Mark 1:15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
This good news came at a very specific God-ordained moment of time. It had been prophesied that the Messiah/King/Savior would come into the world. It had been predicted in the O.T. that one would come who would be wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. As Paul said and we looked at yesterday: “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law” (Gal. 4:4).
Now scholars have long debated whether or not Jesus was announcing the presence of a future kingdom that He would establish in the future, or whether He was presenting a here-and-now kingdom. What Jesus was announcing is that He was the divine King and He was presently here on earth. That is, if people were to change their thinking and believe on Him, He could establish God’s Kingdom on earth right then and there.
Jesus never begged a sinner to repent and believe, he commanded it. Fundamentally, we don't get saved because we repent and believe. Rather, we repent and believe because God saved us.
God invites all humble, broken-hearted, and honest seekers to come to Christ and repent and believe. Today, let's see how much of the gospel we can believe, how much grace we can extend, and how quick we can be to repent.
Father, we thank you that the Gospel isn't some "if you want to come invitation." It is a divine summons. This same One that we celebrated just a couple of days ago, Jesus, as he came to earth is the same one that, as a grown man, gave us this information to make us aware of what you require for heaven. Father, let our lives be ones of continual repentance before you. Point us back to the cross--always. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
Romans 1:3 "Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh."
Pastor Matt Chandler has famously said: “The message of Romans 1-3 is that on your best day you're a God-belittling, God-mocking, glory-stealing thief.”
Yikes! Ouch! But, oh, so true!
The whole gospel message is centered on one special person—Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God. Jesus Christ doesn’t teach Christianity. He is Christianity. In this verse, it is clearly established that He is the God-man.
The first point we may observe is that Jesus Christ had an actual humanity and an actual pedigree. He was physically born into this world. He was born in the Davidic line, which makes Him Jewish and kingly. This pedigree gives Jesus Christ a legitimate, biblical right to reign as Messiah, for God promised David that it would be his line that would produce the King of kings (2 Samuel 7:12-17). This was also confirmed by prophets like Isaiah (11:1) and Jeremiah (23:5-6).
Jesus wasn't born just to die. He was born to live perfectly sinless fulfilling all his law, preach his gospel, make disciples, and then die. We say: "Sure, I've made mistakes, but I can improve. I'll be more careful." Jesus said: "You must be born again." As the old hymn says: “Born that man no more may die; Born to raise the sons of earth; Born to give them second birth.”
Jesus was born of a virgin that we might be born again. He became the Son of Man that we might become sons of God. How much we have to celebrate!
Father, we are reminded that nothing can change your plan for this world. What may seem like a hopeless cause is, in fact, exactly where you will work. You choose the weak things of the world to make much of your name. Thank you that while we were yet sinners your Son came for us! We cannot thank you enough – even a few day after Christmas. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Romans 8:3 "For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering."
And so he condemned sin in the flesh...The law of God can do many things:
1. It can show us how holy God is (Romans 7:12).
2. It can show us how sinful we are (Romans 3:20).
3. It can show us how guilty we are (Romans 3:19).
4. It can show us how condemned we are (Romans 4:15).
However, there is one thing the law cannot do—make us righteous in the sight of God (Galatians 2:16). A sinful human cannot be righteous by keeping the law. This is not because the law is bad; this is because we are sinful. The law is a perfect, holy standard, and we cannot keep a perfect standard because we are not perfect. Therefore, none of us can ever be made righteous by keeping the law.
That is exactly what Paul means when he writes in Romans 8:3 that “the Law ... was weak as it was through the flesh.” Sinful man and sinful woman cannot keep the Holy Law of God because he is sinful and fleshly.
Verse 3 informs us that God sent His own Son to get us out of our dilemma. He left His majestic glory of heaven and came here “in the likeness of sinful flesh.” This critical statement indicates two very important theological realities: Jesus Christ was really human and Jesus Christ was totally sinless.
That is precisely what was needed to beat the Law—a sinless One who could keep it all. Now we may carefully observe that He came as an offering or sacrifice for sin. Not His sin, but for our sin, which the Law clearly reveals.
Jesus met all of the law's requirements so that in your failure to do so you would have hope. Hallelujah! Jesus silenced the law's demands and fulfilled the prophet's dreams. One voice will be louder than the other today. Law:"I condemn you." Jesus: "I cherish you." Listen up, literally.
Father, The law fulfilled, judgment exhausted, a defeated devil, heavenly citizenship, perpetual advocacy. Thank you, Lord! When Mary and Joseph followed the law, they had no idea that your Son would save them from the law. How often we forget these truths, Lord! Never let the Gospel truth get boring or irrelevant in our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Philippians 2:7 "Rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness."
Now we get to the heart of all of the discussion of all discussion. Here is what Jesus Christ as God was willing to do. This is what should motivate us to be other-oriented. Frankly this is mind boggling that Jesus Christ would be willing to do this for us.
1. Jesus Christ emptied Himself. He was willing to empty Himself of His majestic splendor and glory. Now the verb “empty” points to a one point of time moment. Jesus Christ was willing to set aside His visible glory as God and also set aside the independent use of His divine attributes. Now that in itself would be amazing; but then Paul says He took two condescending steps.
2. He took the form of a servant. Here Jesus was existing in the form, shape, and appearance as God and He was willing to set that aside and become a slave in form, shape and appearance. Do we grasp this? Jesus Christ fully existed as the glorious God. He was willing to empty Himself of that visible glory to become a servant of God.
3. Now Paul says He also was willing to be made in the likeness as a man. The Incarnation was a major demotion and sacrifice for Jesus Christ. This concept is so foreign to this world. Most people, when they have reached the pinnacle of something, never want to go backwards and lower themselves to what they were. Could you imagine, for example, a multibillionaire saying, “Let me give this all up and become a paper boy in this small town?” If any person did that, it would be far less than what Jesus did.
You must set aside self before you will set aside sin. "Repent, that your sins may be blotted out" (Acts 3:19). Not just set aside but blotted out, obliterated by the cross!
Let us bow down and worship accordingly today!
Father, as this year comes to a close, dazzle our hearts with your beauty; fill our thoughts with your wonder; loose our tongues to sing your praise robustly; lead our feet onto paths of servant love for our neighbors. All for your glory and the opportunity to share the Gospel. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Philippians 3:8 "What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ."
I recall a few years ago that a friend of mine applied for a corporate job. He had an impressive resume, both academically and in the jobs he had held down. A couple of weeks passed and then one day a letter came in the mail. The letter was from the company and it basically said this:
“Dear ____, we appreciate your interest in our company and we thank you for applying for a position. You have an outstanding resume and your lists of accomplishments are impressive. However, you lack one key element we are looking for in filling this position and that is experience. We believe it is in our best interest to fill this opening with someone who has experience in our particular industry.”
My friend had impressive credentials, but he lacked the one quality the company was looking for that could have given him the job—experience. That lack of one quality prevented him from entrance into that particular organization.
If you ask most people whether or not they want to go to heaven when they die, most will say “Yes, of course.” There is no greater eternal place to be. It is a wonderful place. When you look at some people, they seem to be very impressive and they seem to have some very impressive credentials. 1) They are good people; 2) They have been good citizens; 3) They have been good church goers; 4) They have been somewhat generous and giving with their money; 5) They have served on committees; 6) They have been in Bible Studies; 7) They have visited the sick.
What’s more, they have never done anything that we would say is really bad. They have never done anything that most would say you would classify as major sin and if you look at their spiritual resume, it looks impressive. They aren’t like the sleazy people. They aren’t like the bar-hopping group that gets drunk on Saturday night. They don’t sleep around and they don’t ever get thrown in jail. They are the good people. They have quite a resume.
But the place they are applying for is heaven; God’s home and God is the one examining the individual to determine who gets into His home and in order to get into His home, you don’t need an impressive religious resume; you need the righteousness of God found in Jesus Christ.
That’s exactly what Paul is telling us here. Setting your heart on anything above Christ turns it into dung--whether sex, job, wife, child, or church. And it will never get you to heaven—only the God-man come to us can do that! We measure the worth of a treasure by what we will gladly give up to have it (Philippians 3:7-8; Matthew 13:44).
Paul tallied it all up and found: Jesus is worth it all. If you forfeit all but Christ, you still have what is most valued, and the One who supplies all you really need.
Father, as we face this year, may we remember that all you have is all we need. It is all we need to know you and be forgiven of our sins in the Gospel. It is all we need in our daily life—your grace is sufficient. Grant us the contentment to know the truth of these things today in our lives at home, work, and in the church. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Acts 9:4 "He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
Think for a moment of a person in your life who is very resistant to Christianity. Perhaps this person is a family member, acquaintance, neighbor, co-worker, or high school buddy. In all your love and witnessing to them, they only seem to grow colder and more callous to the truth. There appears to be no hope for them. Invitations to church services, church picnics and activities, Christian concerts, a local crusade, or even a Christian movie go challenged and often unanswered. If Vegas were making odds on the person coming to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, you would be a billionaire if you won.
For the early Christians, Saul of Taurus was the epitome of this type of person. The great Pharisee furiously persecuted followers of the Way. We are told Saul asked “…for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:3).
What was Paul’s intent? It was to rid the known world of every last Christian. No other result would be acceptable to him.
Yet, probably not too long after Saul left Damascus, an unsuspecting visitor grabbed his full attention. The bodily resurrected LORD Jesus Christ, who was last seen by Stephen in Acts 7, appeared to Saul. This knocked Paul to the ground. The One whom Saul was persecuting now proved His power and majesty over death and all mankind by humbly converting the man least likely to ever consider such truth. What happened next in Saul’s life was a testimony of the transforming work of Christ in his life.
Do you have a Saul in your life? Do you know someone who appears to be beyond hope of salvation? Or, do you have a situation where God has revealed information to you that your family, spouse, significant other, or friends do not yet see?
Don’t give up hope! Wait on the LORD. “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
Just as the LORD was working in Saul’s life leading up to his conversion, so He is tearing down and destroying walls of pride in those who seem most unlikely to be saved or changed. God’s hand is not so short as to not reach the heart of the most hardened or spiritually blind person. As you wait on the LORD’s deliverance, read the story of Saul and trust that God can renovate even the shabbiest of houses. He who called you is faithful and will do it (1 Thess. 5:24).
Part of waiting on the LORD to act on behalf of our prayers is trusting that His potential is not limited by what we see around us. His miraculous power is most often experienced when we least expect Him to move in a person, situation, or location. Keep your expectancy and thankfulness high and continuous until God acts on your behalf.
Father, thank you for this new year! Thank you for granting us another day. Lord, as we forward to what you have for us, remind us that you have not changed. You will use our present trials to get shape into the image of Jesus Christ. Lead us this year to be faithful share, grow, know, and serve your Son. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Acts 9:27 "But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus."
Barnabas is a wonderful Christian example and he is, perhaps, the most underrated Christian leader in the New Testament. Without Barnabas, there would be no Paul! You see, the Jerusalem church sent Paul away. They were not very happy with him. They refused him membership doubting he was genuine and might be a spy. (Spies were very common in the early church days. Their job was to weed out Christian by acting like one of them.) Paul was, after all, filled with religious hatred—he killed Christians and gave orders to do so. Quite naturally, the Christians at Jerusalem were afraid of Paul. But we read “But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles” (Acts 9:27)
There are at least three key lessons we learn from Barnabas’ life.
First, he had great spiritual discernment. Barnabas could recognize a true disciple through the fog of traditional Jewish religious worship. He saw what the other disciples were unsure of. He saw into the spirit of Paul beyond the outward “spy” form. Barnabas saw beyond what Paul said to what Paul was in heart. What was his secret to such knowledge? Well, remember that when God's Holy Spirit comes into a soul there is a supernatural change in that person, which can be recognized by another true believer. Jesus told Nicodemus that when a person “comes to the light” then “...it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out by God” (John 3:21).
Second, Barnabas had God-given compassion. Some Christians are lacking in warmth and love, aren’t they? They don’t welcome newcomers as they should. (Think how others treat new people to your church!) Yes, they will say “God bless” and even pray for visitors, but some won’t permit them to join. However, Barnabas is quite different. He encourages both Paul and the disciples. He wasn’t suspicious! He erred on the side of love and charity. He thought no evil and kept no record of wrongs. Encouragement is a ministry. Some people have the gift and some don't. Whatever gift you have, you must use it for God’s glory and kingdom. It is part of the work of the church to foster and train those with spiritual gifts.
Finally, Barnabas had holy boldness and courage. The church then, as now, had “wimps”—people who know what was needed, but wouldn’t stand up and be counted. Paul “rocked the boat” and disturbed their comfort zone. But Barnabas put enthusiasm and concern for lost souls before anything—and so should we. He knew there were people in the Jerusalem church who would feel uncomfortable with the new Paul and his desire to spread the Word. Nevertheless, Barnabas did the right thing. He was not going to allow an obvious saint like Paul to be wasted when there was such need for his gifts.
So, they did accept Paul this time and he ministered there for a while—until they decided to send him to Tarsus!
Are you willing to let new Christians get close to “your” church so they can grow? Are you willing to be like Barnabas?" Father, as we look around at our local church, may it be a place of acceptance for all. A place where sin is not safe but the Savior is. None of us are perfect, Lord. We all fall short of the glory of God. And we are all redeemed by your blood. But grant us wisdom today about what group or person it may be that you would lead us to serve. We pray for your Spirit's wisdom and guidance. In Jesus' name. Amen.