Jesus Is Calling

Thursday, August 28, 2014, 7:01 a.m. – the Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Softly and Tenderly.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 2 (quoting selected verses in the NIV). I will also summarize some of this due to the length of the chapter.

Day of Pentecost

Before Jesus Christ ascended back to heaven, after he had been resurrected from the dead, he told his disciples to wait for the promised Holy Spirit. He said, “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” He also told them, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

When the day of Pentecost came, the apostles, the women, Jesus’ brothers, and perhaps others who had been united together constantly in prayer since Jesus’ ascension back to heaven, were all together in one place when the Holy Spirit came upon them all, as had been promised. “They began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” Everyone in the crowd, which had gathered, heard their own language being spoken. “Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?’” Some people made fun of them, accusing them falsely of having had too much wine, so Peter stood up with the Eleven, and he explained to them that what they were witnessing was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel. In the last days God would pour out his Spirit on all people, regardless of race, gender or nationality, and they would prophesy, see visions and dream dreams. “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Amen!

Lord and Messiah

“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him… God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear… Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

Just as I was ready to look at this section of scripture (vv. 22-36), the Lord Jesus reminded me of the Letters in Revelation (2-3) to the Seven Churches. I believe the reason for that is that the Jews at that time were in a crisis of the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and that today’s modern church is in a similar crisis.

Many (or the majority) of the Jews of that time rejected Jesus Christ as their Lord and Messiah, so Peter was trying to show them that Jesus Christ was, indeed, the fulfillment of the prophecies of scripture regarding their Messiah who was to come. He reminded them, as well, of all the miracles Jesus had done among them and for them. Yet, not only that, but he told them that they had crucified the Son of God, with the help of wicked men, reminding them that they had put him to death by nailing him to the cross.

I believe the Lord Jesus has a similar message for today’s institutional church, in particular here in the west.

The Crisis

For one, not everyone who belongs to the institutional church is a member of the Body of Christ. Many have never received Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior, even many who profess to know him. As well, numerous believers within the institutional church have been persuaded and swayed by the worldliness of the church, and have wandered off from their pure devotion to Jesus Christ, forsaking their “first love.” Many are living in spiritual adultery and idolatry, and there is not much difference at all between their lives and the lives of those who make no profession of faith in Christ at all. Many, as well, have forsaken the truths of scripture to follow after the teachings and philosophies and marketing schemes of human beings and that of man-made religion.

The gospel of Jesus Christ has been diluted to make it more acceptable to the world. Many of those who profess the name of Christ easily put up with such false teaching, too. They encourage church attendees that God accepts them just as they are, that he requires nothing from them at all, and that coming to faith in Christ is nothing more than praying a prayer to receive Christ into their hearts, so they now have their ticket into heaven, and they can never lose their salvation. Since nothing is required, many continue on in their sinful lifestyles thinking they are saved, that God’s grace covers it all, and that they are free to do whatever they want and still claim the hope of heaven. May that never be! I believe God is saying to today’s modern church that they have put him to death, too.

Cut to the Heart

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

Scripture teaches us that salvation from sin means we turn from our lifestyles of living for sin and self, that we are changed in heart and mind of the Spirit of God, and that we are reborn into God’s family as new creations, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (See Lu. 9:23-25; Ac. 26:16-18; Ro. 6-8; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 4:17-24). Being holy means we are separated (unlike; different) from the world of sin, and we are separated unto God and to his service. God’s grace, in fact, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled and upright lives while we wait for Christ’s return (See Tit. 2:11-14). As well, Jesus Christ did not die on the cross for our sins just so we could escape hell and go to heaven when we die. He died that we might no longer live for ourselves but for him who gave himself up for us (See 2 Co. 5:15). Amen!

What I don’t want to do here is get into lengthy discussions or arguments on various controversial issues regarding speaking in tongues, the evidence of being filled with the Spirit, baptism as a requirement for salvation, and the like, which are all present in just this one chapter, and probably many more issues I did not see. So, please let us not turn this into a debate and thus lose the message of importance here to today’s modern church in crisis. There is a time and a place for those discussions, but it is not here. Thank you!

With that said, let me just say that there is at least one historical account of believers having received the Holy Spirit prior to baptism (Ac. 10:44-48), that Paul stated that he was not called to baptize but to preach the gospel (1 Co. 1:17), and that the bulk of scriptures stating the requirements for forgiveness of sins do not mention baptism (See: Ac. 3:19; 10:43; 13:38-39; 26:18; Eph. 1:13; 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Jn. 1:9; cf. Ro. 4). Enough said!

The point of this passage of scripture, in relation to our world today, is that many are doing just as the Jews of old did. They are putting Jesus Christ to death by their sinful lifestyles, by their rejection, denial or ignoring of him, by their forsaking of him, by their idolatry and spiritual adultery, and by their false teaching and/or by putting up with false teaching. Jesus Christ is calling to the world to receive him and to make him Lord of their lives, but he is also calling to his church to forsake their idols, to return to him, and to make him truly the Lord and Master of their lives. He is calling out and is saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Time is short. We don’t know what tomorrow holds. Turn to him, or turn back to him today while you still have today, and he will show you his mercy.

Softly and Tenderly / Will Thompson

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me;
See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me.

Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading,
Pleading for you and for me?
Why should we linger and heed not His mercies,
Mercies for you and for me?

Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing,
Passing from you and from me;
Shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming,
Coming for you and for me.

Oh, for the wonderful love He has promised,
Promised for you and for me!
Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon,
Pardon for you and for me.

Come home, come home,
You who are weary, come home;
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!