God created men and women to honor Him and to fellowship with Him. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, sin entered the world and destroyed that relationship. God, in His mercy, gave us a way out of our mess, but our lives in this world are in constant turmoil, as we struggle against our hearts, the world, and the devil.
Gen. 2:16-17 (GW): The Lord God commanded the man. He said … “You must never eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because when you eat from it, you will certainly die.”
Gen. 3:1, 4 (NCV): One day the snake said to the woman, “Did God really say that you must not eat fruit from any tree in the garden?” … The snake said to the woman, “You will not die.”
John 11:35 (NASB): Jesus wept.
I FELT LIKE I WAS FALLING THROUGH A BLACK HOLE.
It was an ugly feeling, as though Satan had his icy grip on my soul.
Even stranger, I thought, was how evil could torment my soul while I was in church, supposedly worshipping the risen Lord! Wasn’t that supposed to be a “safe zone,” an oasis from spiritual warfare?
Apparently not. We’re not exempt from the spiritual battles, no matter where we are.
I recently read a post from a woman in Australia, who writes as “Perth Girl,” who experienced something similar, a feeling of doubt and confusion when confronted in church with the grim news that a dear friend’s cancer had returned. (You can read it here: “Doubts“)
So, the apostle Paul was right, there “isn’t any temptation that you have experienced which is unusual for humans.” (1 Cor. 10:13 GW)
Her experience was similar to mine, and her remedy was identical to mine: Go to God in prayer.
IT WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE LIKE THIS.
God created man and woman to unite in marriage and live in harmony with the world He made and in fellowship with Him.
Instead, our forebears disobeyed God, ate from the forbidden tree, and immediately suffered the consequences … which have passed down to each one of us.
We have fallen out of fellowship with God, our marriages are filled with conflict, and our personal lives are a daily struggle.
We didn’t listen to His warning, but fortunately, He gave us a solution.
We can find it throughout His Word, but James, the half-brother of Jesus, said it best:
“Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:7-8a CSB)
MY EXPERIENCE this time with spiritual warfare had a happy ending.
I told God from the depths of my anguish that as soon as we got home, I was going into my office and, in solitude, reach out to him, pouring out my soul.
I did. I told Him of my anguish. I told Him of the evil that filled my heart. I told Him how frightened I was of that feeling. I told Him I felt distanced from Him, and that I knew I was the one who had moved … not Him.
In response, He bathed me in His love, His reassurance, and His presence.
POSTSCRIPT: HE WAS PREPARING ME FOR THE WEEK AHEAD.
There is no doubt in my mind but what God allowed the devil to mess with me that recent Sunday in church because He knew that I, like Job in years past, would call out to Him.
He reassured me of His love for me and of my salvation. That reassurance has blessed me in the two weeks since.
Yes, I will need frequent reminders of His love. That was just one bright spot on God’s sanctification highway.
Here’s His reminder for us:
“Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:12-13 NASB)
O HEAVENLY AND MERCIFUL FATHER, we are so grateful for Your everlasting and unmerited love. You bath us in glory. You breath life into our bodies. You restore our souls. You refresh our minds. You deepen our faith. There is no evil that can befall us that is greater than Your power to control and defeat. We are safe in Your arms. O Lord, keep us from wandering. We know You’ll look for us and bring us back, but we don’t want to leave the sheepfold. Bless us and keep us, O Lord, in Your warm embrace. In Jesus’ holy and majestic name we pray. AMEN
The homosexual lobby, those forces pushing for “inclusion” of same-sex marriage, normalization of homosexual activity, and insistence on acknowledging multiple genders, is engaged in full-scale warfare with the Christian community of believers. No longer does the lobby argue for recognition; it has left argument and discussion far behind. Now it pushes for legitimization and blatantly maligns anyone who dares stand in its way. Naturally, the strongest counterforce is the community of believers, those who live according to the promises and commandments contained in God’s Holy Word. It is God, and His church, that the lobby wants to dethrone.
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God left them and let them do the shameful things they wanted to do. Women stopped having natural sex and started having sex with other women. In the same way, men stopped having natural sex and began wanting each other. – Romans 1:26-27a (NCV)
Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. – 1 Corinthians 6:18 (NLT)
For this is God’s will: that you become holy, that you keep away from sexual immorality. – 1 Thessalonians 4:3 (NET)
HERE ARE SOME RECENT HEADLINES in which the homosexual lobby has muscled its way into the public sphere to further its agenda:
The San Antonio City Council has banned Chick-fil-A from San Antonio International Airport over “a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior” by the company’s corporate offices as part of a new concession plan for the airport.
2020 Democratic Party candidate Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind., once cordial to Vice President Pence when the latter was the state governor, now calls Pence’s religious beliefs “fanatical.”
A Lebanon, Ohio, high school student says she was punished by school authorities for posting Bible verses in the school hallways in response to LGBTQ “pride” flags posted in the school by the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance club.
Christian-based adoption agencies, like New Hope Family Services in Syracuse, NY, have been issued ultimatums from government agencies requiring them to cease their policy of placing children only in homes with a married mother and father. (By the way, a progressive leftwing web site, publishing the same story, headlined its account this way: “Hate group files lawsuit to ensure adoption agency can discriminate against same-sex couples.”)
THE PROPHET ISAIAH WARNS US against reversing God’s created order, where the good things He has created are rejected as evil and the evil things he warned us about are exalted.
Here are his words of warning:
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! – Isaiah 5:20 (NASB)
In rejecting an application from Chick-fil-A to establish an outlet at the San Antonio Airport, a city council member said the council’s action “reaffirmed the work our city has done to become a champion of equality and inclusion.” Missing all sense of irony, he went on to say: “Everyone should feel welcome when they walk through our airport.”
The council member said the city’s action targeted the parent company for its “legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.” He tried to cover his tracks by saying he did not single out Christian religious beliefs.
The company, itself, which was founded by a family with strong Christian values, has issued statements saying its restaurant chain does not discriminate against any group.
DESPITE CLEAR BIBLICAL WARNINGS from the Creator, the civic culture in the U.S. and Canada have tilted farther away from the Bible’s holy standard of good and evil within the last two generations.
In the U.S., Democrat Party candidates are running away from the Bible, attacking God’s order and those of their countrymen who worship the Lord.
A May 2019 article in the evangelical magazine, Decision, published by the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, describes the challengers to President Trump and Vice President Pence this way:
“As (Democrat party) presidential challengers line up, most, if not all, support the major policy goals advanced by the LGBTQ activists, even to the point of prosecuting religiously motivated business owners whose values collide with the demands of the sexual revolution.” – Decision, Jerry Pierce. May 2019, p. 11. [anot. and emph. mine]
In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressedthe Canadian Parliament on Nov. 28, 2017, to issue an apology to the LGBTQ2S “community” for past discrimination, ushering in a policy of “reparations” for those civil servants and military personnel who lost their positions from this “discriminatory policy.”
WHO, OR WHAT, IS DRIVING THIS PHENOMENON?
The Apostle Paul told us in his letter to the Ephesians that we who follow Jesus Christ are battling against demonic forces far stronger than we are:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:12 (NASB)
One columnist penned an article on Satan’s “Ten Commandments,” which he said are being followed by the homosexual lobby:
“The Bible tells us that Satan has the ability to “appear as an angel of light.” Nowhere is this more evident than in the radical attempt to promote homosexuality in society today as something good.” – “Satan’s 10 commandments to the homosexual lobby.” Paul Kokoski, April 10, 2013.
Among those items the author listed as “commandments” are to “never lose sight of the fact that God is your ultimate enemy” and “always see your sexual opponent (anyone who rejects homosexual acts) as your enemy.”
IF OUR OPPONENT IS STRONGER than we are, what are we to do about it?
Jesus told us the answer. You invoke an even stronger power on your side.
Let me illustrate this further. Who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger—someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house. – Mark 3:27 (NLT)
To be accurate biblically, we do not invoke a stronger power on our side; we join a stronger power on His side, but the point Jesus made is clear:
Satan is our enemy, he hates us, and he is stronger than we are; however, Jesus is our friend, He loves us, and He is stronger than Satan.
Robert A.J. Gagnon, an American theological writer in a book exploring the Bible’s views on homosexuality, confronted the mistaken argument that homosexuality is an innate condition set at birth, which also needs beneficial protection from the federal government.
Homosexual passions, however, are almost certainly not primarily or directly congenital.They can be created, elevated, reduced, and sometimes even eliminated, depending on familial and peer influences and macrocultural sanctions. [emph. mine]
[Gagnon is an American theological writer and former professor of New Testament studies at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Taken from Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views (co-authored with Dan O. Via. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 2003)]
Let’s not be misled. Satan will use any tool that works to delude and deceive, to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10a).
Jesus came to give us life and to give it to us in abundance (John 10:10b).
God gave us a choice: To believe a lie or To believe the Truth.
Let’s hold onto the Truth.
“Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”
-John 17:17 (NASB)
Dear Lord God, You are so merciful. You love us so much. You told us how we should live, yet we turn away from Your commandments and instructions. We are stubborn and want to live life on our terms, then we come running to You to ask You to heal us from the hurt we’ve placed on ourselves. Right now, O Lord, our two North American countries are flirting with organized sin, with a sin-crazed, coordinated, highly efficient lobby that seeks to destroy the world You created for us. Lord, fill us with the courage to confront this evil and lead us with Your strength to defeat it. In Jesus’ mighty name we pray. AMEN
Questions for Personal Meditation or Small Group Discussion
Although the Bible clearly states that homosexuality is a sin, along with adultery, pedophilia, and bestiality, many advocates claim that people are born with a same-sex attraction, which should place that sexual activity in a different class. Do you agree with that view, or do you hold that the Bible is inerrant and should be followed explicitly?
Do you see Satan’s hand in the homosexual lobby’s push for equality in marriage and work-related spousal benefits?
Are you troubled about the whole issue of the Bible and homosexuality residing in opposing camps because you know someone intimately who struggles with same-sex attraction? How do you think you can help that person come to a peace with the Creator, who has told us clearly that it is a sin and offensive to Him? Can you see the grace that our Creator and Savior offers to us?
Would you like us at LoveAndGrace to pray for you? If so, please indicate in the Comment field. God bless!
God’s promises to mankind are based on His good provision but require our acceptance. Why? Because He graciously gave us the gift of free will. That means we can accept — or reject — life. We cannot reason our way into salvation, where we take control, connect the dots, and conclude that salvation is possible and that we possess the means to attain it. It is a matter of faith, where we place our total confidence in the Lord to provide for our needs. Because we cannot attain salvation on our own, we also cannot lose it on our own. God keeps us for His glory.
Comments welcomed. Please join us for Prayer and Questions at the end of the devotion. Why not forward this blog post to a relative, friend, or neighbor who might be blessed by it?
“For we walk by faith, not by sight.”2 Corinthians 5:7 (CSB)
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see.”Hebrews 11:1 (NET)
WE COME TO GOD THROUGH FAITH, NOT THROUGH REASON.
Our sinful natures and finite minds cannot combine to produce within us a saving power apart from the grace of God. It is His will that we may be reconciled to Him. It is not of our own doing, that we might boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
LET’S SEE HOW THIS WORKS.
A man (or woman, if you’re a woman) comes into your life and asks for some help. He (or she) is struggling with life and thinks you might be able to help. Why? Well, because you’re a bit older, more mature, more settled in your life, which is a good indicator that you may have experienced whatever it is that he (or she) is going through now and lived to tell about it.
So you set up shop, share a cup of coffee and a Danish, and sit back to listen to this person’s tales of woe.
You say: “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?”
Other person says: “?”
He (or she) is stumped.
He (or she) mumbles something about going to church or having spent a couple of weeks one summer at church camp and, then 20 years ago, memorized a few verses before his (or her) grandmother got sick … and, basically, that’s it.
NO MATTER HOW HARD YOU TRY, you’re unable to get this person to acknowledge, beyond some lame comment, that he (or she) even has a need for such a personal relationship, assuming that such a thing actually exists.
The Bible is clear that such a thing actually does exist and that we are ~commanded~ by God to seek it. He promises this: “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” — Jeremiah 29:13 (ESV)
Yes, God draws us to Him first (John 6:44), but we have the privilege — and responsibility — to respond through faith (Ephesians 2:8).
Jesus said to store up for ourselves “treasures in heaven” (Matt. 6:20), not in this world, because our heavenly treasures are under God’s faithful keeping and will not be tarnished or broken or lost. They will be ours forever.
We then pray with our young charge and exhort him (or her) to begin praying to Jesus Christ to ask that He would intervene in their lives and show them where they have 15 minutes a day they weren’t aware of to spend in prayer and Bible reading. You say that if he (or she) is sincere in that prayer, Jesus will deliver.
You remind them of what the Bible says: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” — 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV).
AS YOU PART FOR THE DAY and watch this child of God drift away, you raise a silent prayer on their behalf, asking God to give them eyes to see and ears to hear. You know that if he (or she) does not turn to the Heavenly Father, whatever difficulty they may be facing will not end well.
If, however, this person does turn to the Lord, then he (or she) can lay claim to God’s promises to be with them and protect them through the storms of life (John 10:10).
O LORD, our merciful and majestic Redeemer, our Creator and Sustainer,our Savior, we thank You for the opportunities You give us to reach out to others when they are in need, when they come to us for help. Lord, may we always point them to You, to Your sustaining grace, to Your everlasting love, to Your merciful justice. We pray also, O Lord, that as they ask You in prayer for time in their day to spend personally and intimately with You, that You will shower them with time and desire and so change their lives. In Jesus’ powerful name we pray. AMEN
1. Do you find it difficult, if not impossible, to find a regular time each day for prayer and Bible reading? Do you think it’s even necessary to spend time alone with God every day? Would you feel comfortable asking God to find the time for you, or do you think He’s way too busy with more important stuff?
2. Why do you think it might be a good idea to hear from God’s Word each day and enter into prayer with Him regularly? Do you believe He intervenes in human affairs and longs to intervene in your life?
3. Are you uncomfortable with the idea that our response to God’s gift of salvation is a matter of faith and not of reason? Do you see that faith means we’re placing all of the burden on God, whereas reason means we are the ones who have earned salvation?
Would you like us at LoveAndGraceto pray for you? Just send a prayer request via the Comments section.
What a difference between Jesus and those who profess to follow Him. When He was on the road to Jerusalem to be beaten and executed for our sins, He had time and love and patience and compassion enough to help two blind men regain their sight. While He showed this love, His followers, who were not about to sacrifice anything for anyone, told the beggars to leave them alone. While we are called to live lives that are holy, no one comes to the Cross because of us; they come to the Cross because of Jesus and His love for us all.
Two blind men were sitting by the road. Hearing that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” The crowd following Jesus sternly told them to be quiet, but they cried out all the more. Jesus stopped and said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” “Lord,” they said, “we want our eyes to be opened.” Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately, the men regained their sight and followed Him. (Matthew 20:29-34 NIV, edited)
IF EVER THERE WERE a Bible story that pointed out what’s wrong with the church and its mission outreach, this is it.
Here was Jesus walking along a dusty road followed by, what various translations call “a large crowd,” “a great multitude,” “an immense crowd,” — basically, the church at thetime — when they passed by two beggars on the side of the road. The beggars were blind and seeking alms.
While they could not see the proceedings, they could hear the pounding of sandaled feet, the excited murmur of voices, and the general hubbub associated with the assembly of many people.
When they heard the commotion was caused because Jesus was present, they reached out to Him for help. “Lord, Son of David,” they called out. The phrase, “Son of David,” was the Jewish phrase for the long expected Messiah, so, in truth, they were acknowledging the Divinity of Jesus.
And what was the multitude’s response? The Jesus followers. The disciples, groupies, hangers on, and wannabes. You know, the church!
They told the blind men to “shush,” that they were a bother. Jesus’ followers (the church, at the time) was too busy following Jesus to pay attention to human suffering along the roadside.
AHHH, BUT NOT JESUS.
He wasn’t too busy. He heard their cries for help. He stopped the action and called them over, and then, to check their faith, He asked what they wanted Him to do for them. Imagine that — the Son of God asking His creation what He could do for them. Continue reading “Jesus and the Two Blind Men”
Jesus shows us two responses to His earthly ministry. One is from the demons, who knew who He was and rejected Him; the other is from His disciples, who, through faith, followed Him, even without full knowledge of His person. Today, He invites us to follow Him on faith, not on knowledge.
“The disciples were amazed. ‘Who is this man?’ they asked. ‘Even the winds and waves obey him!’” (Matthew 8:27 NLT)
“And (the demons) cried out, saying, ‘What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?’” (Matthew 8:29 NIV)
TWO VERSES APART. TWO SEPARATE RESPONSES.
In Matthew’s account of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry, two radically different responses to the man Jesus were presented a mere two verses apart.
In the first case, His disciples — that is, followers of Jesus himself — expressed amazement that Jesus could be awakened during a storm and,
with a single word, stop a storm that threatened their small boat. They wondered who He was!
In the second case, evil demons — that is, followers of Satan — cried out in anguish that Jesus, whom they knew as the Son of Almighty God, had come to send them to eternal punishment before their allotted time. They were inhabiting a man who lived among the tombs and, knowing Jesus would heal the man, begged Him to send them to a nearby herd of pigs.
How strange that those who knew Jesus were following the wrong guy and those who one day would shape the world for His Kingdom still hadn’t caught on that this was God’s Son.
True enough, the disciples knew Jesus was special. After all, they had obeyed His call to follow Him and had seen Him feed 5,000 men (and many more women and children) from a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. Top that off when, in a desperate panic, they had just awakened Him from a sound sleep to tell them their boat was taking on water in a sudden storm.
Even so, they weren’t quite sure what to make of it all.
The demons knew. James, a half-brother to Jesus, assures us in his New Testament letter that “the demons believe … and shudder” (James 2:19 NIV). So, the point is made that, at least with Jesus Christ, seeing is not the same as believing.
AT FIRST GLANCE, it would seem that the demons were more in tune with the Creator of the universe than the apostles were, even though the twelve men watched the Lord daily heal the physically and mentally ill and teach with authority in the various synagogues.Continue reading “Demons and Disciples: Two Responses to Jesus”
God’s sovereignty prevails over the course of men’s lives. His will will be done, regardless of man’s great plans. When countries ignore His moral laws and applaud those who flaunt them, He has said He will withdraw the hand that restrains sin and evil and leave us to our depraved selves. Is that a society we want for ourselves? Christians must lead as “light and salt” of the world, defending God’s moral law and conducting ourselves in civic affairs with love and humility.
“Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind” (Rom. 1:28 NIV)
“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Psalms 14:1 NIV)
“I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
Two thoughts on the 2016 U.S. political season, a brief analysis, and a conclusion:
First Thought: the electorate is angry and divided. During the primaries, three candidates (Republicans Donald Trump & Ted Cruz; Democrat Bernie Sanders) led a populist assault against Washington.
Trump alone survived, leading to a predictable result: Old Guard politicians and establishment figures from both parties joining forces against Trump, their common foe. Too soon to tell if the electorate, wearied from a year of politics, will yawn and back the establishment candidate or continue the assault and overturn the status quo.
Second Thought: the real possibility that Almighty God is withdrawing his protective hand as our country’s arrogant leaders—and a growing number of private citizens—ignore His biblical instructions for our lives.
The apostle Paul wrote: “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper” (Romans 1:28 NASB) and again: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them” (Romans 1:18-19 NIV).
Old Testament prophets told rebellious Israel that, “It’s your sins that have cut you off from God” (Isaiah 59:2 NLT) and “Have you not brought this upon yourself by forsaking the LORD your God?” (Jeremiah 2:17 ESV). King David, who lived under the covenant before the Cross, was so fearful of God’s rebuke for his sins, that he prayed: “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11 NIV).
While God after the Cross will not remove the Holy Spirit from His believers, calling His gift “a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:14), nevertheless, continued disobedience on our parts still erects a barrier between us and the God of mercy. This grieves the Lord who has assured us it is our obedience and salvation that He wants to see: “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).
Analysis: Christian values, as many have seen, have given modern society so much to cherish — among them hospitals, civil liberties, abolition of slavery, modern science, elevation of women, and regard for human life — against the shameful record of non-believers fomenting devastation and suffering on their own people.
The difficulty with discussing civic matters from a biblical perspective is that the Bible is clear only that some matters pertain to God and His affairs while others pertain to the state. Unfortunately for U.S. society, our national government now is usurping the moral sphere, replacing God’s moral law with political policy and defending that usurpation on a false reading of the Bible!
Followers of Christ cannot let that go unchallenged.
However, we are still called to be “light and salt” to the world and to express our views in humility and with love. While God made it clear He abhors homosexual conduct and abortion, Christians could differ on issues such as the U.S. taking in Syrian refugees or revising the tax code. Christians must forthrightly defend Scripture, but where the trail is muddled, Christ’s followers must reach their positions through prayer and promote them lovingly, even when disagreeing with one another.
Conclusion: It is imperative that followers of Christ lead the way this election year in the U.S. by boldly defending God’s laws and by conducting civic affairs in a civil manner. That would preclude the ad hominem attacks so favored by the unfaithful. We are called to support civil government (Rom. 13:1-7), but we must pray that whichever party’s candidates prevail in this ugly election, hearts will be softened to hear—and follow— the Lord’s voice.
PRAYER: Our Heavenly Father, we pray Your grace as our countrymen vote this November. We pray that our country’s leaders, and those who seek to replace them, will be open to Your voice and seek Your will, not just rhetorically when it’s politically useful, but in their personal lives and public acts. We also pray that You will lift up men and women who follow the Lord to seek political office at all levels of government so that our country, state, local communities, and school districts will be led by those who seek the Lord’s will. We pray this in Jesus’ Name. Amen
All to often, we Christians are poor ambassadors of the message our Lord left with us. We should not stand in the way of non-believers searching for Truth in their lives. We should make it easy for them to seek — and find — the Lord’s saving grace. He made salvation easy. He did all of the hard work. We just need to point the way.
“And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” Acts 15:19 (NLT)
“I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.” Acts 20:21 (NIV)
THIS MUST HAVE BEEN AN EXCITING MEETING!
The glitterati of the Jewish Christian world — Jesus’ remaining apostles and church elders — were gathered in Jerusalem to hear a progress report from two missionaries, Paul and Barnabas, who had been evangelizing the Good News to the Gentiles.
The whole idea that God wanted the non-Jewish world to be saved from eternal damnation was a difficult enough concept for many of the Jews to understand, but worse, they were hearing reports that Paul and Barnabas were teaching salvation by faith, not by good works. Moreover, they were teaching that Gentiles did not have to convert to Judaism before becoming a follower of Christ and that they were not bound by the Law of Moses.
No, the Gentiles would be saved by God’s grace and their belief that Jesus was God, died sacrificially for their sins, and was raised from the dead to sit at God’s right hand.
There was a lot of ground for the church elders to cover.
The Book of Acts, written by the doctor, Luke, tells us that Paul and Barnabas reached Jerusalem and were “welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders” — that is, until the Pharisees swung into action. That was the same crowd that Jesus said “woe to” on many occasions, accusing them of substituting their rules, their regulations, and their mandates for God’s law of love and forgiveness.
“The new believers must become Jews first,” thePharisees thundered, “and they must keep the law of Moses.”
Nowhere in the four Gospels does Jesus ever say that His followers must convert to Judaism and follow Moses’ law to be saved from God’s wrath. Instead, in John chapter 3, Jesus says His followers must be “born again.” In Luke chapter 9, He says His followers must “take up their cross daily” and follow Him.
But the Pharisees, as usual, were adamant.
The apostles and elders kicked those ideas around, when Apostle Peter stood up to address them. Naturally, Peter would speak first. There was a hush as he looked around the room, waiting for order.
He reminded them that “some time ago,” God made it known that the gospel of Jesus Christ was to be preached to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews and that He would accept all into His Kingdom “by giving them the Holy Spirit,” the same as He gave to the Jews.
Peter rebuked the elders, saying God would purify the Gentiles’ hearts by faith. “Why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?” Peter asked.
You can feel his exasperation.
“No!” he told the stunned assembly. “We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
After Peter sat down, Luke tells us that Paul and Barnabas related their experiences and how the Gentiles were responding warmly to the salvation message.
YOU CAN’T BEAT WHAT HAPPENED NEXT.
For shear drama, this must have been the top moment.
So far, the apostles Paul and Barnabas had spoken, the Pharisees had had theirmoment, and Peter had spoken.
Could it get any more dramatic?
Yes, actually, it could.
The next man to stand is the one Luke tells us had the final say.
It was James.
Not just any James. This was James, the half-brother of Jesus Himself. The one who Luke tells us in chapter 8 accompanied his mother, Mary, and siblings to tell Jesus He was embarrassing the family with His teaching and should return home and tend to His carpentry business.
The James that Luke tells us in chapter 4 was sitting in the temple in the family’s hometown of Nazareth when Jesus read from Isaiah that “the Spirit of the Lord is on me” and proclaimed to all of their neighbors that the verse was about Him. Yes, the James who watched as the townsmen wanted to stone Jesus!
Yup, that James, but not that James.
The James who stood up at that moment in that meeting knew who His Lord and Savior was. In human terms, he knew his older half-brother was God.
That James stood up and closed the argument with these words inspired by the Holy Spirit — words of grace, mercy, and wisdom: “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. It is my judgment that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”
DON’T MAKE IT DIFFICULT TO WIN CONVERTS TO CHRIST.
James’ words trickle down the centuries to the present era, where we also are called by Almighty God not to make it difficult for those who hunger for the Truth of salvation, whether by our actions or our words.
Instead, we should make it easy for them to ask God for His forgiveness, to thank Him for the gift of grace, and to ask Him to live in their hearts.
When James’ words were relayed to the Gentile community outside Jerusalem, Luke tells us in Acts 15:31 (NIV) how they reacted:
“The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message.”
PRAYER: Our merciful and loving Heavenly Father, we just praise your holy name. We give thanks that You are a God of love and compassion, of patience and caring. Your gift of eternal life with You is too wonderful to comprehend. Help us in our witness to avoid placing obstacles or barriers of any kind in the way of your lost children. Rather, help us to extend loving, accepting, benevolent hands to those reaching out for Your Word. We ask this in Jesus’ Name. Amen