3 Lessons From A Devoted Dad

If you were to pick a man that would have been desperately devoted to Jesus as his Savior, Cornelius wouldn’t make anyone’s “top 10” list! 

Just take a look at all the strikes against this man. He was a… 

  • Gentile—to Jews, Gentiles were just the fuel to stoke the fires of hell. 
  • resident of the city of Caesarea—since this was the headquarters of the Roman government for Palestine, not many Jews would venture there. 
  • Roman—historians say only 10% of Romans in this era were monotheistic. 
  • centurion—not just any centurion, but an extremely powerful centurion from the Italian Regiment (not just a local mercenary who was in it for the money). And he took his name from Cornelius Sulla, a Roman general known both for his mercy and his ruthlessness.

All of this makes Cornelius a fully self-sufficient and a well-to-do man who was not likely to look for help from God. Nor was he the type of person that a Christian missionary might seek out. 

But clearly, something was missing in Cornelius’ life because he was completely countercultural in his pursuit after God. Not just his pursuit of God, but his quick understanding of exactly who Jesus was. 

Luke the historian describes Cornelius as:

  • devout and God-fearing. The Greek word for devout literally means “a right worshipper.” It’s a word Luke only uses three times in Acts, and two of those times are describing Cornelius. 
  • prayerful. The word Luke uses for him means someone who makes prayer personal and ongoing. 
  • generous. Cornelius took care of people who couldn’t take care of themselves. 

All of this got God’s attention (see Psalm 141:2; Revelation 5:8; Proverbs 19:17), and He sent an angel to direct Cornelius to Peter. 

When Peter came to Cornelius’ house, twice he said “as you know” (vv. 36, 37), showing us that Cornelius was aware that there was not only one true God, but that a relationship with Jesus was the only way to be in right relationship with God. As Peter spoke with Cornelius, his family, his relatives, his close friends, and even his fellow soldiers, the Holy Spirit baptized them just as He had done with the disciples of Jesus on the day of Pentecost. 

So here are 3 vital lessons for all men to learn from the life of Cornelius the centurion—

  1. Your devotion to God is influential. People around you do notice your devoted pursuit of God.
  2. Your openness to all that God has puts your family, friends, and coworkers in a place to receive God’s blessings too.
  3. God’s blessings flowing through you have lasting and far-reaching results. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Cornelius may have opened the door for Christian evangelism to Gentiles unlike anything that had happened before.

Dads, be devoted to God. Desire all He has for you, and all He has for those around you. Pursue Him no matter how many “strikes” there may be against you. 

Be sure to check out the other messages in our series We Are: Pentecostal.

Thursdays With Spurgeon—A Firm Doctrine

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

A Firm Doctrine

     If a tree has to be taken up two or three times a year, you will not need to build a very large loft in which to store the apples. When people are always shifting their doctrinal principles, they are not likely to bring forth much fruit to the glory of God. It is good for young believers to begin with a firm hold upon those great fundamental doctrines that the Lord has taught in His Word.

From The Autobiography Of Charles Spurgeon 

This is true of any endeavor—can you imagine constantly shifting the way you learn math, or biology, or cooking, or anything else? There’s always a “learning curve” in every new endeavor that brings a momentary setback before there are new gains.

Thankfully, the Bible has a consistent message from Genesis to Revelation. Getting into the Word regularly and attending a Bible-preaching church will help you immensely. 

There is no “right way” to read the Bible. In fact, Spurgeon had a great response to a man who told him that he “read my Bible on my knees.” Spurgeon said—

“I think you read the Bible in a very uncomfortable posture, and if you had read it in your easy chair, you would have been more likely to understand it. Pray, by all means, and the more, the better, but it is a piece of superstition to think there is anything in the posture in which a man puts himself for reading.”

The point is not in what posture you read the Bible, or in what translation, or at what time of day, but the point is that you are regularly reading God’s Word. Get into the Word, and let the Holy Spirit get the Word into you. 

Life In The Spirit Study Bible (book review)

I love to read, averaging about 30 books per year. In addition to books, I have a lot of news feeds that I check daily. But hands down, everything else comes in a distant second place to my number-one read: the Bible. 

I read the Bible for myself. I read the Bible to prepare my Sunday messages. I read the Bible to teach classes. I read the Bible to confirm or refute what I am reading in other books and news feeds. And with all that Bible reading, I have also gravitated toward my favorite study Bible—The Life In The Spirit Study Bible. 

At one time people referred to this Bible as “the fire Bible” because of the graphic on the front cover depicting the fire that fell on praying Christians at the Pentecost celebration immediately following Christ’s ascension into heaven. That fire still falls in my heart every time I read God’s Word!

The study notes in this Bible are fantastic! But don’t be deceived by the name: these are not study notes that focus on the Holy Spirit out of proportion; rather, the role of the Spirit is merely noted where others have ignored it. Far too many people don’t ponder very much about the Holy Spirit’s involvement, except for perhaps the Book of Acts and maybe Paul’s instruction on the operational gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians. The Life In The Spirit Study Bible simply seeks to make us aware of the Spirit’s involvement. 

In addition to the short commentary notes at the bottom of each page, there are several insightful and scholarly articles throughout this whole book that will make the Scripture come alive in new ways. 

This is my “preaching Bible” that I take with me for every sermon I deliver, which means it is the Bible I am diving deep into each day as I study. I cannot recommend this Bible to you highly enough. 

4 Holy Spirit-Enhanced Habits

According to Paul, there are only two ways people can live: in the flesh or in the Spirit. That is—(1) operating separate from God, or (2) with a soul/body that is operating with God’s full involvement. 

The trouble is: we’re always—as long as we’re alive—still in the flesh because we need these bodies to carry around our soul and spirit. But changes begin to occur first at salvation (when the connection of our spirit to God’s Spirit is reestablished), and even more so after being baptized in the Holy Spirit (when we are not trying to work out things on our own). 

As a result, we have the same brain, but a mind that is being renewed; the same eyes, but insight that is being expanded; the same ears, but learning new ways to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying. 

Remember that Jesus promised that the baptism in the Holy Spirit would empower us TO BE His witnesses (Acts 1:8). Not just to do things differently, but to have our spirit so enlivened by the Holy Spirit that we are living, breathing, walking, talking witnesses of a life transformed.

Have you noticed that there wasn’t a steep “learning curve” for the disciples of Jesus following Pentecost? Part of that is due to four key habits that the Holy Spirit helped form in their lives. 

  1. Correct biblical application—We immediately see people going from “They didn’t understand from the Scriptures” to quickly applying biblical texts to their current situations. This is exactly what Jesus promised would happen (John 20:6-9; Acts 2:16, 25, 34; John 14:26). 
  1. Intercessory prayer—To intercede is to take someone else’s needs to God on their behalf. The Holy Spirit can help us apply Scripture to our prayers, and can even help us without words at all (Acts 4:24-26; Romans 8:26-27). 
  1. Creative thinking—Christians should be the most creative thinkers in the world (Psalm 119:99; Jeremiah 33:3; 1 Corinthians 2:10). 
  1. Healthy conflict resolution—We’re all different, so not seeing eye-to-eye is bound to happen, but Spirit-empowered Christians will be able to resolve conflicts faster and with better results (Acts 6:1-8; Acts 15:1-31). 

“Your life as a Christian should make unbelievers question their disbelief in God.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Amen! Your life as a Christian that is living out daily habits that have been empowered by the Spirit should make everyone around you want to go deeper and deeper into all that the Holy Spirit has in store for them too. 

Join me next Sunday as we take another look at what it means when we say We Are: Pentecostal. 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Life-Changing Power In The Bible

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

The Life-Changing Power In The Bible

     When the Spirit came with His divine life and quickened the entire Book to my newly enlightened soul, the inner meaning shone forth with wondrous glory. … Whatever I found to be in His Word, I received with intense joy. … Moreover, I have found that those points of my character that were most weak have been strengthened, while strong passions have been subdued, evil propensities have been kept under, and new principles have been implanted. I am changed; I am as different from what I was as a man could be who had been annihilated and had then been made over again. Nor do I claim any of the credit for this change—far from it. God has done great things for me, but He has done the same for others and is willing to do it for any soul who seeks His face through Jesus Christ and His great atoning sacrifice. …  

     An idea has long possessed the public mind that a religious man can scarcely be a wise man. It has been the custom to talk of infidels, atheists, and deists as men of deep thought and comprehensive intellect, and to tremble for the Christian controversialist as if he must surely fall by the hand of his enemy. But this is purely a mistake, for the gospel is the sum of wisdom, an epitome of knowledge, a treasure house of truth, and a revelation of mysterious secrets. In it we see how justice and mercy may be married; here we behold inexorable law entirely satisfied and sovereign love bearing away the sinner in triumph. Our meditation upon it enlarges the mind, and as it opens to our soul in successive flashes of glory, we stand astonished at the profound wisdom manifest in it.

From The Autobiography Of Charles Spurgeon 

As Spurgeon experienced, all Christians can experience. Think about this—the same Holy Spirit that inspired the written words of the Bible is the same Holy Spirit in you that can illuminate and apply the words of the Bible to your life! 

Bible-reading, Spirit-empowered Christians should be the most informed, creative, wise people you will ever meet. Not because they have studied nature, but because they are getting to know Nature’s God intimately. The Creator can open up the mysteries of creation better than any scientist or philosopher. 

But we don’t read the Bible just to know God’s Word, but we read the Bible to get to know the God revealed in the Word. He said He would reveal Himself to those who earnestly seek for Him. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes, your mind, your heart as you read your Bible. 

Everyday Evidence

Last week we learned that speaking in tongues was one of the most noticeable and consistent characteristics of those who were baptized in the Holy Spirit. 

Speaking in tongues as the Spirit enables you is the unmistakable, objective, outward, initial physical evidence. The Bible makes clear that continuing to pray in tongues has huge benefits for both our personal prayer lives and for the corporate church body. But don’t stop there! 

The initial, outward evidence is primarily for the individual Christian—it’s a way of knowing that you know that you have indeed been baptized in the Spirit. But there also needs to be some everyday evidence for others that testifies to them that something is different about your life. 

Consider the disciples of Jesus before and after being baptized in the Holy Spirit…

Their vocabulary

Before being baptized in the Spirit they said stupid things because they didn’t know what to say (Mark 9:5-6) But after being baptized in the Spirit there was no more foot-in-mouth disease. Just as the Holy Spirit enabled them to praise God in an unlearned tongue, He also empowered their natural dialect. The same Greek word is used in Acts 2:4 (enabled by the Holy Spirit), 2:14 (Peter addressed the crowd), and 26:25 (what I am saying is true and reasonable). 

Their spiritual power

Before it was limited, and often thwarted, but afterward, it was limitless and effortless (Mark 9:17-18; Acts 3:1-8; 5:15; 6:8).

Their understanding of servanthood

Before they argued about who was the greatest. Afterward, they gladly gave all that they had to others (Mark 9:33-34; Acts 2:44-45). 

Their boldness in the face of adversity

Before they abandoned Jesus, ran away, and hid in locked rooms. Afterward, there was no intimidating or silencing them (Acts 4:8, 13, 18-20). 

Their understanding of Scripture

Before they had virtually no understanding of Scripture’s application. Afterward, they understood how to apply God’s Word in almost every situation (Acts 2:16, 33-35; 4:24-26). 

Jesus promised that the baptism in the Holy Spirit would empower us TO BE His witnesses (Acts 1:8). Not just to do things for Him. There’s nothing wrong about doing Jesus-glorifying things, but in themselves, they are too short-sighted. Jesus doesn’t want us empowered to do things, but TO BE a living, breathing, walking, talking witness of a life transformed by His power. That’s the reason why I say to you again and again: Don’t stop at salvation. Press on and press in to be baptized in the Holy Spirit so that you can BE an empowered, transformed and transforming witness for Jesus!

Join me this Sunday as we continue to explore what it means for Christians to be Pentecostal. 

My Conscience

…my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit (Romans 9:1). 

Conscience is that God-implanted part of a human soul that can distinguish between…

  • …the morally good and the morally bad 
  • …the things that attract God’s presence and the things that repel God’s presence
  • …commending things and condemning things
  • …the things that please the Holy Spirit and the things that grieve the Holy Spirit

Sin corrupts a conscience. Sin tries to blur the lines between good and evil. Sin looks for loopholes. 

Paul said his conscience was aligned with the Holy Spirit—my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit. 

The word for witness is the Greek word martyreo. Martyreo helps me distinguish because of personal experience OR divine revelation. In the case of a Holy Spirit-baptized Christian, it isn’t OR, it’s AND. Jesus used the same word when He said the baptism in the Spirit would empower His followers to be martyreo (Acts 1:8). 

The Holy Spirit aligns my conscience with God’s righteousness. The Spirit grieves when I fall short, and He rejoices when I obey. 

Following the other uses of martyreo in the New Testament, we can see that a Spirit-aligned conscience…

Can you say with Paul, “My conscience is aligned with the Holy Spirit”? You can if you make it a daily habit to listen for the Spirit’s voice and then obey His promptings. 

Don’t let sin corrupt your conscience, but let the Holy Spirit align your conscience with God’s righteousness. 

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