Shout with joy to the Lord; lift up your voice, rejoice & sing!
11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.
17 From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.
We live in a world that is jam-packed with self-promotion.Hollywood ‘elites’ and musicians press their opinion on every subject into our cultural conscience simply because they have a platform to do so, misunderstanding their position in society. Everyone, it seems, that can have a voice, opinion or viewpoint wants to make sure they are heard, too, among the sea of other voices cluttering our ears, minds and eyes. The cry of ‘look at me!’ rings through social media outlets. People seeking praise or trying to justify their poor life choices do everything they can to make sure that they are right, simply because they can be heard. Proverbs 18:2 “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”
But, as Christians, we are called to something different (1 Peter 2:9). In humility, we consider others as more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). And in this attitude of humility (James 4:6), we will always find that there is only One who is worth bragging on, worth talking about at length, and it’s Jesus. Simply because we are aware of our own mistakes, our problems, our own failings, they are all too clear (Romans 7), so we brag on Jesus, the One who has saved us from ourselves (Titus 3:4-6.)
People who shout about themselves have only a narcissist to promote to a host of other narcissists. The competition is thick. But when we brag on Jesus, and what He has done, our voice will ring out above the rest, because we point toward something higher, something the rest of the crowd doesn’t have. And in the distinctiveness of Christ, we will find that truth rings out over the noise, that a humble voice can have the deeper impact. When we boast in Christ, we point toward a work done in us that is greater than our own human effort, we point toward hope, depth and meaning, which the world is sorely lacking in with its messages of self.
In humility, we understand our place, we see our sin, our need for God, and we are brought to joy because of what He has done for us in Christ. And then we spend our life’s efforts singing His praises. They may press their man-made reason and so-called righteousness on us, but we can see beyond their flash and into the emptiness of their arguments.
Use every occasion to point others toward Jesus today, and sing His praises. Rest in Him, find your identity in Him, you who are in Him are clothed with Christ. Let the world see Him in your actions, attitudes and adoration today.
2 Corinthians 5
11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Shout with joy to the Lord; lift up your voice, rejoice & sing!
12 “‘I was traveling to Damascus under these circumstances with authority and a commission from the chief priests. 13 King Agrippa, while on the road at midday, I saw a light from heaven brighter than the sun, shining around me and those traveling with me. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice speaking to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
15 Then I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’
And the Lord replied: ‘I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting. 16 But get up and stand on your feet. For I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and a witness of what you have seen and of what I will reveal to you. 17 I will rescue you from the people and from the Gentiles. I now send you to them 18 to open their eyes so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that by faith in Me they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified.’
19 Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. 20 Instead, I preached to those in Damascus first, and to those in Jerusalem and in all the region of Judea, and to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works worthy of repentance. 21 For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple complex and were trying to kill me. 22 To this very day, I have obtained help that comes from God, and I stand and testify to both small and great, saying nothing else than what the prophets and Moses said would take place — 23 that the Messiah must suffer, and that as the first to rise from the dead, He would proclaim light to our people and to the Gentiles.'”
There is a layer of humility, mirroring the humility of Jesus, that Paul has as he tells his story for the last time in the book of Acts. I’m sure he told it to other people more time between this moment and when he was martyred, but this is the final recorded time it is shared. This conversion account is Paul’s badge of honor and simultaneously points toward his greatest shame. He was not called to this work for Jesus because he was doing such a good job following God. Instead, he was fighting against the people who were being obedient, and walking with Christ. He was so hung up in his works-righteousness religion that he could not see or hear grace. Again, that is not to his credit, and he knows it.
He preached repentance as one who needed to repent, one who knew what it meant to need grace. His humility was birthed in that shame, in that conviction of sin. Paul elsewhere calls himself the ‘chief of all sinners,’ and this helps us see that he understood the degree of his spiritual blindness before he met Jesus on that road to Damascus.
Jesus spoke directly to Paul’s pride and anger in verse 14 when He told him it was ‘hard to kick against the goads.’ Paul had been struggling against God leading up to this moment (everything was all about what Paul could do, not what God was capable of) and now Jesus is confronting him directly and telling him that he needed to stop struggling with the divine instruction he was receiving.
I wonder how much I kick against the goads.
How often do I fight and struggle against the Spirit’s leading in order to accomplish what I want to do, to work my own plan? How much does my pride keep me from seeing the path of rightousness laid out before me? How much hardship do I suffer needlessly because I am too focused on what I want to do rather than on following where God wants me? Doing what He wants?
This requires a daily examination and, like Paul, a healthy dose of humility. If I am going to GoLove others like I should, then I should be doing that from the righteousness that God provides, not from something I try to manufacture on my own. Repentance and humility work hand in hand here to see this accomplished. It is to God’s credit and His glory when Paul’s life changed, and when mine does as well. Pride wants me to keep kicking against the goads, the Spirit encourages me to die to self. The latter is the only option that brings peace and joy, and the Lord knows my heart well enough to know how much I need Him to see me through.
“11 God was performing extraordinary miracles by Paul’s hands, 12 so that even facecloths or work aprons that had touched his skin were brought to the sick, and the diseases left them, and the evil spirits came out of them.
13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists attempted to pronounce the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I command you by the Jesus that Paul preaches!” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 The evil spirit answered them, “I know Jesus, and I recognize Paul — but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them all, and prevailed against them, so that they ran out of that house naked and wounded. 17 This became known to everyone who lived in Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. Then fear fell on all of them, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. 18 And many who had become believers came confessing and disclosing their practices, 19 while many of those who had practiced magic collected their books and burned them in front of everyone. So they calculated their value and found it to be 50,000 pieces of silver. 20 In this way the Lord’s message flourished and prevailed.”
And here we have an excellent example of what it means to be a servant of Christ. In all these examples of wonderful things being done, we have only one question to ask, “Who is being glorified?” And the answer lets us see that Paul’s ministry was legitimate. The Name of Jesus was magnified and recognized more highly than Paul’s. Paul wasn’t able to do this anonymously, but he certainally wasn’t doing it to self-promote. His humility pointed toward his legitimacy as an evangelist. Someone who is truly concerned for the things of Christ is also going to seek out glory for Christ alone.
I am always skeptical of people who enjoy the limelight too much, and as a preacher, I understand the temptations and struggles that go along with the office. So I joke with the congregation sometimes about them never seeing my face on the church bus or my name on the sign out front because it isn’t my pulpit and it most certainally isn’t my church. In John 3:30, and Luke 17:10 we are reminded that “He must become greater, I must become less.” and “In the same way, when you have done all that you were commanded, you should say, ‘We are good-for-nothing slaves; we’ve only done our duty.'” Because it’s not about us for even a moment. The Gospel is something that we have been entrusted with, but it isn’t about any individual but Christ.
Paul’s Christ-centered humility was a marker of the legitmacy of His teaching and work. He wasn’t trying to draw crowds because he had a new book to sell. He wasn’t doing an “Apostle Paul’s Miracles & Holy Hands Healing Tour” either. Every moment was laser focused on Jesus, pinpointed on what He had done and was meant for His glory. Paul saw himself simply as the vehicle for delivering the message and doing whatever work God has designed for him to accomplish in His Name.
And so, like Paul, we don’t need to worry or consider our own reputation when we are telling others about Jesus because it isn’t about us for a moment. We shouldn’t be concerned with what they might think of us, for good or for ill, we simply need to be faithful servants who are accomplishing the tasks the Master has set before us. Our faithfulness to Him is shown through our dedication to seeing His Name glorified and lifted up. He is our focus and that focus should be obvious to anyone that encounters us as we GoLove others in His Name. Jesus first. Period.
Acts 18:18-23The Return Trip to Antioch
“18 So Paul, having stayed on for many days, said good-bye to the brothers and sailed away to Syria. Priscilla and Aquila were with him. He shaved his head at Cenchreae because he had taken a vow. 19 When they reached Ephesus he left them there, but he himself entered the synagogue and engaged in discussion with the Jews. 20 And though they asked him to stay for a longer time, he declined, 21 but he said good- bye and stated, “I’ll come back to you again, if God wills.” Then he set sail from Ephesus.
22 On landing at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church and went down to Antioch. 23 And after spending some time there, he set out, traveling through one place after another in the Galatian territory and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.”
As I look at the ministry of the Apostle Paul, I am reminded again and again of the divisions and separations that have occured over the last 2000 years. Granted, even in the early years and decades of the church, Paul & the other Apostles had to deal with separations and issues that divided the church in its infancy. Some separations were out of necessity. The church had to branch out from Jerusalem, & so disciples wouldn’t make the trip in from Antioch Psidia, Cypur or Rome every week just to attend services. That was quite impossible & so there would have to be separations that took place in the body as it grew & as the faithful multiplied. These separations still exist today. I have friends spread out all over the country and in different places around the world & so it isn’t really practical for us to all gather each week on Sunday for worship & that’s okay. Plus, we know that this separation is temporary. Our eternal gathering will be without these separations over miles.
Some divisions occured because of culture & language. It wouldn’t make much sense for an Etheopian Christian to become a part of a church in Gaul. The cultures & languages would produce a number of hurdles to overcome, not insurmountable mind you, but enough that no one would blame our Etheopian brothers and sisters for gathering where the communication was easier. Again, this separation is temporary & we still view them as our brother & sisters in Christ, even though our heart languages are different. Even if we couldn’t speak together, we could sing a common song together (each oin our own languages) & participate in a meal or Communion together and understand well enough what was needed in order to spend time together as family. These barriers & separations are normal in this life & we look forward to the day when we all speak as one again in the perfected Kingdom of God.
Other divisions simply shouldn’t exist and do nothing but separate the body. Sometimes it’s a disagreement over doctrine because one person or group has wandered from the truth & authority of the Word. Some exist over music preferences, instrumentation, dress, traditions & structure. People pick hills to die on that do not honor Christ & that promote division rather than put to death the desires of the flesh & pride. These divisions (not separations, but divisions, rightfully) are not in the plan and desire of God for the bride of Christ & need to be done away with.
We should all be accountable to the Word itself and not the traditions of men. We need to be sensitive to cultural identities, but at the same time, we must be conscious of the freedoms we have in Christ and the bigger picture of the church universal & our witness to the world. Jesus told us that the world would recognize that we were His by the love that we shared with one another. Division doesn’t work toward that witness. Unity builds and enhances that reputation. Unity must come under the authority of the Word, the doctrines of the faith that are clearly laid out there and in the blood of Christ Himself. We cannot add to it, modify it or subract from it and still be faithful to Him.
Paul’s journeys between the churches reflected this unity. They cared for one another, took care of each other’s needs, prayed for one another & sought Christ for their cities in a unified effort to take the good news of the Gospel to the nations. Paul encouraged them, and they in turn encouraged him. We should be actively engaged in strengthening one another, pointing hearts and minds back to the Word, living under the authority of God laid out there for us to see. As we GoLove others in Jesus Name, it is crucial that they see a God-honoring & proper example from us as we interact with other believers. They need to see the way we esteeem Christ & His Word & His exmaple of service, grace & love for others. Our integrity comes from this & not from anything that we would do to try to bolster the message, as if it needed our help.
“73 Your hands made me and formed me;
give me understanding
so that I can learn Your commands.
74 Those who fear You will see me and rejoice,
for I put my hope in Your word.
75 I know, Lord, that Your judgments are just
and that You have afflicted me fairly.
76 May Your faithful love comfort me
as You promised Your servant.
77 May Your compassion come to me
so that I may live,
for Your instruction is my delight.
78 Let the arrogant be put to shame
for slandering me with lies;
I will meditate on Your precepts.
79 Let those who fear You,
those who know Your decrees, turn to me.
80 May my heart be blameless regarding Your statutes
so that I will not be put to shame.”
Wisdom begins in us when we learn to fear God properly. Understanding grows in us when we gain a proper perspective as to who we are in light of just who He is, too. We cannot have a healthy perspective on life so long as we see ourselves at the top of the ladder of importance. Instead, with a dose of humility and an honest evaluation of reality, we see just how much we need God, His love, grace, mercy & His rule over our hearts, minds and lives. Pride has no place before the throne of God.
Read this portion of Psalm 119 again, a little more slowly, taking in the depth of what David is saying & admitting.
Read it a third time, acknowledging your own need for God’s guidance.
Read it a fourth and final time, and make it your prayer as you see Him out.
“15 During these days Peter stood up among the brothers — the number of people who were together was about 120 — and said: 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled that the Holy Spirit through the mouth of David spoke in advance about Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was one of our number and was allotted a share in this ministry.” 18 Now this man acquired a field with his unrighteous wages. He fell headfirst and burst open in the middle, and all his insides spilled out. 19 This became known to all the residents of Jerusalem, so that in their own language that field is called Hakeldama (that is, Field of Blood). 20 For it is written in the Book of Psalms:
‘Let his dwelling become desolate;
let no one live in it; and
Let someone else take his position.’
21 “Therefore, from among the men who have accompanied us during the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us — 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day He was taken up from us — from among these, it is necessary that one become a witness with us of His resurrection.”
23 So they proposed two: Joseph, called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “You, Lord, know the hearts of all; show which of these two You have chosen 25 to take the place in this apostolic service that Judas left to go to his own place.” 26 Then they cast lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias. So he was numbered with the 11 apostles.”
What do you do to recover from a painful memory? How do you move forward? What is the rough way to behave? How do you pick up the pieces and move ahead?
Jesus had obviously chosen to 12 men for a very specific reason. There was a mirroring of the tribes of Israel, and from a numerological standpoint, it was the combination of God (3) and man (4) multiplied out together. It was highly symbolic and meaningful, and so there was a need to restore what was broken.
Now, Jesus had plenty of time to do this before He ascended, but the community needed time to heal and He was also leaving them tasks to accomplish in their own. They needed some victories and some healings to take place in their hearts that required them to take steps of faith and seek out God.
Now, the Holy Spirit had not yet been poured out on the church, so they resorted to the best method they knew to involve God in the choosing, and so they cast lots. Today, we have no need for lot-casting, but instead should rely on the Holy Spirit to help us in moments where we don’t know quite what to do. But that being said, we do need to rely more on Him than we often do.
Sometimes my life is in difficult to carry, hard to move pieces because I have been trying far too hard to make things happen on my own rather than trust God to move. I push and press and shove and cram until shards snap off and things get pointy and I wind up wounded. And God is always there to bind me up, bring me healing and help me move forward, the moment I give the reins back over to Him. The messes of me are totally fixable for Him, and I must again resign myself to His leading.
Judas, the ‘son of perdition,’ left a wound in th community that needed to be addressed, healed and moved beyond. His betrayal was used to usher in grace for us, which just goes to confirm that God can and does use even the worst bits of our lives to still work His will.
We are not beyond redeeming if we still have breath. Even our worst mistakes can be learned from and God can work wonders from the ashes and rubble we leave in our wake. But it takes faith, humility and a resigned spirit to help bring about this change. Pride will always keep healing from happening. Humility draws us close to God and allows Him to do that work in us that enables us to GoLove in His Name and in His grace. It must be through His power and in His strength that this is accomplished. Just like it takes an expert to restore a shattered artifact or to retouch a masterpiece, we must leave the work of restoration in the hands of God. Our own efforts will always come up short of perfection.