We Bring Good News

Sunday, April 19, 2015, 9:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Seek the Lord.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 13 (selected vv. ESV).

A Word of Encouragement (quoting vv. 26-41)

While a number of prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit spoke to them and told them to set apart Barnabas and Saul (Paul) for the work to which God had called them. So, they were sent off with the anointing of the Spirit of God and in the power of the Spirit within them.

In Pisidian Antioch, upon entering the synagogue on the Sabbath, Paul and Barnabas sat down. They read from the Law and the Prophets. Then the synagogue rulers sent word to them saying, “Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak.” So, Paul stood up, commanded everyone’s attention, and then he spoke.

He addressed his remarks to the men of the nation of Israel and to the Gentiles who worshiped God. He asked that they listen to him. Then he shared with them the history of Israel leading up to the coming of their Savior, Jesus Christ, whom God had promised.

“Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation. For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed. And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm,

“‘You are my Son,
today I have begotten you.’
And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way,

“‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’
Therefore he says also in another psalm,

“‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’
For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about:

“‘Look, you scoffers,
be astounded and perish;
for I am doing a work in your days,
a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’”

What is the Good News?

Jesus Christ, God the Son, left his throne in heaven, came to earth, took on human flesh, and suffered and was tempted in like manner as we suffer and are tempted, yet without sin. At around the age of 30 he began his earthly ministry. He selected 12 men to be his close followers, disciples and companions, who would follow him and work alongside him in ministry, though they were not his only followers (disciples). He traveled to various places healing the sick and afflicted, raising the dead, delivering the demon possessed, comforting the sorrowful, and preaching repentance and faith in him for the forgiveness of sins.

He taught his listeners that they must humble themselves and have child-like faith in him if they wanted to see heaven. He said that if anyone wanted to come after him, he must deny himself (his self-life), die daily to sin and self, and follow (obey) him. He said that if we hold on to our old lives of living for sin and self, we will lose them for eternity, but if we willingly die with Christ to sin, we will gain eternal life (See: Lu. 9:23-25). He told them that his sheep listen to his voice, he knows them, and they follow (obey) him (See: Jn. 10). He said that if anyone loves him, he will obey his teaching, and that anyone who keeps (obeys) his word will never see death (See: Jn. 14:23-24; 8:51). He also stated that if are not willing to participate in his death, i.e. in dying to sin, then we have no life in us (See: Jn. 6:53-58).

Jesus had numerous people who followed him and who appreciated his miracles and his teaching, yet he had many enemies, too. His greatest opponents were not the people out in the world who made no profession of faith in God, though. His most severe opposition came from within the temple of God and from the leadership of the people of Israel, who were God’s chosen people at that time. They hounded him at every opportunity, tried to discredit him, tried often to trap him, and made numerous attempts at trying to lead his followers away from him and to them. They were jealous of Jesus and his popularity, they felt threatened by him, and they were fearful that if he continued to gain followers for himself and for his message that their own positions of power could be taken from them. They also hated him because he told them the truth about their sin, and because he didn’t follow their man-made rules or their interpretations of the law of God.

They hated Jesus so much that they plotted to take his life. Even one of his disciples, Judas, handed him over to them to be crucified. He was arrested, given a mock trial, spat upon, mocked, slapped, beaten and hung on a cross to die, although he had done no wrong. When he died, our sins died with him. When he was raised from the dead, he conquered death, hell, Satan and sin. In his death, and in his resurrection, he provided our redemption so that we could go free from the penalty of sin (eternal damnation), so we could be delivered out of slavery to sin, and so we would be now free to walk in Christ’s righteousness and holiness in the power and working of the Spirit within us. This is God’s grace to us. This is freedom!

When we believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives, we willingly turn from (die to) sin, we are transformed of the Spirit of God in him giving us new life in Christ, and we are empowered of the Spirit of God to now walk by the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh (our sinful desires). His grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for his return. As well, Jesus Christ died “to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” And, He died so we would no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave himself up for us (See: Ro. 6-8; 2 Co. 5:15; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 4:17-24; Tit. 2:11-14; 1 Pet. 2:24-25 & 1 Jn. 1-5).

This is the “good news,” not just that we escape hell and go to heaven when we die, but that we are set free from slavery to sin, and we are now free to walk daily with Christ, and in his righteousness and holiness, and all because of what he did for us. Amen!

Take Care

After Paul had just declared Jesus Christ to be the fulfillment of the promise to Israel of the Savior, and after he had proclaimed to them forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus, and that they were justified (made right with God) through belief in him, he gave a word of warning or caution to them. He told them to take care that what the prophets had said did not happen to them. And, then he quoted from Habakkuk 1:5.

In context, Habakkuk was referring to a judgment of God on the people of God to punish them for their spiritual adultery, their unchecked wickedness, and their immorality. God was sending to them the Babylonians, “a ruthless and impetuous people who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own.” These people were “a law to themselves” and they promoted their own honor. Habakkuk then questioned God’s justice in all of this. God responded to Habakkuk by telling him to write down the revelation, and to “make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.” God told him that the revelation speaks of the end, and will not prove false.

Many prophecies of old had more than one fulfillment. Many of them spoke both of a time present and the time of the end. The fact that the Babylonians are described as those who “sweep across the whole earth,” speaks more of our present time than it did of their time. And, such “Babylonians” do exist in our world today, too. They are often referred to as “The New World Order,” which is comprised of world leaders from multiple nations, the elite, wealthy and powerful of the world, bankers, and CEO’s of corporations, et al. The USA is a big part of this New World Order which is presently sweeping across the whole earth seizing dwellings not their own and forcing people to bow to them or face the consequences.

I believe Paul, in quoting the Habakkuk passage, was warning of judgment via God’s divine instrument of judgment if they did not take God/Jesus seriously, and if they did not turn from their sins and believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior. The warning today, I believe, is not just for those who have not declared faith in Jesus Christ, but is also for those who make a pretense of faith or who have bought into a false gospel, but have never turned from their sin and thus have never been born anew of the Spirit of God. Yet, since the message in Habakkuk was to God’s people, I believe there is also a warning here to the complacent, rebellious and spiritually adulterous church of today. God takes sin seriously, which is why he died for our sin. He doesn’t wink at sin in his children, but he will discipline and chastise those he loves (See: Rev. 2-3), so be earnest and repent.

Seek the Lord / An Original Work / July 20, 2012
Based off Isaiah 55

“Come to Me all you who thirst; come to waters.
Listen to Me, and eat what’s good today,
And your soul will delight in richest of fare.
Give ear to Me, and you will live.
I have made an eternal covenant with you.
Wash in the blood of the Lamb.”

Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him.
Let the wicked forsake his way, in truth.
Let him turn to the Lord, and he will receive mercy.
Freely, God pardons him.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,”
declares the Lord, our God.

“My word that goes out of My mouth is truthful.
It will not return to Me unfulfilled.
My word will accomplish all that I desire,
And achieve the goal I intend.
You will go in joy, and be led forth in peace.
The mountains will burst into song… before you,
And all of the trees clap their hands.”