Acts

Disgrace For The Name

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If you have the choice of being disgraced or not, you’d probably choose not. But what if you are disgraced because of your belief in Christ? Disgrace is not such a bad thing if it is for the right reason. In Acts, after the apostles defended the spreading of the gospel, ultimately following what God wanted them to do over what the Pharisees wanted them to do, chapter 5, verse 41 says this:

“The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”

And that name, of course, is Jesus. One of my favorite portions of scripture supports this notion. It’s found in Matthew chapter 5 verses 11 and 12 which says:

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

The apostles knew that they would be counted blessed when suffering disgrace for the name of Jesus, because he had revealed this to them earlier. I think we need to remember that as well. It is human nature to want to keep ourselves from persecution. Though when it is for Christ’s sake, it can be a good thing. When we are treated badly because of our belief in him we should rejoice, because great is our reward in heaven.

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The apostles rejoiced for being counted worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus. We hear all of the time about the consequences for doing something wrong. But sometimes there are consequences for doing what is right. The difference is that when you do something wrong, you most likely deserve your punishment. And when you do something right, especially if ends in disgrace for the name of Jesus, you are rewarded.

On Your Faith

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Have you ever felt weak in your personal faith and began to rely on someone else’s faith to make a difference in what you’re going through? An example might be if you’re away from God and life tosses you a curve ball, so you ask for someone who you think is more righteous than you to pray for you. Or when praying over someone in a group, you inwardly rely on the faith of the others praying to reach God because your faith is too weak? Well Acts 19:13-16 says this:

"Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, 'In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.' Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day, the evil spirit answered them, 'Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?' Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding."

Could it be that these seven sons of Sceva and this Jewish chief priest didn’t feel strong enough in their faith, so they tried to borrow some of Paul’s faith by saying “In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out”? I believe that it is dangerous to rely only on someone else’s faith in spiritual matters. When Jesus healed, often times he would say “your faith has made you well”. We need to build up our own faith in God. How do we do this you ask? Well the bible tells us that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. We need to get into the bible, believe what it says and build a relationship with God. Just think about it this way, let’s say you need some help with something. Is it better to drop a name of someone you know to get what you need, or is it better to go to a close friend and ask them directly. I think that this example in Acts was as if the priests were relying on Paul’s faith to cast out demons. If they had enough faith on their own, they could’ve gone directly to the source, Jesus himself, and inquired of him as if inquiring of a close friend. Anyway, I hope that makes sense. Bottom line is that we really have to build up our own faith, through cultivating a relationship with God directly so that when we talk to him, it is our own faith at work.

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It’s okay to ask others to pray for you, or to join their faith with yours, but we really need to have faith of our own. There were those in the bible, when they found their faith faltering, asked Jesus to help them with their unbelief, or their lack of faith. If we know God personally, we can petition him through Christ directly. He tells us that he likes it when we bring all types of prayers and petitions to him. And that all we need is the faith of a mustard seed to see him move mightily on our behalf. I hope that encourages you to get familiar with the scriptures. Find out how God works, who He is, and who you are in him. And yes, there is definitely something to be said about our obedience to Him. The bible tells us that the prayers of a righteous man availeth much.

Boldness

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Have you ever shared with someone about Jesus Christ? Not necessarily out of obligation as a Christian, but out of love for that person or because God opened a door and you walked through it? For some believers, if the answer to this question is “yes”, you may have felt that God was taking you out of your comfort zone, stretching you to do something that was challenging and uncomfortable. For others, it may have felt completely natural and may have been easier than you originally thought it would be. In either case, stepping out to share Christ is a bold move. You are proving that you’re ready to obey God and to love others. You are taking on the likeness of Paul. Speaking of Paul, Acts chapter 28 verse 31 says:

"Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ."

I encourage you to be bold like Paul. If you haven’t shared your faith with someone else, I encourage you to be bold and take that step. And if you have, I encourage you to be bold and to do it again. The key is to do it in love, humility, and to do it with the aid of the Holy Spirit. If you do, it shouldn’t feel like you’re checking a box off of a list. Instead, the person who you share Christ with will see the love behind the action. Seeds will be planted and they will be on the road to salvation.

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Like Paul, we need to be bold when it comes to sharing our faith. You may think that you aren’t qualified; that you don’t know the bible well enough, that you don’t speak that well, or that you won’t know what to say. I believe that if you’ve earnestly prayed about it, you won’t have to do much at all. The Holy Spirit will help you, and in a very real way, speak through you. We only need to be willing vessels. No human has ever “saved” anyone. It is the Holy Spirit that draws men to him. Our part is to just be willing and obey, to speak with love and humility, and let the Spirit do the rest.

Our Messiah

I hope and pray that you never grow apathetic to what Jesus did for all humanity. I hope the same thing for unbelievers as well; that they either be hot or cold, not lukewarm when it comes to their thoughts and devotion to Christ. We need to continue to remember what Jesus did for us. That is why we take communion. That is why we celebrate Easter. Jesus is the one we worship. He is our savior, our Christ, our Messiah. Peter puts it this way as he addresses a crowd of people in Acts, chapter 2, verses 23 and 24:

"This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose 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."

It was God’s purpose for Jesus to die for us. Many at the time didn’t understand that. Jesus had the power, and the authority to escape death, but he was obedient to God’s purpose. But as Peter says, God then raised him from the dead because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him… Impossible. Let us worship our Lord and thank him for what he did. You don’t have to wait for communion Sunday to remember, you can take communion in the privacy of your own home. I encourage you to give Jesus thanks for his obedience, and God glory for providing a way for our sins to be forgiven.

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From the very beginning, it was God’s plan for Jesus to die. Jesus is our Messiah, prophesied about by the prophets of old. Let us thank him, let us worship him, let us glorify him. Because he fulfilled his calling, we can all be called children of God. We all have been given the key to eternal life in heaven, if we would just accept him. Praise God for his grace and mercy. This makes me think about the song Amazing Grace - "Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see." Are you blind today? Let Jesus open your eyes. Let him be your God, let him be your king, let him be your messiah.

Open Your Eyes

Paul had an amazing life. He spent part of it persecuting Christians, then he did a 180 and actually became a Christian himself, preaching the very message that he used to oppose. The turning point for him was when Jesus, himself, confronted him. During that confrontation, God spoke to him through a blinding light as Paul recounts in Acts 26, verses 17 and 18 where God says: 

"I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me."

God sent Paul on a mission - to open the eyes of unbelievers, to turn them from darkness to light. Have your eyes been opened? Have you been turned from darkness to light by the power and grace of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ? That was Paul’s mission. It was a mission with a purpose - so that eyes would be opened and that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Jesus. If you are still living in darkness - darkness not just meaning that you’re doing bad things, but darkness meaning that you haven’t come to a realization of the truth, that Jesus is the only way to heaven, then I encourage you to open your eyes. I pray that the Holy Spirit show you what believers all over the world already know - that a life without Jesus is really no life at all.

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Paul’s mission was to open the eyes of those who didn’t believe. To turn them from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Jesus. For those who don’t believe, these may seem like strange words, and the concept may even sound stranger, but it is the truth. Satan’s goal is to keep your eyes off of the truth and away from Jesus because he knows that faith in Jesus means freedom from him. Life with Jesus is the way that life was meant to be. And if you don’t believe that, I encourage you to do what Paul was sent to help others do - open your eyes, understand the truth - the truth that can not only free you in this life but can also reward you for eternity.