that needs to be reached? Can we find a few more minutes to crack open our Bibles and listen for the voice of God?
This isn’t to make us feel guilty, thinking about these things. It is to help us remember what our priorities should be, and what it means to have time that is truly well spent. Because we spend our time in ways that we would never spend our money, or any of our other resources for that matter. The one thing we often claim is most important is often the one thing most poorly used.
We have been commissioned to GoLove people in Jesus’ Name. That is our primary responsibility as His disciples, to share His Gospel. But how much of our time is devoted to that task? How much of our lives do we actually give to see others come to Him, to make sure they hear about Him, to speak into their hearts of the infinite grace of God poured out for us through Immanuel’s veins? Is our time well spent?
I pray that God is merciful. I also pray that our eyes are opened & that we all become better stewards of the time He allows us to use & occupy.
“97 Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
for it is ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
for your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the aged,
for I keep your precepts.
101 I hold back my feet from every evil way,
in order to keep your word.
102 I do not turn aside from your rules,
for you have taught me.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through your precepts I get understanding;
therefore I hate every false way.”
Read this section of Psalm 119 again, but a little more slowly, listening to the heart of God being unfolded in the heart & mind of David.
Read it a third time, bit by bit, line by line and listen to the heart of God speaking to your own.
Read it a fourth and final time, and make it your prayer.
“5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. 6 And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. 8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. 9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” 11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.”
What a wonderful message for Paul to receive!
“Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you…”
I think we could all stand to be reminded of that crystal clear message. God has given us each a purpose, a deep, bigger-than-us, meaning for life and He confirms that by being present with us through it all. When we try to stand on our own, using our own strength, being ‘persuasive’ with our own wits, and trying to reason things out by our own ‘wisdom’ we are going to find futility, sorrow and disappointment.
But when we find ourselves occupied with the Word, trusting in God, then we will see with new eyes and find a beautiful vista laid out before us. It’s not an easy one to traverse, but it is certain. The goal is Christ, the path is Christ and the Word stands as our sign posts along the way as the Holy Spirit gives us wisdom to comprehend the journey, step-by-step.
Sometimes the Gospel is presented once and 3000 people come. Sometimes it is through the plodding of the days, weeks, months and years that we see its seed planted, watered and harvested. Either way, we find our contentment in doing that work, trusting the Master’s hand. Summits a season will come to a close, and we go on to speak to others who want to hear, who want to experience wha God is leading them to do. Sometimes it is a journey that does not move locations, but rather takes place over time in one, single place. And for us, the servants, it is not to say where the work needs to be done. We trust in the Master, and we listen to His voice. We trust that He is with us in the easy times and in the difficult. He has promised us that He would be with us, and so we must rest in that faith He has given us.
I would love to tell everyone that ministry is easy, and always trimmed out with joys. But in reality, it is difficult. There is heartbreak. The struggle with sin becomes burdensome when you want to flip a switch in someone’s head and heart that won’t be flipped by any power I can muster. We learn to wait, we learn to trust and we seek out God’s will in the fun and in the perilous times.
Our joy then comes from His presence. Our hope is manifested in Him. Our weaknesses shout out our need for Him and in those moments, where we feel His hand leading us through situations that we would never have thought we could face, we find true contentment and peace. As we GoLove others in His Name, in His power and according to His will, we will find that joy and contentment only in Him. Seek His face.
“1 After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, 3 and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. 4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.”
We are so often tempted to look at the task of discipleship and see the whole picture at once. That is an overwhelming task to try to begin! Looking at all the people that need to meet Jesus, all those souls who stand apart from the joy of the Gospel, we see the task laid out before us and we instantly begin thinking about how there is now way we can handle this enormous undertaking. The harvest is indeed plentiful! But we look at it with the eyes of the worker, and not the eyes of the Master who has given the work, and in doing so, we find ourselves struggling with the very idea of beginning the work. And in that state of mind, man y Christians set aside the power given to us in Jesus Christ, and we settle for complacency, consumerism and apathy sets in where glory should reside.
In reality, we see what Paul does here in Acts 18 and it sounds so simple, it sounds too easy. Just meet with friends? Just talk with people out at the stores & shops as your day unwinds? What about the crowds, the times where “3000 were added to their number that day.” and other situations like that? Doesn’t sharing the Gospel look like that? Powerful speakers, big voices, great intellects? That’s what makes for an effective Gospel presentation, right?
Wrong. We more we acknowledge our weakness, the more God shines through. The more we see and understand that the infinite, all powerful Creator of the Universe puts His Holy Spirit into us, into our regular, daily life selves, the more we will come to see and understand that the best discipling happens in these quiet, small, one-on-one situations, rather than in the big and the grandiose. Sure, some people are drawn by the crowds, and they get saved in the midst of large efforts. But the bulk of the population of heaven will be there because 1 or 2 people sidled up next to them somewhere along life’s journey and witnessed to them for the sake of Christ in small, private, daily-life kind of ways. There is beauty and power in the simple communication of the Gospel. There is power in the Gospel, and we must remember that God did not send us out inadequately equipped. Instead, He gave us Himself, through His Holy Spirit, and we can stand in all confidence in that message and in that process of discipleship because of what He has done.
It is all for His glory anyway. Trust Him. Take those simple steps of faith today and begin a conversation about Jesus with someone. You don’t have to have all the answers, you just need to be willing to be used by Him for His glory as we GoLove others in His Name.
“41 Let Your faithful love come to me, Lord,
Your salvation, as You promised.
42 Then I can answer the one who taunts me,
for I trust in Your word.
43 Never take the word of truth from my mouth,
for I hope in Your judgments.
44 I will always obey Your instruction,
forever and ever.
45 I will walk freely in an open place
because I seek Your precepts.
46 I will speak of Your decrees before kings
and not be ashamed.
47 I delight in Your commands,
which I love.
48 I will lift up my hands to Your commands,
which I love,
and will meditate on Your statutes.”
Would you say these same things as David? Do we praise God simply because of His commands and statutes? Do we find our rest and our hope in them? We may acknowledge that He has authority over kings and countries, but do we admit His Lordship over our lives? Do we appreicate His instruction this deeply?
Read through this portion of Psalm 119 again a second time, listening a little more deeply to what David is saying.
Read through a third time, and evaulate how you hold the statutes of God. Are they drawn close to you rheart, or held at arms’ length? Ask God to help you see yourself honestly.
Read through a fourth and final time, uttering a prayer to God, and talk with Him about how your heart receives His rule and reign. Thank Him for His great grace, mercy & instruction.
“14 When you see the abomination that causes desolation standing where it should not (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains! 15 A man on the housetop must not come down or go in to get anything out of his house. 16 And a man in the field must not go back to get his clothes. 17 Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days! 18 Pray it won’t happen in winter. 19 For those will be days of tribulation, the kind that hasn’t been from the beginning of the world, which God created, until now and never will be again! 20 Unless the Lord limited those days, no one would survive. But He limited those days because of the elect, whom He chose.
21 Then if anyone tells you, “Look, here is the Messiah! Look — there!” do not believe it! 22 For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and will perform signs and wonders to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 And you must watch! I have told you everything in advance.”
Using prophetic language, Jesus has afforded us a look into the future and the events surrounding the destruction of the temple (70 AD) and the last days. There are hints toward both events here in this chapter in Mark. The events on the Temple Mount led into a violent conflict and the dispersion of the Jewish people. What a blessing to give His disciples proper warning and instructions for such a horrific event!
Life is fraught with tragedies of varying size and importance. Very rarely are we afforded warning. Looking at the historical markers for WW1 & WW2, it was not difficult for people to see trouble brewing. But the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the bombing of Pearl Harbor came unexpectedly. There was no warning. Again, jumping ahead to the events of 9/11, there was no warning, the U.S. was caught completely off guard. And in stark comparison, we find the daily tragedy of government endorsed and supported abortion. 57.4 million babies have died since Roe v Wade in 1973, stand that in contrast to the 2.7 million soldiers & war dead who have passed in every conflict on American soil or as U.S. soldiers.
Tragedy heaped upon tragedy. We live in a sick and broken world. And since we are all going to ask God when the suffering will end, Jesus was compassionate enough to give us signs, yet wise enough not to give us an exact date. Faith comes into play here, and anticipation of the unknown serves as a fantastic motivator to press forward. God provides our comfort as we await His return, and just like every generation before mine, I sit and think that same thought, “Well, looking at the world today, it can’t be long.”
I pray that the 6600 unreached people groups are reached within my lifetime and that the evils of the world, like ISIS and Boko Haram among so many others, will be subdued. Christians are dying every day, and every year that annual total increases. Persecution is rampant. Over 35 million Christians have died in the past century, that’s approximately half of all Christian deaths since the birth of the church, and the trend is on the rise. So my hopes, then, do not rest in men seeing this violence stopped, but in God’s work through His people and the spreading of His Word.
Jesus has given us all the hope we need to survive such trying days, and certainally there are still difficult days to come. The increased silencing of Christian voices in Western Culture is just one of the signs that lets us see that…
But in Christ Jesus, we have hope that will never let us down! GoLove people, and let them hear about the hope that -you- have! It is absolutely worth it!
“1 Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, 4 endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. 5 This hope will not disappoint us, because Gods love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”