Self-made Or Spirit-led?

“And behold, two men were conversing with Him—Moses and Elijah, who appeared in splendor and majesty and brightness and were speaking of His exit from life, which He was about to bring to realization at Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:30-31)

Jesus was constantly making decisions that kept Him on the path straight toward Calvary’s Cross. He would let nothing deter Him from God’s appointed mission. Even when His own friends and family urged Him to find another route. 

It was at a moment like this—when Jesus had yet another choice to make about what path He would follow—that Moses and Elijah talked to Him, reminding Him of the ultimate outcome of His obedient and correct choices. 

At every crossroads—at every decision point—Jesus chose correctly. He chose to do God’s will for His life. He could have decided to do things His own way, but He leaned into the unmistakable voice of the Holy Spirit pointing Him toward the right path.

What does that mean for us today?

I have failed to make the right choice.
That means that I could have chosen correctly.
Jesus was human just like me.
Which means He had choices too.
He always chose correctly, even though the other possibility was there.
So the question is: Will I try to be a self-made man or a Spirit-led man?
I cannot be both.

The Day Of The Lord

All we know about the prophet Joel is that he is the son of Pethuel, and his name means Jehovah is God. He appears to be addressing the southern part of Israel (Judah/Jerusalem). 

What is interesting to note about Joel’s writing is a recurring theme that goes something like this: 

Foreshadowing (or prophetic foretelling) → Calling for a godly response → God’s blessing on a right response or God’s punishment on a wrong response → An outcome which foreshadows or foretells another more dire event → repeat…

For instance, in Joel’s prophesy the massive invasion of locusts was intended to get the Israelites to pay attention to their sins. Joel calls for fasting and repentance and warns (foreshadows/foretells) that an invading army at a later date would do even greater damage (1:2-14). 

Likewise, the invading army—which would do more damage than the invading locusts—should also call the Israelites to repentance and imploring God for His help. 

Jesus, just like Joel, taught that whether it was an evil man, an accident, or even a natural disaster, painful things should cause us to consider the state of our eternal soul (see Luke 13:1-5). And Jesus and Joel both foretell of the Day of the Lord when there will be no more opportunities for repentance. 

To prepare God-fearing people for this dreadful day of the Lord, Joel foretells if the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This is the same empowering Spirit that Jesus said would equip His followers to take the message of salvation to all four points of the compass (Acts 1:4-8). And just as Joel foretold 800 years earlier, on the first Pentecost Sunday after Christ’s ascension back into heaven, the Christians were baptized in the Holy Spirit, prompting Peter to quote an extension passage from Joel (compare Joel 2:28-32 with Acts 2:14-21).

Joel’s final chapter talks about Judgment Day, and about the multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision. Peter confronted his audience as well about the decision they should make to turn to Jesus as their Savior and Lord. 

The Day of the Lord could come at any moment and millions around the world are still in the valley of decision. I find these words quite sobering—

“Someone asked, ‘Will the heathen who have never heard the Gospel be saved?’ It is more a question with me whether we—who have the Gospel and fail to give it to those who have not—can be saved.” —Charles Spurgeon 

We are even closer to the Day of the Lord today than we were yesterday. What will you do?

Please join me this Sunday as we continue our series learning the major lessons from the minor prophets.

It’s Time To Come Home

I already shared the bizarre but beautiful sermon illustration that Hosea lived out for the Israelites and for us. His wife had been unfaithful to him and had gotten herself so far in debt that she was a virtual slave. Hosea, in a clear picture of God’s amazing, unrelenting love, bought back his wife, paid off her debts, and completely restored her to himself. 

Sadly, the people of Israel—even after seeing this grace-filled living lesson—continue to push farther and farther away from God. This prompted God to announce the indictment against them… 

Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites, because the Lord has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed” (Hosea 4:1-2). 

It wasn’t the first time that someone preferred the things of the world to the things of God (like Adam and Eve), and it wasn’t the last time (like you and me). We mortals tend to be seduced by what we can see and hold right now, instead of trusting God for something far better. 

Jesus told a story about a son who enjoyed the full privilege and favor of his father, yet this son thought he could do better on his own. He asked his father for his share of the inheritance and left for a distant land, determined to live a life where he called all the shots. But with his money gone, he found himself in debt, starving, and working as a hired hand in a pigsty. 

It was then that Jesus said that young man came to his senses. He had nothing to bring to his father—no gift of restitution, no token of respect, nothing except his words. All he could say was, “Father, forgive me.” 

But that’s all that was needed. Hosea counseled the Israelites to do the same thing:

Return, Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to Him: “Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips” (Hosea 14:1-2). 

The wayward son had a rehearsed speech asking his father to simply hire him as a servant, as if he wasn’t worthy to be considered a son any longer. But the father—in words that reflect our Heavenly Father’s love—cut the son’s speech short. He let the son only say, “Forgive me,” but before the son could make the request to be a servant the father totally restored him. 

After Hosea calls the wayward people to return with their “forgive us,” he quotes God’s reply: “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for My anger has turned away from them” (14:4). 

How could this be? How could God’s full judgment not fall on His wayward people? How could it not fall on you and me?! Because it fell on Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21)! So when we come back to God with our words of forgiveness, He restores us and clothes us in the robe of Jesus (Galatians 3:27). 

Absolutely amazing! 

God longingly speaks to His wayward people, “It’s time to come home. I’m waiting for you with open arms. I am ready to restore you completely. Just come home.”

Join me next week as we continue to learn about the major lessons we can discover in the minor prophets. 

Favorable Influence

Twice the 80th psalm declares—Restore us, O Lord God Almighty; make Your face shine upon us, that we may be saved (Psalm 80:19). 

But if we are already a Christian that has been saved from the penalty of our sin and saved to an eternal reward, then that also means that God’s face IS already shining on us, He HAS already restored us, and He HAS already given us His favor. 

I like how the Amplified Bible renders this verse: Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; cause Your face to shine in pleasure, approval, and favor on us, and we shall be saved! 

What we have received is too wonderful for us to keep to ourselves, so we must let His pleasure, approval, and favor now shine out of us! 

“If the result of our experience of God does not compel and propel us into global mission, it is doubtful whether we have really encountered the God of the Bible.” —Dick Brogden 

Jesus stated His mission simply and then sent us out on the exact same mission (Luke 4:18-19; John 20:21). We do this best by living closely among people so they can also see us shine with God’s favor.

Paul called us to shine as well: Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people (Philippians 2:15). I believe this is a perfect definition of the word influence. The origin of the word meant the supposed flowing of ethereal fluid from the stars thought to affect the actions of men. Christians that let their good deeds shine in the darkness can influence the entire culture around them!

“Radical Christianity is not going on a missions trip or a big conference. Radical Christianity is staying steady for decades.” —Mike Bickle 

Being a person that shines with favorable influence requires staying involved for the long haul so that you can build trustworthiness. It’s being in visible places not to get glory, but to let people see God’s glory. When they see His glory shine on you and out of you, they will want what you have too!

Solomon said, By the blessing of the influence of the upright and God’s favor—because of them the city is exalted (Proverbs 11:11). So, my fellow Christian, let me ask you: 

  • Has God shined on you?
  • Are you letting Him shine out of you? 
  • Are you living a noteworthy, trustworthy, visible life in your dark community? 

“It’s your choice: You can be a part of your city’s elevation or its deterioration.”

—Craig T. Owens

Dressed For Victory

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power (Ephesians 6:10).

Not…

  • be strong in my own ability
  • be strong in the company of another warrior

But…

  • be strong in the Lord
  • be strong in the power of His might

The armor I wear has been battle-tested by the undefeated Champion. It’s armor emblazoned with the crimson red blood of Calvary. It’s armor gleaming brightly with the glow of Resurrection victory.

I wear Christ’s armor! 

  • The belt of truth—it’s the righteousness of Jesus (Isaiah 11:1-5)
  • The breastplate of righteousness—worn by the Messiah who defeated evil (Isaiah 59:15-17)
  • The helmet of salvation—worn by Jesus as He won salvation for us (Isaiah 59:16-17)
  • The shoes of the gospel of peace—worn by our Lord as He defeated our enemies (Isaiah 52:5-7)
  • The shield of faith—God says, “I am your shield” (Genesis 15:1)
  • The sword of the Spirit—what Jesus used to strike down satan’s temptations (Isaiah 49:1-2; Luke 4:4, 8, 12)

I must continually clothe myself in God’s armor. Then I keep the armor bright by prayer—

Restraining prayer, we cease to fight 
Prayer makes the Christian’s armor bright 
And satan trembles when he sees 
The weakest saint upon his knees. (William Cowper)

Holy God, may I be dressed in YOU at every moment. May I daily use YOUR battle-tested armor and weapons to strike a blow against satan! 

(Check out all the Scripture references above by clicking here.)

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Blessing Of A Promise-Keeping God

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 Blessing Of A Promise-Keeping God

     I do not believe we can preach the gospel if we do not preach justification by faith without works; or unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; or unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah. … 

     All the purposes of man have been defeated, but not the purposes of God. The promises of man may be broken. Many of them are made to be broken. But the promises of God shall all be fulfilled. He is a promise-maker, but He never was a promise-breaker; He is a promise-keeping God, and every one of His people shall prove it to be so.  

From The Autobiography Of Charles Spurgeon

God is not a man, so He does not lie. He is not human, so He does not change His mind. Has He ever spoken and failed to act? Has He ever promised and not carried it through? (Number 23:19)

For the word of God will never fail. (Luke 1:37)

Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed. (Joshua 23:14)

But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the Lord their God. He made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He keeps every promise forever. (Psalm 146:5-6) 

For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for His glory. (2 Corinthians 1:20)

Our God is a promise-making, promise-keeping God!

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.

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