Hello Project Ezra! This week's suggested reading is from Acts 20, and deals with the struggles Paul had in the sharing of the gospel and planting churches. We sometimes talk about persecution in the church, but for the most part, what we call persecution is nothing more than discomfort or inconvenience. The attacks Paul dealt with were real persecution, and to make matters worse, he was preaching a difficult message. The message of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ seemed crazy to many of the people of Paul's day. Think about what he was saying, and how you would react. A carpenter from a out-of-the-way town was not only a prophet, but God in human flesh? And this man lived a perfect life, died a criminal's death, and then rose from the dead? And now trusting in Him is the only way to peace with God? Really??
What we need to remember, when we are sharing the gospel, is that our message is difficult too. Not only do we have the same issues as Paul, but we are sharing a message of a God of justice and wrath, who can only be appeased through terrible punishment. God's justice was not foreign to the Jews, as it is to most in our culture, though they thought that justice would be reserved for their enemies. They were also expecting a deliverer, a savior, though when He came, He was much different than they expected as well. Most people you know probably think they can save themselves. The truths that were foundational to Jewish culture are almost completely foreign to ours. We only need ourselves. We act as our own gods, whether we acknowledge it or not. And that makes our message very difficult to hear.
That is why we must depend on the power of the Gospel. We share hard truths, with love and compassion, but without compromise, because it is through that Gospel, by the power of the Holy Spirit, that God has chosen to draw people to Himself. Accommodating the message to the culture changes the message and robs it of its power. We are to be heralds, not negotiators. And though we must always act with respect and love to those we want to reach, we need to trust in God to change hearts and minds. I pray that this weekend hearts and minds will be changed as you are faithful to share His message, in its fullness.
All for His glory,
READ ACTS 20
TALK ABOUT WHY WE ARE THERE - the glory of God and the salvation of those who are there
I pray that, like Paul, I will not shrink from the declaring the whole counsel of God, as long as I may finish my course, and testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
The gospel of grace is this:
God created this world perfect
But mankind, out of pride, chose to rebel and fell into sin
Now, all men are born sinners, in rebellion against their creator
And because of our rebellion, we are deserving of God's justice
The scriptures tell us that justice will be carried out in a very real place called Hell
But because God is not only a just judge, but also a loving Father, He made a way for justice to be satisfied, so we would not have to go to Hell
Jesus Christ, God the Son, humbled Himself and came to earth
He lived the perfect life that none of us did, and then died a perfect death on a Roman cross
And on the cross, all God's anger and wrath toward sin was poured out on Him, so it would not have to be poured out on us.
Then He rose on the third day, as He had prophesied He would, and after appearing to His disciples, ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven.
He now sits as both judge, and advocate, and if we will turn from our sins and to the free gift of grace offered by our one true savior, then the price of our sins will be satisfied, we will be seen as righteous before God, and we will be free.
Then we will spend eternity in loving relationship and worship of God, as we were designed to do.
My life has no value in comparison to the greatness of this message, and the truth of God's grace.
I pray that, like Paul and the early disciples, that I will not cease to admonish you night and day, even with tears.
I know that these truths can be hard to accept, though they are not hard to understand.
But the truth of our sin before God is real, and we all know it
God has written His law on our hearts, and our consciences bear witness (Romans 2), so we know this to be true.
GIVE EXAMPLES OF SIN FROM GOD'S LAW TO BRING CONVICTION
You are a sinner, like I am, worthy of nothing by hell and God's wrath
This is a hard truth that many churches, and pastors, will not teach.
Some will lighten the message, with little or no emphasis on sin, or wrath
They will tell you God is not angry, though the Bible tells us many times that He is
(IT WOULD BE WISE TO HAVE VERSES TO SUPPORT THIS READY, IF YOU ARE CHALLENGED. Proverbs 6:10-19, Psalm 7:11, 5:4-6, 11:5)
Some with just try to make you feel good about yourself, so you can live your best life now.
But they often ignore the truth of the world to come.
If they do, know that they care more about your friendship, your acceptance, or your money, than they do about you, and preachers that bring nothing but comfort may also be bringing a curse upon you.
Scripture calls them wolves in sheep's clothing (Matthew 7:15)
They are teachers who tickle itching ears, preaching a comfortable message that causes you to wander from the truth, and into mythology (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
But they do not help you. They exploit you, and make merchandise out of you (2 Peter 2) for their own selfish reasons.
But thought the truth of sin, death, and hell is hard, there is good news.
God does not minimize sin, or ignore sin, or accept sin.
But through the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross, 2000 years ago, he paid for sin.
He came to earth, God in human flesh, lived a perfect life, and then died a perfect death, as payment for sin.
Now He has risen from the dead, proving who He was, and reigns in heaven.
If we trust in Him, in Jesus Christ alone, to save us through His shed blood, than we will be saved.
To many of you they may sound like nothing more than foolishness.
Scripture tells us that the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing
So if this sounds like foolishness to you, you have reason to fear.
I would challenge you to read the Bible for yourself, and see what it says.
OFFER FREE BIBLES IF YOU HAVE THEM AVAILABLE. For unbelievers, I generally suggest John. For professing believers, I suggest John and 1 John.
I pray that you will consider these things.
I pray that the Holy Spirit will work in your mind and heart, and bring you to a knowledge of Himself, so that you may be saved.
Please, do not delay. Call out to God, and be saved, while He has given you time.