Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Mouth Of The Lord Has Spoken

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.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

The Mouth Of The Lord Has Spoken

…For the mouth of the Lord has spoken (Isaiah 1:20).

     However this sacred Book may be treated nowadays, it was not treated contemptuously, nor negligently, nor questioningly by the Lord Jesus Christ, our Master and Lord. It is noteworthy how He reverenced the written Word. The Spirit of God rested upon Him personally, without measure, and He could speak out of His own mind the revelation of God, and yet He continually quoted the Law, and the Prophets, and the Psalms…. I am sure, brethren, we cannot be wrong in imitating the example of our divine Lord in our reverence for that Scripture, which cannot be broken. … 

     The New Testament writers sit reverently down before the Old Testament and receive God’s words as such without any question whatever. You and I belong to a school that will continue to do the same, let others adopt what behavior they please. As for us and for our house, this priceless Book will remain the standard of our faith and the ground of our hope so long as we live.

From The Infallibility Of Scripture

As I have discussed before, the 39 books of the Old Testament were called “Scripture” by Jesus and those living in that same era. The New Testament writers saw Jesus as the fulfillment of those Old Testament Scripture, and what they wrote for us then became Scripture also (Luke 4:18-21; 24:27, 44-45; John 2:22, 17:12; Acts 1:16, 8:35; Galatians 3:8, 16, 22; James 2:8, 23, 4:5-6; 1 Peter 2:6; 2 Peter 3:16). 

When we read the Bible, we are reading words from the mouth of God Himself! 

This Book is the measure of truth, the guide for our lives, and the blessed assurance we need as we anticipate the second advent of Jesus. We need to be much in this Sacred Book!

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Epiphany

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After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on that Day of Pentecost immediately following Christ’s ascension, Christians were speaking in languages that they had not learned. As they did so, they were “declaring the wonders of God” in all the languages of the world. Some people mocked, saying they were merely babbling drunks, but everyone in Jerusalem was “amazed and perplexed” at this remarkable event, which prompted Peter to preach a powerful sermon (Acts 2:8-21). 

Peter began his sermon by quoting words “spoken by the prophet Joel” (Joel 2:28-32). It’s unlikely that Peter had a copy of Joel with him, so this quotation was delivered from memory and Peter’s sermon was given spontaneously as the Holy Spirit empowered him. In looking at the passages in both Joel and Acts, I see three notable differences.

  1. Joel begins by saying, “And afterward I will pour out My Spirit,” but Peter begins with the words, “In the last days…I will pour out My Spirit.” I’ll address this point further in just a moment. 
  2. Peter inserts “and they will prophesy” at the end of verse 18, a phrase that Joel didn’t say at the end of Joel 2:29. I think this is the Holy Spirit emphasizing that what the crowd heard was indeed prophecy, not mindless babbling. 
  3. Joel concludes with “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord,” but Peter says, “before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.” The word Joel uses for “dreadful,” meaning an awesome day worthy of reverence, was a day of sorrow for those about to be judged guilty, and a day of supreme rejoicing for those about to be judged innocent in God’s sight. The word Peter uses for “glorious” is the only time this Greek word is used in the New Testament. The word is epiphanes: where we get our English word “epiphany”—a light has dawned and the truth is finally realized! 

Let’s go back to the difference between “afterward” in Joel and “in the last days” in Acts. In a sense, the “afterward” for Peter was what everyone was experiencing right then—after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, and after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that Jesus had promised (John 16:7; Acts 1:4-5). 

Let’s also consider the “afterward” in Joel’s day. What came before was a disaster of locusts consuming the land, which prompted Joel to call for the solemn response of prayer and fasting. This heartfelt response from godly people trigged God’s outpouring of His Spirit—the afterward—that led to a blessing “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Joel 2:1-3, 10-13). 

Both Joel and Peter conclude that it is God’s desire that “everyone…be saved”! The outpouring of the Holy Spirit was to help people have an epiphany of both their sin and the salvation that Jesus purchased on His Cross.

The word “disaster” comes from the Latin word disastros. The root word astros pertains to the heavenly lights (star, sun, moon), and the prefix “dis-” is a pejorative (something that has a belittling effect). So disaster really means no guiding lights, or hopeless darkness. 

Jesus was prophesied to step into this hopeless darkness and bring light and hope—“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2). Zechariah prophesied that Jesus was the fulfillment of this: “Because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).  

Jesus is THE Epiphany, THE Ultimate Light, but He also tells us, “You are the light of the world (John 8:12; Matthew 5:14).  

In a world of hopeless darkness, Christians are to be Christ’s Light-bearers. 

We cannot do this on our own. 

The Holy Spirit’s empowerment ignites and then alines our light-bearing to a disaster-prone world. 

When Joel saw disaster coming, he called for a fast. This fast led to the outpouring of God’s empowerment on godly people, so they could take the Light to those lost in deep darkness. I think the same response is needed from Christians today. 

When it appears this world is plunging deeper into darkness—when we hear of disasters (remember that disastros means people are without Light)—we need to pray and fast so that the Holy Spirit can be reignited in us, so that we can then be realigned to best shine the light of Jesus brightly. 

Our lives can and should be the epiphany of Christ’s love for the world to see! Let’s all pray: “Holy Spirit, make us Your epiphany to a dark world!” 

If you’d like to check out the other messages in our series We Are: Pentecostal, please click here. 

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Stop Self-Promoting

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My book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter opens with a chapter ‘The Wrong Ladder.’ This chapter is a reminder that we don’t have to figure out which ladder to climb in order to be successful. The last chapter of my book is entitled ‘Applause,’ which begins with the words, “Self-promotion is an anti-God attitude.” 

Throughout the Bible we never see people polishing up their résumés. There is no angling among godly leaders for who should get the prominent position. When some of the disciples of Jesus momentarily engaged in this kind of thinking, Jesus quickly corrected them. 

Often we see God taking obscure people and vaulting them to a position of prominence. Sometimes they will remain in that position until the day they die, and sometimes God will remove them after a rather short period of time. 

God prepares people, God promotes people, and God removes people as He sees best.

This is never more true than in the story of Daniel. “So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian” (Daniel 6:28). In fact, for most of Daniel’s life, he is in a prominent leadership position. Daniel prospered, but he did so because God promoted him. Daniel never sought a position, and even if he was removed from a position, he didn’t try to retain it nor regain it.

Daniel knew God was in control, and he trusted His timing.

I’ve been sharing a series of leadership lessons from the life of Daniel with my Patreon supporters. Check out this brief clip from a lesson I entitled “No Self-Promotion.” 

If you are a Christian leader, I challenge you to stop polishing up your résumé. Whether you have a résumé that looks great or not, God will still place you where He needs you, when He needs you to be there. Remember: “Self-promotion is an anti-God attitude.” 

I would also ask you to consider becoming one of my Patreon supporters. For just $5 per month, you will have access to my exclusive content, and you will be helping to support the free side of this ministry.

Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple.

Highly Esteemed

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“Highly esteemed” is how two different angels addressed Daniel (Daniel 9:23, 10:11). This was a title they obviously heard from God Himself. At both instances, Daniel was in a time of intense and sustained prayer and fasting. 

While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making request to the Lord my God for His holy hill … Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me…. (Daniel 9:20-21) 

At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all. (Daniel 10:2-3) 

Prayer was a regular habit for Daniel and prayer was also what Daniel turned to immediately in times of trouble (Daniel 2:18, 6:10). 

We see the same thing in the lives of two notable women in the New Testament. Elizabeth is described as an upright woman who observed all of God’s commandments blamelessly. She continuously prayed that she might get pregnant, and then Gabriel came to bring the good news of her upcoming pregnancy. Elizabeth responded by saying, “The Lord has done this for me.… He has shown me His favor” (see Luke 1:5-25). 

Mary was also a righteous woman who was steeped in Scripture (as we can see in her song of praise). When Gabriel appeared to her, he called her “highly favored” (see Luke 1:26-55). 

A righteous, prayer-filled lifestyle also brings favor and esteem with earthly kings. Daniel and his friends fasted and prayed, which led to King Nebuchadnezzar’s favor directed to them (Daniel 1:11-20, 2:48-49). After three days of prayer and fasting, Queen Esther found favor in the eyes of King Xerxes, which led to the salvation of all the Jewish people (Esther 4:15—5:3). And Nehemiah’s sustained prayer over four months won the favorable reply from King Artaxerxes (see Nehemiah 1:1—2:8). 

If you want to hear deep things from God, if you want to be called “highly esteemed” by the Most High, if you want to gain favor with earthly kings, you must be committed to the sustained work of prayer and righteous living. If you would like to dig into this deeper, check out 4 Thoughts To Help Prayer Become A Daily Habit.

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The Gift Preached To The World

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Ever since Resurrection Day, we can continually celebrate the greatest Gift ever—the death and resurrection of Jesus! 

After making His bodily resurrection abundantly clear, Jesus ascended back to heaven. And now we await His second advent. But here’s an important question: If Jesus ascended back into heaven, where is our Gift now? Quite simply: If you have invited Jesus into your heart, YOU are the gift! 

Remember on Good Friday I talked about what Jesus perfectly completed when He said, “It is finished!” It was an inside job. He came to change us at our core—we have been brought into at-onement with God and we stand in His presence just-as-if-I’d-never-sinned. 

But there is one more step, an ongoing process called sanctification or as I like to say it, “saint-ification.” 

Even as we are in this process, Jesus commissioned all of His disciples to Go…preach (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:18-20). That means “as you are going” or “wherever you go” tell everyone the good news of the greatest Gift ever. 

Jesus also told us that the Holy Spirit would empower us to be effective at this preaching (Acts 1:4-5, 8). Notice that in Acts 1:8 Jesus said, “You will BE My witnesses,” not you will do witnessing. The Holy Spirit empowers us to BE God’s gift to the world, and to use Christ’s authority properly. 

The apostle Paul echos this. He tells us how everyone can receive the Gift of Jesus. Paul then notes that people hear about this Gift because those who have received the Gift are preaching to them (Romans 10:8-15). 

We are all preachers or proclaimers of the Greatest Gift. Don’t confuse preaching with being a pastor. Preaching is a lifestyle for all Christians, whereas pastoring is an office that only some Christians are called to. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach always; if necessary, use words.” 

Here are three things that I think preach unmistakably. 

(1) Loving, practical service to those in need (John 13:34-35; Matthew 25:34-40)

Jesus said it pretty simply: If someone is hungry, give them something to eat. This practical love is an unmistakable sermon. 

(2) Loving, practical service to those you dislike—or who dislike you (Luke 6:27-36) 

Anyone can do loving things for people they like, but when you bless people who are mean to you, another unmistakable sermon is being preached. 

(3) Jesus-exalting fruitfulness (Galatians 5:19-25) 

Paul contrasts the fruit of those who haven’t invited Jesus into their hearts with those who have. Our fruits of kindness in an unkind world, or self-control in a hedonistic world also preach an unmistakable sermon. 

(check out all of the above Bible verses by clicking here)

If the Gift of Jesus is in you, then your life IS the sermon. Preach it well! 

You are God’s gift to the world IF you are revealing God’s Gift to the world in everything you say and do. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series Christmas Unwrapped At Easter, you can find all of them listed here. 

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The Gift Unmistakably Seen

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We saw last week that John 3:16 tells us of God’s greatest Gift—Jesus! 

This Gift was not an after-thought. God didn’t say, “I’ve tried everything else and nothing has worked so I guess I have to send My Son.” NO! The Gift was foretold right from the very moment Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3:15, 21). In fact, we can even say it was planned before the beginning of Time, as John describes Jesus as “the Lamb who was slaughtered before the world was made” (Revelation 13:8). 

John also writes for us one of the most beautiful and succinct statements of God: God IS Love (1 John 4:8). 

Paul wrote an inspired definition of love. Check out what happens when we put “God” in place of “love” in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud. God does not dishonor others, God is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, God always trusts, God always hopes, God always perseveres. God’s love never fails. 

This description of God means that He wasn’t forced to send Jesus as the ransom for our sins, but rather that His love foreknew the perfect moment to send this Gift for us. 

Neither did Jesus feel trapped by this plan His Father made. Calvary didn’t happen to Jesus, but Jesus came to make Calvary happen (John 17:24; Hebrews 12:2; John 10:17-18). 

Jesus made His Gift unmistakable:

  • He predicted the unmistakable events leading up to Calvary—Matthew 20:17-19, 26:2; Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-33; John 13:19 
  • He predicted the unmistakable way He would die—John 3:14, 12:32-33 
  • And His Father unmistakably confirmed all of this—John 12:27-28

(check out all of the above verses by clicking here) 

Just before His crucifixion, Jesus gave His followers an unmistakable example of love to follow. He said that His love radiating out of His followers would show the world an unmistakable picture of His love (see John 13:3-5, 12-17, 34-35). 

I may say, “Thank you so much” when I open someone’s gift, but my true gratitude is seen in what I do with their gift after that. Do I put it on a shelf and forget about it? Or do I cherish it, use it, and tell others all about the one who gave the gift to me? This is just as true with how I treat the Love Gift that I was given in Jesus. 

Q: How unmistakable is my gratitude for the Gift of Jesus? 

A: It is unmistakably seen in how I love others. 

Here’s the test: Can I put my name in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8—

Craig is patient, Craig is kind. Craig does not envy, Craig does not boast, Craig is not proud. Craig does not dishonor others, Craig is not self-seeking, Craig is not easily angered, Craig keeps no record of wrongs. Craig does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Craig always protects, Craig always trusts, Craig always hopes, Craig always perseveres. Craig’s love never fails.

The Holy Spirit wants all Christians to be able to truthfully insert their names in that statement. He wants to help us make necessary changes that will allow the amazing Gift of Jesus to be unmistakably seen by everyone. 

God’s plan is unmistakable. The death of Jesus is unmistakable proof of God’s love. Now, let’s make sure that our love is also empowered by the love of God shining unmistakably out of everything we say and do. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series Christmas Unwrapped At Easter, you can find the complete list by clicking here. 

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Crucifixion Events

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The death of Jesus may be the most attested execution in all of history. It’s certainly the most meaningful execution, as the death of Jesus brought a fulfillment to prophecy that was made in the immediate aftermath of humanity’s first sin. 

I have frequently written about the historicity of the Bible. The crucifixion of Jesus is not a “once upon a time” or “in the make-believe land of Israel” story, but an actual event, which involved actual people, at an actual moment in history. Even the way the four Gospel writers record the crucifixion of Jesus attests to the historicity of this event.

Check out this chart of the events that show how Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John record this historical moment. 

When did this moment in history occur? Consider this scholarly insight from The Archeological Study Bible

“In what year was Jesus born, and when was He crucified? These are long-standing historical questions. The seemingly obvious answer to the first—that He was born in A.D. 1 (there is no year 0)—is incorrect, however, since the calculations on which our modern calendar is based were faulty. …

“The chronology of Jesus’ life, though clear in outline, cannot be fixed with absolute precision. Matthew and Luke both inform us that Jesus was born before the death of Herod (4 B.C.), though it would appear that His birth occurred toward the final years of Herod’s reign, suggesting an approximate date of 6-4 B.C. The next chronological marker comes from Luke 3:1, where we learn that John the Baptist’s ministry began during the fifteenth year of the reign of the emperor Tiberius. Since A.D. 14 is the generally accepted date for Tiberius’ accession to the throne, John’s ministry would have commenced between August A.D. 28 and December of 29. Jesus began His own ministry shortly after John had embarked on his, at some point in A.D. 28 or 29, making Jesus about 32 or 33 years old at the time. This fits well with Luke’s statement that Jesus was ‘about 30 years old’ (Luke 3:23).

“The duration of Jesus’ public ministry was approximately three years. While the exact chronology of this period is difficult to ascertain, the final phase of His ministry allows for closer scrutiny. It is clear that Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate, who governed Judea from A.D. 26-36. …

“Taking Friday, Nisan 14, as the day of the crucifixion, astronomical data informs us that the only years from A.D. 29-36 that could have seen Nisan 14 on a Friday are A.D. 30, 33 and 36. A.D. 36 is easily dismissed as too late, while A.D. 30 seems too early (although some who begin Jesus’ ministry in A.D. 28 and shorten His public ministry find it acceptable). This leaves A.D. 33 as the most likely date for the year of Jesus’ death and resurrection.” 

As you celebrate the victory over sin and death that Jesus won by His sacrificial death on the Cross, rejoice also that this is an actual historical event that bought your freedom from your sin. It is indeed miraculous, but it is also historic. Let’s never lose sight of either of those facets. 

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The Gift Promised

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Have you ever seen kids tearing into a Christmas present and then being disappointed that what they got wasn’t what they wanted? They may say something like, “This isn’t what I put on my wish list!” 

From the response of the religious leaders in the Gospels, it appears that the gift of Jesus on that original “Christmas morning” was very similar. It’s almost like they were saying, “This isn’t the type of Messiah we wanted!” They wanted someone to give them freedom from the Romans, but their Heavenly Father wanted them to have something far bigger and greater: Eternal freedom from the penalty of sin. 

The first humans had the joy of being innocent in God’s presence, where they had everything they needed. But satan got Adam and Eve to focus on something they wanted, and that sin of disobedience brought an immediate separation. They now feared the nearness of God. 

There were immediate and painful consequences for their sin, but God wanted the heaviest of penalties to fall on Himself. To foreshadow this, God sacrificed an innocent animal to cover their nakedness, showing us what the gift of Jesus would do for us (Genesis 3:1-21). 

In The Holy War, John Bunyan tells the story of the town of Mansoul enslaved to Diabolus. The crafty serpent plays on their fears by reminding them how terrible it would be if they allowed Holy God to come near them while they were in their sinful state: 

“‘Gentlemen,’ quoth he, ‘and my faithful subjects, if it is true that this summoner hath said concerning the greatness of their King, by His terror you will always be kept in bondage, and so be made to sneak. Yea, how can you now, though He is at a distance, endure to think of such a Mighty One? And if not to think of Him while at a distance, how can you endure to be in His presence?’” 

Diabolus even tried to make their slavery to sin look like freedom: “I, your prince, am familiar with you, and you may play with me as you would with a grasshopper. Consider, therefore, what is for your profit, and remember the immunities that I have granted you.’”  

As John Piper reminds us, “Christmas is for freedom.” Indeed, that’s just what we see on the first “Christmas morning” in words like salvation, no fear, and great joy (Matthew 1:21; Luke 2:10-11). 

Turning again to The Holy War, here’s what the Father said to His Son: “Wherefore the King called to Him Emmanuel, His Son, who said, ‘Here am I, My Father.’ Then said the King, ‘Thou knowest, as I do Myself, the condition of the town of Mansoul, and what We have purposed, and what Thou hast done to redeem it. Come now, therefore, My Son, and prepare Thyself.’”  

Immanuel (or the Romanized spelling Emmanuel) is the One who removes the separation caused by our sin, and rejoins us to God. That prefix “im” means with, and the suffix “El” means God. The root word means God’s kinsmen. Immanuel comes to repair what was severed by taking sin’s penalty on Himself, and allowing us to once again enjoy the closeness of kinship with our Heavenly Father (Matthew 1:22-23; Galatians 4:4-7). 

When the people saw this Gift on Christmas morning, they said, “This isn’t what we wanted! We wanted a rich, powerful, conquering King. One who would send the Romans running in fear!” As a result, very few unwrapped this Heavenly Gift. But God reminded them, “That may be what you wanted, but I have given what you need. I want you to have not just temporary freedom from the Romans, but eternal freedom from your sin so that you can be forever in My presence!” 

This is what Jesus rejoiced to do for us with the Gift of His life, death, and resurrection. One more passage from The Holy War tells us, “Then said the King’s Son, ‘Thy law is within My heart: I delight to do Thy will. This is the day that I have longed for, and the work that I have waited for all this while. … I will go and will deliver from Diabolus, and from his power, Thy perishing town of Mansoul. My heart has been often pained within Me for the miserable town of Mansoul; but now it is rejoiced, but now it is glad.’” (The timing for the Incarnation of Jesus and even these words of Immanuel Himself are found in Hebrews 2:14-15; 10:5-7). 

God’s love is too great to be limited to just meeting our wants because in our immaturity and sinfulness we don’t know what we really need—but He does. So His love sent Immanuel to us. 

The Gift was given to us at Christmas, but in our immaturity and shortsightedness, we didn’t realize the full impact of this Gift until Jesus rose victoriously from the grave! Now by placing our faith in His completed work, we can be rejoined to God and live in unshakable hope of an eternity with Him! 

If you would like to follow along with all of the messages in this series called Christmas Unwrapped At Easter, please check out the links I’ve shared here.

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Shine In The Darkness

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I’ve noticed that when people want to sound super-spiritual that they like to use King James Version phrases. Sometimes I hear people speaking in normal, everyday English until they begin praying and then I hear, “Thy servant … Thou O Most High … we beseech Thee … Thou knowest Thine children….” 

Statement #6 in our series “Is that in the Bible” also sounds more powerful when people quote it in King James English—Shun the very appearance of evil or sometimes Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord. Are those in the Bible? Yes, they are! 

We don’t use the word “shun” very often today, but in what was probably the first written book of the Bible we read that not only did Job shun evil, but God commended him for shunning evil too. And wise King Solomon advocated for his readers to shun evil (Job 1:1, 8; 2:3; Proverbs 3:7, 14:16). 

Yes, those phrases that I quoted earlier come right from the King James Version of the Bible in 1 Thessalonians 5:22 and 2 Corinthians 6:17, but does this mean that we are to stay away from anything that is “unChristian”? Does it mean that we are to shun sinners? 

There is a story that is told in the synoptic Gospels, but I especially like it in Matthew’s Gospel for one specific reason (which I’ll share with you in a moment). Jesus has just called Matthew to be His disciple, and several of Matthew’s coworkers appear to be having a going-away dinner for him which Jesus attended. 

Then comes the “911” call from the Pharisees (this statement is in Matthew 9:11): “Gasp! Jesus is eating with sinners! He’s not shunning them! Call in the sin police!” The New Living Translation is even more harsh, with the Pharisees asking, “Why does your Teacher eat with such scum?” (v. 13 NLT). 

In Luke’s Gospel we read another story where Jesus eating with “such scum” turned another tax collector’s life around. In Luke 19:1-10, we read of Zaccheus experiencing a complete life change because of His encounter with Jesus. 

Listen to Christ’s words in both Matthew and Luke: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. … I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. … The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Matthew 9:12-13; Luke 19:10). 

This doesn’t sound like Jesus shunned sinners.

Likewise, Jesus called us to be His salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13-14). No matter how beneficial the salt of my life is, it doesn’t help anyone if it stays in the saltshaker, shunning the food. No matter how bright the lantern of my life is, it doesn’t help anyone in a closed closet, shunning the darkness. 

Notice what Jesus didn’t do. He didn’t go to Matthew’s house or Zaccheus’ house for a good time, or for a good meal, or for a time of entertainment. He was on mission. So too for Christians: We go into dark places not for our pleasure or entertainment, but because we’re on a rescue mission! 

In both the Old Testament Hebrew and the New Testament Greek, the words for “shun” point at our own hearts. The words mean: You walk away from things that will pull you down, or you hold yourself back from the places and things that will lead you to sin. 

So look at the phrase “Shun the very appearance of evil” in its context: “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject [or shun] every kind of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22). 

Paul is calling us to shun the things that drown out the voice of the Holy Spirit. Listen to two of those verses in another translation: “But test and prove all things until you can recognize what is good; to that hold fast. Abstain from evil” (vv. 21-22 AMP). 

In 2 Corinthians 6 the phrase “Be ye separate” is in the context about being “unequally yoked” with unbelievers. This is what happened to King Solomon when he married women who were idolaters, and they pulled his heart away from God. 

Shun” means to keep away from those things that would pull you down. How do I know if a certain environment or activity or person is pulling me down? I need to check my thoughts, attitudes, and actions. If I find they are becoming un-Christlike, then that is an indication of a place or person that I need to limit my exposure. 

As long as my thoughts, attitudes, and actions remain Christlike, I should keep on seasoning and shining in dark places so that I can draw others to Jesus. “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people” (Philippians 2:14-15 NLT). 

Don’t shun people that Jesus dearly loves, but don’t put yourself in a position where your devotion to God is compromised either. Listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit giving you the wisdom you need to be both on-mission for Jesus and shining a bright, innocent light! 

If you’ve missed any of the other lessons in this series, you can find the full list by clicking here. 

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Letting Go To Hold On

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In Stephen’s sermon, he notes something interesting about Abraham: “The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still living in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you’” (Acts 7:2-3). 

That word “before” especially caught my attention—“before he lived in Haran.” 

In Genesis 11:31, we read that Terah (who is Abraham’s father) is the one who takes Abraham and Lot to set out for Canaan, but that they only made it as far as Haran. Could it be that God did speak to Abraham in the land of Ur, and that his influence on his father was so deep that Terah decided to answer the call too? Yet God called Abraham—not Terah—so Terah apparently was not as committed to obey God’s call. 

Terah’s youngest son Haran died before they began the journey. Terah didn’t get very far into their journey toward Canaan until in grief over his dead son, he stopped and he settled. 

Was Terah angry at God? Was he fearful about what may happen to the rest of his family on the long journey? Was he so wrapped up in his grief over his youngest son that he couldn’t move forward? 

Whatever the case, not only did Terah stop, but so did Abraham. 

But God, in His incredible graciousness, spoke to Abraham again, renewing the call to follow Him. 

Stephen said that Abraham left Haran “after the death of his father” (Acts 7:4). But let’s do the math: Terah was 70 years old when Abraham was born and lived to be 205 years old (Genesis 11:26), but Abraham arrived in Canaan when he was 76 years old (Genesis 16:3, 16). That means that Terah was still physically alive when Abraham left him. 

In other words, Abraham had to love God more than his grief-stricken, grief-paralyzed father, to the point that he had to consider his father as dead. He had to do this in order to follow God. 

Jesus says something similar to those who would be His followers today: “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father… he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26). 

That’s a sobering word! We have to value obedience to God above all else. We have to believe that God is our supreme reward, and that absolutely nothing on this earth compares to the surpassing greatness of knowing Him. 

Jesus gave us this promise—

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for My sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:28-29)

Abraham shows us the principle that we should all realize: Following the call of God is so worth it! Letting go of this world so that you can hold on to your Savior is the best decision you could ever make! 

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