Ministry and Results

October 31, 2008

(For a version of this devotion that is easier to print, follow this link.)

How does God use you? What is your personal ministry? Are you excited because you have seen results? Are you discouraged from lack of results?

Consider these words from the Apostle Paul:

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

Whatever our personal ministry might be, if we see good results, we are tempted to pat ourselves on the back. We’re tempted to think, “I’m really something, given what I’ve done!” But Paul says that when we think clearly, when we think soberly, we see that our faith is all that matters – our faith in the One with all power, with all authority, who has given us whatever gifts and skills we have, and who Himself accomplishes whatever He wishes through us.

Paul elaborates on this idea in 1 Corinthians, when writing to those who were lining up behind one or another leader:

1 Corinthians 3:5-7 5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

Those God chooses to work through for His good purposes are His servants. The work they accomplish is God’s work, which He assigns. Paul goes so far as to say that the workers are nothing. The work is all of God, from beginning to end. Read more

Responding to Economic Turmoil

October 25, 2008

(For a version of this devotion that is easier to print, follow this link.)

Gyrations in the stock market. Banks losing billions. Dire predictions unless Congress does X. Congress does X, yet the situation deteriorates.

What does it all mean? How should Bible-believing Christians respond?

We should respond by trusting in God and in His Word.

Paul tells Timothy to know that hard times are ahead (in his case, from persecution and evil deceivers), but to “continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:14-15).

Just so for us. Remain steadfast. Remind yourself and others of the truths of Scripture. God does not change. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His Word is our anchor; His promise is our hope, a “sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:19). Read more

How Should a Christian Vote?

October 17, 2008

(For a version of this devotion that is easier to print, follow this link.)

Is there a Christian position on the political issues facing us today?

We have seen that all in the body of Christ are exiles in this present world, citizens of another kingdom. Our primary responsibility in this period of exile is to serve as ambassadors of our King, speaking and living out His message of reconciliation.

At the same time, we are to “seek the welfare of the city” where we are in exile (Jeremiah 29:7). In a democracy, this surely implies voting; for some individual Christians, it might well mean deep involvement in the political process. But our hope is never to be in any political candidate or party; our hope is in our coming Redeemer King.

Here are some biblical principles concerning voting that I commend to you during this political maelstrom. Read more

The Promise of Power

October 15, 2008

This sermon on Acts 1:6-26 was preached 9/14/2008. For a version that is easier to print, click here. The audio is available here.)

Do you ever dream that you’re in school, sitting down to take a test, and realize, “I never studied! I never even went to class!”

Or perhaps you dream that you are about to begin an athletic event – and realize you never practiced.

How do those dreams make you feel? Do you feel that way when you are called upon to be a witness to Jesus? Do you think, “I don’t know enough! I need years of study to properly witness! I can’t possibly make these people listen!”

Last week we began our series in the book of Acts. We saw that this book is not really the Acts of the Apostles. Only two apostles are prominent, but it is not a synopsis of their lives either. Instead, Luke opens by saying that his first volume, his gospel “dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach.” Acts then deals with what Jesus continued to do. Acts tells of the continuing work of Jesus. Read more

Continuing What Jesus Began to Do

October 15, 2008

(This sermon on Acts 1:1-5 was preached 9/7/2008. For a version that is easier to print, click here. The audio is available here.)

Think of an important historical figure. What was his or her greatest accomplishment?

  • For Thomas Jefferson, perhaps authoring the Declaration of Independence.
  • For Abraham Lincoln, keeping our country together.
  • For Martin Luther, taking his stand on the Word of God, and returning much of the church to biblical authority.

Some of you may be thinking of scientists, missionaries, authors, or explorers. Different men, different women, different fields of endeavor – but for all their varied accomplishments, the question makes sense.

Now: Consider Jesus: Can we ask the same question about Him? What was Jesus’ greatest accomplishment?

I hope when you hear that question you’re somewhat uneasy. For if we were to judge Jesus’ accomplishments on the same basis as the others we’ve mentioned – frankly, there’s not much there. For a period of time shorter than one US presidential term, he traveled around with a dozen men, in a backwater province of the Roman Empire; He taught publicly, and made some pretty outrageous claims. He healed people, a few rather dramatically. Perhaps during His lifetime as many as 200 people believed He was the promised Messiah. But one of his closest associates turned Him in to authorities for a few thousand dollars. The Roman governor executed Him.

That doesn’t sound like much of an accomplishment compared to Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther, or Isaac Newton, does it?

But there’s a huge difference with Jesus: His death is not the end of the story.

We celebrate what Jefferson, Lincoln, Luther, and others accomplished prior to their deaths. For Jesus: We celebrate what He accomplished in His death, in His resurrection, and what He continues to do after death.

We begin today a series on the book of Acts. This is the second volume written by Luke, the traveling companion of the Apostle Paul. This volume was written about 30 years after the crucifixion. Each volume begins with a note to a man named Theophilus, who seems to be a prominent Roman official who has heard much about Jesus, but needs assurance of the truthfulness of the reports. So Luke says he writes: “that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:4).

Luke opens the book of Acts with these words.

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach,  2 until the day when he was taken up

This is a pretty strange statement. Imagine two-volume biographical study of Lincoln, written decades after his death, with the second volume beginning, “My first volume dealt with all that Lincoln began to do until his assassination.”

That makes no sense for Lincoln. Why does it make sense for Jesus?

To speak this way implies that Jesus is still at work.

John Wilkes Booth’s bullet ended Lincoln’s accomplishments. But the cross did not end Jesus’ accomplishments. The cross was only the beginning. Read more

Abortion and the Election

October 10, 2008

(For a version of this devotion that is easier to print, follow this link.)

On November 4, we will decide who will serve as the next President of the United States. Two weeks ago, I wrote about our biblical role as citizens of the kingdom of heaven temporarily exiled in this country. Over the next couple of weeks, I will write about some important issues in this election. Today: Abortion.

Abortion is one of the clearest issues separating Obama and McCain. What does the Bible say about abortion? Where do the candidates stand? How much importance should we assign to this particular issue?

Today, I want to briefly outline answers to these issues for readers who believe the Bible is the Word of God, and thus has supreme authority. For those of you who would like to see this issue addressed without appeal to the Bible, I recommend Randy Alcorn’s book, Why Pro-Life? (available for free as a pdf file) and the website.

Consider these seven points: Read more

Receive the Spirit

October 3, 2008

(For a version of this devotion that is easier to print, follow this link.)

Have you received the Holy Spirit? Are you filled with the Spirit?

While these questions look similar, biblically they are distinct.

Two weeks ago I exhorted you from Scripture to be filled with the Spirit. We need the power of the Spirit to fulfill God’s purposes for us, to live the Christian life to His glory. This is true in every area of our lives, from craftsmanship to marriage. So in Ephesians 5:18 Paul exhorts those who are already believers to be filled with the Spirit.

But in the text we will consider the next several Sundays, Peter, speaking to those who are not yet believers, says, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Peter is clear: All those who repent and trust in Jesus for forgiveness will receive the Holy Spirit. Read more