“A ruler or other person who holds absolute power, typically one who exercises it in a cruel or oppressive way.”
“The innate corruption of human nature, due to original sin.”
Accountability has always been the only way to restrain the depraved nature of the human race. Where accountability does not exist, power corrupts itself and depravity rue’s the day. We will always look back with regret on our failures to restrain power and authority.
Absolute power absolutely corrupts every time even in the hands of the most well meaning individuals. We were not meant to be gods. There is but one God and ruler of human hearts. We cannot be that. When we try, we fail. When we fail, we leave a trail of blood and fire in our wake. People are harmed, organizations are destroyed or disgraced and legacies are bruised or broken. This happens in Governments, it happens in businesses, often in our churches and it happens in our families. We were not meant to rule human hearts. Human hearts were meant to be directed toward the heart of God. When we direct others to ourself, we are nothing more and nothing better than a cult of personality.
The more we accept or demand the worship of others, the more likely we are to fall, and fall hard. “The bigger they are, the harder they fall” applies exponentially to those who carry the grotesque pride of self idolatry in their chests.
“Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall”
When the Bible declares that pride comes before the fall, its truth stands firm, and is applicable irrevocably to all. Unchecked pride will always lead to destructive falls and a landscape submitted to its ruin.
We do not follow man or mens rule or authority. Real men, fear no man. They fear God… and they tremble at His Word, and His Word alone. You cannot stand in fear of God and remain on your high horse. It demands that we get down and bow before true authority, power and justice – in its true and rightful place – with God, not us. Absolute power and authority is only safe in this merited place. Leave it in its creators hand, and when He delegates His power to you, know that that power is in submission to His will and authority and in your hands and mine, it is accountable to all. If you wish to stand tall in the eyes of others, than first sit “humble and contrite” before God, trembling at His Word. Only then and there will we gain the humility to submit ourselves to the safe and wise accountability of others.
“But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”
Or 8 Things I Learned In My Worst Years As A Bitter Christian:
“Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,
“I will take revenge;
I will pay them back,”
says the Lord.“
Romans 12:17-19 (NLT)
It is too easy to stay bitter – walking down the road of bitterness is a choice. What happened to you to make you bitter may not have been your fault, and yet, the way we deal with our past and its pains is in many ways up to us. To choose joy over bitterness often means that you have to choose a different path, walking with different people and making new friends which can often mean walking away from old unhealthy friendships or doing the hard work of repairing damaged relationships. That task can sometimes prove to be impossible and you must be honest and discerning when it comes time to making the painful decisions to let go of those things or relationships that only fuel your bitter fire or are the source of abuse – physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. Bitter roots grow deep, and deep roots need to be intentionally dug up and dealt with. They won’t pluck themselves, they will only grow. If we want them gone, than we need to make some new resolutions that involve digging up and dealing with those weeds and planting better things in fresh soil.
So here are some things I have learned, in no particular order, through my own experiences with bitterness and some of the choices that have helped me on the new path toward getting better.
1. Change Your Surroundings
For example, It may be in your best interest to surround yourself with different people, change your environment, distance yourself from things that trigger anger, resentment and bitterness – like social media and/or unfriending and unfollowing things and people that cause ill feelings in yourself toward others.
2. Treat Others Online How You Would Treat Them In Person
Consider the following:
Be patient, be respectful, if rebuke or correction is necessary, do so in love with care for others – you want them to benefit and learn from the correction – your goal should not be to start a fight or win an argument.
Call them and hear their voice, or private message them and briefly express, respectfully your opinion in a way that proves that you care for them even though you disagree.
3. Draw A Line In The Sand With Fellow Bitter Friends
If others in your life share their bitterness with you, it is time to draw a line in the sand. Simply mention to them in conversation that you are tired of holding on to the past and that you are going to move on and make every effort to pursue joy and that you want to begin to influence one another in your relationships and friendships in this way. Ask them how they feel or what they think about that?
If they are on the same page and they want to get over the sickness of bitter things as well, than resolve to move every conversation, even those about past things into a better light. If hard things that can trigger bad thoughts or bitter emotions need to be talked about, than resolve to encourage one another in these things rather than making things worse, and end or begin the conversations with prayer and prayers for those who you have been bitter about. Resolve to love your enemies.
4. Form Healthy Habits, Not Destructive Ones
Form healthy habits, because destructive ones are too easy to establish. Find better ways to deal with your emotions or stress like exercising, going for a walk, getting enough rest…etc
It might be a good idea for you to get professional Christian counseling.
Be determined to read your Bible and pray specifically about these things.
Discuss and pray with others about the things that rob your joy, not to win them to your side, but to get help and encouragement in the right direction.
Pursue new hobbies that interest you and focus your energy on positive and productive things.
As Paul Maxwell might put it – spend your time building something rather than tearing things or others down (Jeremiah Jasso, Tim Zornes and I discussed this on their Podcast).
5. Don’t Dismiss Hurting or Bitter People – God Loves Them
Even though it can be hard and messy, be patient with and love others who are struggling with bitterness from past hurts. Don’t be afraid to hear them out and listen to their stories. Love them enough to hear their voice. This doesn’t mean that you have to fuel their fire. What I’m saying is this, people are not disposable simply because they are imperfect or damaged. Recognize that they are a real person who is really hurting – just the kind of person Jesus came for. Christ died for them and loves them and He wants their best and wants to heal their wounds and restore them in the best ways to a place of wholeness and joy in Himself and with others.
Hurting people don’t always need to be fixed by you, they may just need to be heard. Sit with hurting people and hear their voice, acknowledge their pain as real and lead them in real, raw prayer. This shows them and you that we don’t need to struggle alone. We have friends in the battle. Don’t pray to fix them, pray to help them see God as their wonderful counselor, healer and friend. He will heal them if you just simply lead them to Christ as Counselor as often as you are given the opportunity.
6. Refuse To Hate, Learn To Love
Due to so many pains in this world (and so many of those painful things being inflicted by others), it can become so natural for us to hate. We don’t need to learn how to hate others, that comes natural to us in a fallen world full of sin. We do however need to learn how to love. Especially how to love our enemies. That is not natural to us considering our fallen nature, but is supernatural and it comes to us as we sit at Jesus’s feet and learn from Him, growing in our new nature brought about by our new birth. We must refuse to hate and learn to love if we wish to be victorious in Christ over those bitter demons of the past. The victory is there but it is our choice to pursue it or to continue down the long, lonely and painful path of holding on to our bitter past. Choose today, to get better, for your own sake, other’s benefit and for Gods glory.
7. Admit That You Are Not Perfect and That You Can Play A Role In Your Own Hurt
Admit your own part in your own hurt if need be. Confess your part in your own pain and give yourself and others permission to move on. Forgiving others even if they never ask for it releases you from needing to hear them say “I am sorry.” It sucks, but often times, those words will never come. If you wait around and feed your bitterness until they ask for forgiveness, you may be waiting forever. It is time to move on, and the way to move on is to forgive them. If you played a role in hurting yourself, like hanging around an abusive environment too long when you should have left sooner, it is time to confess those things and accept Gods forgiveness. It is time to forgive yourself and move on. Nobody is perfect, you or them, and if vengeance is to be a part of the equation, it is best to leave that up to God and move on with your life. He will have justice His way and it will be perfect justice, not your interpretation of justice. The days are too short to waste them in holding on to the past. Move on, God has wonderful things for you ahead. That doesn’t mean that we forget the pains of our past. They become a part of who we are and part of our ongoing testimony. The reason that we want to move forward is so that as we get better, God can and will allow our growing testimony of His goodness and grace in our lives to be used to help others who are now walking where we once walked. Get better, and if God allows it, use that testimony to set others on a better path away from the bitter road.
8. If You Don’t Have Nice Things To Say, Shhhh (Or at least don’t say them publicly on social media)
If you can’t keep your hurtful words to yourself, than seek help. A professional Christian counselor would be a great and safe place to talk through your problems without hurting others. It’s also a private place to process your grief and get wise help and counsel, not everyones uncensored and unfiltered opinions, comebacks and insults. Believe me, thats not a good way to heal (I speak from experience). Social media is not your help, counselor or friend. It’s probably best to get help privately instead of venting publicly. That damage becomes your character in the eyes of the watching and reading world. It’s probably best that you permanently delete your social media accounts if you are constantly tempted to stir the pot. Or at least clean the house as far as ‘groups’, ‘friends’, and ‘organizations’ that you follow. If you don’t enjoy certain people, churches, groups, or organizations, guess what? You don’t have to see or hear from them….. ever! Ever again! Just unfollow and/or block. Believe me, it is a great solution, and you will feel burdens and stress melt away overnight. Lastly, unplug. Commit to at least a 3 month break from all social media and see how you feel. You’ll feel great and you may not return the same person as you left. Real life, just so happens to be better than living vicariously through others lives on the internet.
I love you and I hope that some of these things have helped. Stop hurting and start healing. Life is a gift and you should take care of it to the glory of God. Don’t waste another moment in the pursuit of bitter things. There is too much sweet out there to enjoy!
From A Series Called “Bring Me Back” – Thoughts About Prodigal Things.
It may seem an odd thing to rejoice in the return of a wayward more than in rejoicing over those who have seemingly always walked the straight and narrow road, but that is what redemption is about. It is about lifting the fallen and re-setting the broken bones. Bones that were never broken need not a cast, but those whose bones have been healed or restored, know that the restored limb is now stronger than ever before. The scars and the scar tissue are reminders of their folly, but they are also testimonies of the new life or second chance given by the hands of the healer or rescuer. Experienced grace creates grateful hearts. Grateful hearts tell their stories to others and other wanderers come home and find their own healing.
It brings me to this next prodigal tale. What things, precious to you, if they had become lost, would you do anything to find?
“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
What, to you and I, is a soul worth? This woman had lost what might be to us, like losing an entire paycheck. But is this story about your paycheck? Its about much more than that. Its about her entire savings. She had worked so hard to save it – all of it, so all of it had become precious to her. So it is with the souls of Gods elect. They are, every single one of them, precious in His sight. He intends to lose none of them. If we wander, He turns over the tables, seeks through the mountain sides, sweeps every floor, until, at last he finds you where you are, even though you had become lost, and He places you back with the others. With Him. Lost no more.
Do we care for souls the way that Our Father does? Who is worthy and who is not worthy of our care and seeking and love? That is not for us to decide. As He seeks and saves those lost or wandering, so we too should pray for the rebel, the lost, those who have become burdens or eye sores, until they are brought back into the blessing of the beautiful life and light of eternity that we so enjoy.
The older I get, the more Gods love in me and through me is tested. It is so easy to be selective with the love I have to offer, want to offer. When I was younger, my enemies were few or nil. And now that I am aging, so are the relationships in my life. Old friends and companions have now become oppressors or those who stand in opposition. Some who I used to fellowship with, now fellowship with no one, not even with God. Some have walked away from the faith and now seek to discourage and divide. Do we have love for these? Do we, like Christ, seek to love our enemies? Do we recognize that we were the lost coin? We were the lost sheep. We were the enemies of God, and we can still become the backsliders. Does God still have love for us? I know that He does. He is seeking and saving and loving and redeeming, day and night, those who we would have counted as down for the count, but still he pursues for His name sake and for His glory. Why? Because God so loves the world. We must enjoy that love and not squander it to ourselves but allow God’s love to be a transformative love that is extended to the least, the last and the lost. We need to love the unlovable and seek their good. It is what God has done for us, may we do the same for others. Found people finding love for all, that more might be found until all the coins have been brought back to the treasure chest of eternity. Together, we who were lost are together found in Him. Every single one of us. Praise be to God!
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From A Series Called “Bring Me Back” – Thoughts About Prodigal Things.
We have been invited. To us, the call has been made – to sit with the Savior. The amazing thing is that He has chosen to sit with us. The Savior pursues sinners. He sits with us, eats with us, teaches us and welcomes us to learn from Him. If Christ does not receive sinners, than none of us shall be received.
“This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
It has almost always been this way for us as humans. We have always found ourselves found and pursued by God. First as the magnum opus (the master-work) of created things – the wonder and fascination of the angels, and then as the paragon (the prize) of Christ as our savior. You see, we once enjoyed unbroken and unstained fellowship with God – no sin involved. We walked and talked, dined and learned from the omniscient one. It was His joy and His choice to include us in His love and awesome presence. We were created by Him and made to enjoy being with Him. Later, we chose to be apart from Him, and as a result we suffered. With Him, as we were designed to be, we thrived. Apart, we suffered in so many ways. In order to be restored to that place of togetherness and intimacy, He had to once again choose us to be united together with Himself. Sin broke us, salvation restores us. He must pursue, or we will never be found.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you..”
Thats what I mean when I say that we went from magnum opus to paragon. We were fine, and then we were fined. Sin broke us and we had no currency worthy to pay the debt for our sin. We owed a debt that could not be paid. Who can pay such a ransom? How to you fix something that is fundamentally and physiologically broken. How do you fix a broken soul when no man can manufacture such a remedy? Sin broke us, and broken things don’t fix themselves. It must come by the masters own hands. He made this battle His own and paid the price through Christ Jesus on the cross. Pure and holy blood to cover polluted and sinful hearts. His blood, purified impure hearts. He won. He gets the prize. Because He chose to do so.
Thats what makes passages like this one found in Luke 15 and John 15 so awesome. It doesn’t say that the sinners ate with Jesus, it says that Jesus ate with them – with tax collectors and sinners. He chose where to dine, and who to dine with. To the religious and wise, these people were the scum of the earth, and yet to Jesus, they were the prize – the trophy Christ had come to win. God gets what God wants, and if He wants you, then He has you. Welcome to the table – His table.
To Him it is a victory, to us it is a battle. We flail, but He fights, and when He fights, He wins. Some of us need to hear this today. He fights for you. He loves His kids – His creation and prize. We wander, and when sheep wander, they get lost. Lost people hurt themselves. Jesus finds lost sheep, and when He finds them, He heals them and welcomes them back with rejoicing. To Him, this love for you is natural – it is who He is for you and toward you. Listen:
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
So if others think that you have failed, that you are unworthy or if satan and your own mind have made you think that you suck. You may have done sucky things, but that is not what Christ hangs over your head. The banner over your head is Christ and His victory over your sin. Satan calls you worthless and unworthy – a tax collector and sinner! But God … He called and calls you “Saint!”, not sinner. To your Father in heaven, you are the lost one, pursued and found by Jesus Christ – purposefully.
Are you hurt or hurting? Are you lost?
What sin have you wandered into?
How far are you from where you want to be?
Maybe your not where you should be or how you should be?
How do we get back to where we belong?
Look! There He is. He is coming! With joy on His lips and singing in His heart to pour over you as He lifts you up from that place of refuse, and places you on His shoulders. He has come to bring you back, oh wanderer!
It is never too late to come back to God, in Christ!
Sin called you lost, but repentance sets you free.
Sin will keep you far from Him, repentance will place you on His shoulders, and He will nurse you back to health and bring you safely back into fellowship with the Father and His holy people, now and forever.
Can you say it? “Bring me back to You!”
The consequences of our sin have been felt and that road is rough, but the healer can make us whole again. We have been bought by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. His blood is a river that covers all sin and never runs out. Deep deep blood, it covers all your sin… all…your … sin.
It is always ok to come back.
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1 “I trust in the Lord for protection. So why do you say to me, “Fly like a bird to the mountains for safety! 2 The wicked are stringing their bows and fitting their arrows on the bowstrings. They shoot from the shadows at those whose hearts are right. 3The foundations of law and order have collapsed. What can the righteous do?”
4But the Lord is in his holy Temple; the Lord still rules from heaven. He watches everyone closely, examining every person on earth.5 The Lord examines both the righteous and the wicked. He hates those who love violence.6 He will rain down blazing coals and burning sulfur on the wicked, punishing them with scorching winds. 7 For the righteous Lord loves justice. The virtuous will see his face.”
-Psalm 11 (NLT)
Allow me to rephrase this for our current consideration:
If the foundations of civil society be destroyed, what can the righteous do?
I will explain why.
Religion and Politics
The old adage “religion and politics don’t mix” no longer fits. At one time, it may have been polite for the saints to bite their tongues and not ruffle anyone’s feathers. However, in the current social climate, politics is exactly where the ungodly is making his most ardent and divisive attack. The foundations of civil society are being destroyed, and being nearly destroyed, what is left that the righteous can do?
In this psalm (kjv@Psalm:11 ) we see the wicked “bend their bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart”. Let there be no mistake that it is at the upright he is pointing his bow. So frequent are these attacks, and uncomfortable, that the saint’s soul might be tempted to say “Flee as a bird to your mountain”. This psalm is not about what the wicked are doing however, no it is about the saint on which this psalm focuses. Under pressure and ensuing wickedness, what is the response of the righteous?
The mountain is a tempting place for us to flee. After all, what matter is it of ours what this society chooses for itself to become?
What matters is that “the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright”. Therefore, “The LORD trieth the righteous”. Like as with precious metals, HE puts them to the test in a foundry to separate us from the dross and prove to us HIS righteousness’s worth. This separation and purification is not to be sought from atop some distant mountain top away from it all. It comes only from being in the boil and tumult of the cauldron’s hottest flames.
For us, no doubt, these are dangerous and unfamiliar grounds. So much so, that it must be said to us as a reminder that “In the LORD,” the saint must put his or her trust.
Before we run out onto the political and social battlefield shooting at whatever target seen fit, let’s better consider verse four at the heart of this psalm:
“The Lord is in His holy temple, The Lord’s throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men.”
– Psalm 11:4
“The LORD is in his holy temple” (Gods Holiness)
Our LORD is much different from the lords of the rest of this world. This LORD alone is holy. It is not for this LORD to rule as we see fit. Who are we? Are we holy in the same sense? Not unless we allow HIS reign to have its effect upon us to such an extent that we reflect nothing but HIS holiness. Sadly, this is something that in our haste, we often neglect to maintain. There have been plenty of similar occasions when we have raced onto the battlefield with our thoughts and bias, our beliefs, our strict legalism, our own insistence and our way of fixing things – only to shoot ourselves or our brothers in the foot. And by our inept misrepresentations of Christ, the person and purposes of Christ have been ill presented and represented.
“the LORD’S throne is in heaven” (Gods Reign And Judgement)
The view of the battlefield that this LORD has from above is much different from ours here in the trenches. What is right in our own eye, so often is not the correct place from which strategic judgments should be made. Countless times we have foolishly played right into our enemy’s stronger hand. No, this is a different kind of war, fought with different kinds of weapons – not the weapons we bring in from home on our own. Our fleshly weapons do not suffice.
“his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men” (The Inescapable Watching of Gods Eye)
As saints, we should never think that this LORD’s critical eye is not upon us as well. HIS eye beholds all the children of men. If anything certain can be said of the scriptures, it is that this LORD’s eye is more upon HIS saints – more than any other. “The wicked and him that loveth violence,” this righteous LORD may “hateth” but, “the LORD trieth” with a keen loving interest those whom HE has chosen and imputed HIS righteous covering over – desiring from them a willing and constant improving compliance.
The Search for Answers
It is quite natural for the world at large to neglect these crucial political and social foundations:
God’s reign and judgment.
The inescapable watching of God’s eye.
This is how they end up with this unruly and divisive climate that they have trapped us into. Neglect. The wicked neglect the holy things. They also ask, “What can be done?” “What can the wicked do?” and answer it with, “radicalize what we’ve been doing and cram it down the peaceable and law-abiding citizen’s moral conscience”. These citizens, these masses, have become easy prey for the wicked to take full advantage of for much more wicked and hidden purposes. They have been made to feel disenfranchised, victimized, systematically oppressed, made to covet what they do not have for themselves, and become inflamed – led by the snoot of social compassion by the wicked to a place upside-down, where upright and civil society would rather not go – forsaking God and holy things.
It is quite inexcusable however when the congregation of saints also personally neglect these pillars of sanity. That is how the saints end up in the unenviable and indefensible position of having allowed these societal ills to fester unattended and undressed for far too long. Instead of becoming influencers of society, we saints are labeled the neanderthal – we are the archaic, we are the racist and insensitive and bigot. We ponder, “how did it all came to this?”
What is left that we might do?
Well there is not much of anything left to do when we’ve already allowed the foundations to collapse in all around us. That is unless the LORD Himself is willing to do something about it through us.
Some saints might ask,
“What is it that is different about this particular age?”
Today, there is the talk of “cutting the tree down at the trunk.” Marxism exists in this country like it has never existed before. In Marxism there will be no space afforded for this LORD we freely today speak of here, nor will there be a place for these foundations – not even the thought of HIM or them.
What do we do then?
The Marxist doctrine plans to use Socialism as the blowtorch to clear and level the field for this “inevitable”, they say, “stateless society”.
No one is served by this wicked ideology in the end – not the disenfranchised, nor the victim, nor the impoverished, not even those foot soldiers fighting for it – nor the elite, nor intellectual, not even the socially compassionate. By that time, these all will have been proven to have been “useful idiots” – as will have, the saint. This truth has been proven numerous times in the previous century. Is it time now for this to be proven again?
For Country? Yes and No
The psalmist nearly pleads for us, the church – saints! – to sing forth in unison: “In the LORD put I my trust: how say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain?”
A good many of us, I believe, are being guided by the scripture such as the Psalms and by the Holy Spirit to replenish the “front-line” as a test of this generation’s metal. It is not that this country is morally superior and worth the extra fight. It is not that this country does not have massive problems needing to be addressed. It is that the “righteous LORD loveth righteousness” and so should we, and that the LORD is our foundation bedrock no matter what the country. If the godless have made it close to impossible socially and politically for the upright to operate in, and attack us politically and socially and ever increasingly, then it is time for the foundations to be upheld and boldly defended, Not for us to once again flee! If, in a society, the foundations have been destroyed, now they must be rebuilt. If they are on the brink of collapse, then the righteous must hold them together, Not sit back and watch them crumble – reinforce them!
We have only to make sure that we are upholding the foundations of our LORD’s righteousness in fact and not just what we see as right in our own eye!
“If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
Randy Pritts is the author of the “Back to the Psalms Series” audio project and the upcoming 2020 book “Foundations Of The Like Precious Faith Series”. Follow Randy at his website likepreciousfaith.us which features a wide variety of original and classic Christian content, bible translations, dictionaries, indexes, and other public domain resources for the modern “like precious faith” believer’s ongoing edification.
We all want Jesus as Savior, but do we want Him as Lord?
Join J.N.Wheels as he makes a sandwich out of the Parable of the sower in Mark 4:1-20
This video is about Mark chapter 4 verses one through twenty (Mark 4:1-20) in the Bible (The Parable of the Sower). Not everyone who hears the gospel and the message of salvation wants to bow the knee to Jesus Christ as their Lord and as their Savior. More at jnwheels.com
I woke this morning and these three words were the first thought in my mind.
Awaken. Deaf. Ears.
I really believe that phrase. I believe that God wants that. Not because it popped into my mind this morning but because thats what He does. He’s good at this sort of thing.
But were good at other things, like deafening our ears and blinding our eyes.
I believe God is moving to cause this generation to hear Him and see Him.
But right now the many idols of our age are blinding us to the one who would become our rescue and salvation.
So many distractions exist in our lives. And the idolatry of self is a hard and mighty foe to cast down.
But, like passing through the eye of a needle, nothing is impossible with our God.
Do we still believe that God opens blind eyes?
Do we still believe in Jesus, the one who raises the dead?
Do we still believe that deaf ears can be opened?
Can the dead bones be raised to life and made whole?
I believe. I still believe that. Thats not ancient history, its a present reality.
We must now proclaim this reality that is ours in Christ, that He is Savior of the world. That he is the one who has rescued us from our sins.
Be bold believer. It is time. Its time to obey that great commission. To go into all the world and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. Repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.
What grabs our attention, better than most anything? Pain.
I believe that God is using the pain and realities of these times to bring us to our knees. To humble our hearts and allow us, by the grace and mercy of God, to see Him. To hear Him.
So, Where are the preachers?
Where are those who will go for him?
Where are those messengers who are willing to be counted as fools for His sake and for His Gospel?
He is saying, “who will go for me, who will I send?”
Where are those who will answer?
“Here I am Lord, send me.”
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And before we get started I want to ask two questions which apply to all of us:
What character traits define us? (Are we known for something?) &
2. What is our greatest Purpose and calling in life?
We will find in this passage of Scripture, that both of the answers to those questions are found in Christ.
That is the whole sermon.
But the sermon is still worth preaching because id like us to see how these two things work together – our character, and our purpose here on earth.
Ill begin with an illustration:
“When a group of leaders in a distant kingdom, where at a time, going to choose a king – they determined that their election should fall upon the man who should first see the sun on the following morning. So it was put to a test… All the candidates, when the sunrise drew near, eagerly looked toward the east. But there was one, who, to the astonishment of the others, fixed his eyes on the opposite side of the horizon… it was there that he saw the reflection of the suns rays beaming forth upon the distant clouds, even before the sun itself could be seen by those looking the other way. This man knew that the characteristics of the sun – its brightness, light, and warmth – could be seen by what the sun produced and reflected upon, even if the sun itself could not yet be seen with the eye. The choice instantly fell on this man, who had seen the reflection and characteristics of the Sun, and not yet the sun itself. He knew that the characteristics of the sun could be seen elsewhere, and not only in the sun. By the same reasoning, the influence and reality of faith and grace abiding in the human heart, is often identified and observed by the conduct of Gods people, even before that christian has verbally made a profession of their faith.”
In other words, you become known by what you are about even before you open your mouth to confess it.
What are we known for? What do people come to know about us, even before we open our mouths.
What are we reflecting?
Because even if our words are few, our character is eventually made evident to those within our circle of influence.
In life, we all develop a reputation.
We make our character know, or our character becomes known.
even though words are important – (we must preach and proclaim) – often times, our actions speak to our reputations or character louder than our words.
Lets turn to our text for today found in Acts Chapter 11 verses 19 through 30
19 mNow those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen (…Acts chapter 7) traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch,
They went North (some 350 miles to Antioch), and with them, they took their faith.
You, see, we are not always called to make ourselves martyrs in the face of persecution and injustice.
Sometimes, we are called to flee – preserving our life and carrying the hope of the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ with us where we flee too.
Fleeing to save your life, so that you can live to fight another day is not always a cowardice thing to do!
Paul had fled for his life back to his home town of Tarsus.
As these believers fled – after Stephens death – they stuck to what they knew.
That Christ was the promised redeemer for the Jews.
It says, continuing in verse 19 that they were
speaking the word to no one except Jews.
20 But (verse 20)
I want you to
Circle this word “But” here in verse 20…
Underline it, highlight it, because its a small word, yet often, so very important in the new testament.
I love the “buts” in scripture!
They are a welcome exception or change in trajectory to what is previously being stated…
Let me show you:
We remember blessed and welcome passages like that found in
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 which says:
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous1 will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: xneither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,210 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And ysuch were some of you. (and here is our word!) Butzyou were washed, ayou were sanctified, byou were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
You see! Sometimes just a word can change the trajectory of our entire lives!
And that is what is happening here in Antioch among the greeks – among these unclean gentiles – just as it was happening among the samaritans and how it had happened throughout the household of Cornelius!
You see, the devout jewish Christians were only spreading the good news to their fellow jewish brothers
there were some of them, (continuing in verse 20 of acts chapter 11) men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists1 also, npreaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And othe hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believedpturned to the Lord.
Man, … this is beautiful. In the context here, Hellenists is referring to greeks or gentiles.
These men (these believers in Jesus as Christ) had come from Cyprus – a island tucked away deep inside the Mediterranean Sea – just southwest of Antioch and west of Israel and another man from Cyrene – a city located on the opposite side of the Mediterranean Sea – on the north side of Africa – west of Egypt!
The gospel has come to the gentiles and God is blessing this work.
What does this mean?
Why is this significant?
This means that the Good news – The Gospel – is for everybody!!
The church had previously thought that Jesus was for Jews… but they are now realizing that Jesus is for all.
Whether man likes it or not, God is for all men and women and He is demonstrating His saving power over all who would believe –
“first for the jew and then for the gentile!” >
Wow! So this message of Gods salvation through Jesus Christ alone by which we must be saved and by which we have our hearts and minds made new
Is proving to be nondiscriminatory! The new life in Christ is showing itself to be for all who believe!
And that message, that good news, is being delivered to the world by men and women just like me and you. Note, that It didn’t make its way to Antioch by the hands of an apostle…
It came to, and was proclaimed by unnamed men from Cyprus and Cyrene.
This should encourage us and exhort us to do the same…
To carry the message of Salvation through Jesus Christ wherever we go and to believe and trust this – that just as we see here –
That the hand of the Lord will be with you, and that a great number will believe and turn to the Lord.
People (us/we) preach in obedience to that great commission and God saves…
Do you believe this?
Do you believe that God wants to and will use you in this way?
There are men and women in our Antioch’s today who are waiting to hear this message and they don’t even know it.
Forever their lives are destined to be changed by the grace of God.
Are you the deliverer of this Good news?
Will you bring with you, this Gospel message where you go, or wherever you flee to?
It is worth noting that a man from Cyrene has been mentioned to us before – in the Gospels,
It says in Mark 15:21 – speaking about Jesus’ journey to the hill Golgotha, where He was crucified, that
21 d…they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.
And here in our text (in Acts chapter 11), we have men from Cyprus and Cyrene preaching and proclaiming the Gospel to those in Antioch.
Back to our text, picking up in verse 22:
22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he came and saw qthe grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord rwith steadfast purpose, 24 for he was a good man, sfull of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people twere added to the Lord.
I pray, that what is said here about Barnabas and his character would one day be said about me:
“he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.”
It can be an easy chore to be full of faith,
That is, to believe, and put your confidence in the things that we can know about Jesus, and God and the scriptures….
But it is another thing to be filled with both of these:
“Full of faith AND the Holy Spirit.”
One takes knowledge, and the other takes devotion.
Or one is of Doctrine, and the other is of Devotion.
And to have both of these existing in our lives is a good thing – completing our faith.
To know Him and to love Him.
Barnabas is seeing the grace of God at work here in Antioch and others see the grace of God at work in Barnabas himself.
This is what Barnabas was known for.
This is how his character was remembered.
His Name was Joseph Barnabas and yet,
He was named and known as “the son of encouragement” – Barnabas – by the apostles.
And here, he is mentioned as good and faithful and full of the Spirit.
That is what is in this mans heart… so what is in his actions?
He was a jew (a levite!) born in Rome – like Paul, and so he was a fitting choice to go to the gentiles and jews alike.
He was a teacher, an exhorter, and an encourager. A Leader. A Man of God.
And I might add, that he was full of christian charity towards those whom others would be likely, even in the church to reject.
Charity is the highest form of Christian love. It is how we describe Gods love in us for others.
John Newton Said this of charity:
“For my own part, if my pocket was full of stones, I have no right to throw one at the greatest backslider upon [the] earth. I have either done as bad or worse than he; or I certainly [would have] if the Lord had left me even a little to myself – for I am made of just the same materials as any man – if there be any difference, it is wholly of grace.”
And I love this story about the Rival evangelists George Whitfield and John Wesley, it goes like this:
“Mr. Whitfield,” said one of his ardent admirers, who was bitterly opposed to Wesley, “do you think we shall see John Wesley in heaven?” He replied, [from Whitfield that is, about Wesley] “you ask me whether we – that is, you and I – shall see Mr. Wesley in heaven. Certainly not.” “I thought you would say so. Thank you, sir.” Said the man, “But stop, my friend.” Whitfield continued, “Hear all I have to say about it. John Wesley will be so near the throne, and you and I so far off, that we cannot expect to see him.”
Thats charity. Thats Gods love in us for others… even for those we may find difficult to love.
Barnabas was know for this sort of thing (his charity toward others)… and this, likely, is why he was chosen to go to Antioch.
He gave others the benefit of the doubt.
He was a second chance kind of guy.
Continuing in verse 25:
25 So Barnabas went to uTarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch.
What Barnabas is doing here for Paul is what the leaders in the church are to do among the body of Christ.
Barnabas is, more than once, raising up leaders in the church, and enabling others to serve alongside himself.
This is discipleship and the true work of ministry (service to one another).
Paul, once rejected by the church, was placed in and enabled in the ministry by his friend and defender Barnabas. Barnabas, a godly and self-sacrificial man (as he had sold a field and given its proceeds to the church before), could see beyond his own purpose and calling and then, search for and see the potential in others.
He multiplied himself.
He raised up men who would prove to be even more qualified or talented or knowledgeable than himself.
Thats not a little thing… thats not an easy thing.
Its too easy for us to watch out for only ourselves first.
To self preserve.
But not so with Barnabas – the son of encouragement.
He saw a bigger picture… He saw his calling and others callings in light of eternity.
He knew that his life’s purpose is not about himself but about the purposes and glory of Christ!
Because of this, he could see the purpose and necessity of discipleship.
To be about the business of “others”.
To allow others to grow and be used in service to Jesus and His bride, even if it meant their prominence and his obscurity.
For it would be Paul, not Barnabas who would pen most of the new testament.
For us to see the value in others’ callings and to help them along is a work most beneficial to the church, eternally and for the Glory of God.
This should be Our Aim… Gods glory.
We are all thankful for Paul, who becomes most prominent among the apostles…
But we so desperately need the Barnabas’s who are behind the scenes, raising up and enabling the work of the ministry in other peoples lives.
We all have a calling like Barnabas upon our lives… to be about the business of helping others succeed.
Will we see the value of this call?
Will we see and embrace the call to be second, while helping others become first so that Christ may be all!
Back to Verse 26:
…For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called vChristians.
You can summarize the meaning of this word by stating that they were known as “belonging to Christ” – they were slaves to Jesus – they were anointed ones! This is the meaning here – to be called a christian in Antioch.
This was their calling –
To belong to Christ.
This was also their purpose and reputation
That word “called” distinguishes their purpose or reputation…
“They were called Christians”
Its like Simon the tanner, or rehab the harlot, or Luke the physician.
Thats what they were know for. Its what they did. Its the business that they were about.
I could easily be called Jeremiah The Home inspector. Or Jeremiah The Podcast guy.
You see, the jews had labeled these people of “the Way” – these Jesus freaks – Nazarenes – to smear them, because the scriptures had previously said that nothing good could come from nazarene.
Other names or titles that the Scriptures give to Christians can be taken from the four cardinal graces so essential to man’s salvation – Saints for their holiness, believers for their faith, brethren for their love, and disciples for their knowledge.
And now, here in Antioch, for the first time, the believers are
They became known for what they were about – Christ!
What else is there to be known for Christian?
What else are we trying to be remembered for?
What else defines our Character?
It appears to be, that under the discipleship and pastoring of Barnabas and Paul, the believers in Antioch became distinctly know as Christians. Those belonging to Christ! – Thats the meaning…
Jesus Christ became the distinction that set them apart from every other religion, faith, sect or party.
They were not greeks, jews, samaritans, clean or unclean, black or white, rich or poor, democrat or republican, citizen or immigrant, near or far…..
Here in Antioch, they were all, together – Christians!
From all walks of life, found in Christ and about their Saviors business.
Their calling was to Christ, and that marked and defined who they were and what set them apart… and from Antioch, the Gospel – that Good news of salvation would continue to spread until it reached the world.
27 Now in these days wprophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 And one of them named xAgabus stood up and foretold yby the Spirit that there would be a great zfamine over all the world (this took place in the days of aClaudius). 29 So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, bto send relief to cthe brothers2 living in Judea. 30 dAnd they did so, sending it to ethe elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
I began with an illustration so let me end with one: this from the old bishop of Montreal, Ashton Oxenden (1808-1892), of the shaping of character, he says this:
Have you ever watched a sculptor slowly fashioning a human figure? It is not moulded or shaped in a second. It is not struck out at a single blow. It is painfully and laboriously wrought. A thousand blows rough-cast it. 10,000 chisels polish and perfect it, put in the fine touches, and bring out the features and expression. It is a work of time; but at last the full likeness comes out, and stands fixed and unchanging in the solid marble. So does a man carve out his own moral likeness. Every day he adds something to the work. A thousand acts of thought and will and effort shape the features and expressions of the soul. Habits of love, piety and truth, habits of falsehood, passion or goodness, silently mould and fashion it, till at length it wears the likeness of God, or the image of a demon.
And I would add this, we cannot expect to become the person whom God intends us to be, without the help and power of the Holy Spirit.
Who we are and who we become depends upon who we lean on and learn from. Let us, together, as the church, look to, learn from and lean upon Christ alone – our hope and glory.