His Mercy and Grace

Thursday, March 31, 2016, 4:52 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “All We Like Sheep.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 1:1-11 (ESV).

After His Suffering (vv. 1-3)

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

Jesus Christ, the second person of our triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – was fully God, yet fully man when he walked the face of this earth. His purpose in coming to the earth was to die for the sins of the entire world so that those who believe in him could be delivered out of slavery to sin, and could be given the hope of eternal life with God. When he died, our sins died with him, and were buried with him. When he was resurrected from the dead, he rose victorious over sin, Satan, hell and death.

When Jesus walked the face of this earth, he healed the sick and afflicted, raised the dead, cast out demons, encouraged the timid, and comforted the sorrowful. He preached repentance for forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God. He taught that if we want to be one of his disciples that we must turn from our sin, and we must turn to follow our Lord in obedience and in surrender to his will for our lives (Lu. 9:23-25). He taught death to sin and living to righteousness. He said that if we don’t leave all to follow him, we are not fit to be one is his disciples (See: Lu. 9:62; 14:25-35), i.e. he must have the Lordship over our lives.

The reason Jesus had to die for the sins of the world is that, because of Adam’s sin, we are all born into sin, i.e. we are all born with sin natures when we enter this world. We are separate from God, without hope, destined for hell, and we fall short of God’s divine approval. We can do nothing to earn or to deserve our own salvation. Only through the blood of Jesus Christ, shed on the cross for our sins, and by faith in him and in what he did for us, can we be delivered out of sin and have the hope of eternal life with God in glory.

With the Holy Spirit (vv. 4-5)

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Jesus promised his disciples that after he left this earth that he would send the Holy Spirit to indwell them, and to empower them to live for God, and to be his witnesses. The Spirit would be their comforter, encourager, guide, counselor, teacher and helper. They had to wait to receive the Holy Spirit until Jesus sent him. Since that time, all who believe on Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of their lives are indwelt with the Spirit.

John the Baptist said that he baptized with water, but Jesus would baptize us with the Holy Spirit. There are many different viewpoints on what that means. The word “baptize” means to submerge, immerse, go under, flood, inundate or to overwhelm. To immerse can also mean to engross, occupy, to be completely covered by, or to throw yourself into something. So, to be baptized with the Holy Spirit, thus, would mean that we would be completely covered by, overpowered by, and/or that we would completely come under the power and influence of the Spirit. This happens when we believe in Jesus Christ as Savior of our lives, yet it is progressive, as well. Now we walk in the Spirit, and no longer according to the flesh. Now we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

When we believe in Jesus Christ, a spiritual transformation takes place in our lives. We are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). The Holy Spirit of God indwells and empowers us, and we no longer are controlled by our sinful flesh, but by the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit within us enables us to live for God, and no longer to live for ourselves. This does not mean we have reached sinless perfection, but what it does mean is that we now have the power from God to live godly and holy lives, pleasing to God. All who are led by the Spirit are the sons of God (Ro. 8:14).

His Witnesses (vv. 6-8)

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Evidently, the physical kingdom of Israel was somewhat, if not entirely, under Roman rule. The Jews were looking for a Messiah who would set up an earthly kingdom and who would deliver them from this Roman rule so that they, as a physical nation, could be a sovereign nation, completely under God’s rule and authority.

From my understanding of scripture, though, the kingdom Jesus initiated was not a physical kingdom with physical borders, but it is a spiritual kingdom. The temple of God is no longer a physical structure, but it is the church, the body of Christ, and it is individual believers in Jesus Christ. We are his temple. The Holy of Holies now dwells within us. We are God’s house, not some physical building. Jesus Christ is the embodiment of the kingdom of heaven, and we are his body. We, as followers of Christ, are priests of the Most High God. We do not have to offer sacrificial animals for the forgiveness of sins, though, because Jesus became our sacrificial Lamb, who died for the sins of the entire world, once for all.

Jesus, through his death, destroyed the barrier between Jew and Gentile. He made us one in Christ. The physical city of Jerusalem is now of Hagar, and is in slavery with her children. Heavenly Jerusalem is now the Holy City, and we are her children (See: Gal. 4:21-31). We, as followers of Jesus Christ, are now the children of promise. We are the inheritors of the kingdom of heaven. We are spiritual Israel. Only through faith in Jesus Christ can we become partakers in God’s kingdom. When Jesus comes again, to receive his bride, and to set up his millennial reign on the earth, it will not be the physical nation of Israel he will be restoring, but the kingdom will be comprised of those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of their lives (See: Rev. 1:6; Rev. 5:10).

Right now, while we are in these flesh bodies, we are still subject to temptation and to sin. The kingdom of God, his church, is enduring great suffering at the hands of world leaders. As well, the church is being strongly influenced by the world and its leaders, and many are following man over God. A large majority of the church here in America has gone the way of the world, and they have forsaken their first love. The church, God’s kingdom people, is in great need of revival and restoration. That time is coming. I believe scripture teaches that during the time of tribulation to come on the earth that many believers in Christ will be revived, and that subsequently the gospel will go forth throughout the world, and many will be saved before Jesus returns, when he then sets up his kingdom on the earth, free from the power and influence of humankind, and completely now under the power of God.

Until then, as followers of Christ, we are to be about our Father’s business of taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. We do not do this in the power of human flesh, though, but only in the power and working of the Spirit within us, who gives us the words to say, who convicts human hearts of sin, and who leads them to repentance and to faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, we don’t share the gospel merely with those who make no confession of Christ as Savior, but we share his gospel with the wayward church, too, because many liars have convinced much of the church to buy into a diluted gospel absent of the cross of Christ in our lives (no death to sin and no living to righteousness).

As well, we need to be in much prayer for the salvation of human souls, and for the revival and renewal of God’s kingdom people, many of whom have wandered off from their pure devotion to Jesus Christ to follow after the idols of mankind. The healing we need is not the healing of a physical land, though, but the healing of human hearts. The land is merely a symbol of the kingdom of heaven, God’s holy people, many of whom need spiritual healing because they have strayed from their Lord, or it is symbolic of the earth and its inhabitants, who are in great need of the healing power of God’s saving grace in their lives. Remember that this world is not our home. We are strangers and aliens here. Our home is in heaven. So, we need to pray for spiritual healing of human lives by God’s mercy and grace. Amen!

All We Like Sheep / Don Moen

…O Lord show us
Your mercy and grace
Take us to Your holy place
Forgive our sin
And heal our land
We long to live
In Your presence
Once again