27 For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes— so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.’ — Acts 28:27 NLT
The Jewish leaders there in Rome had already heard the message of Jesus. They wanted to hear it again from Paul and to hear what he believed. Any time and every time the name of Jesus is mentioned, it requires that we make a decision. Whether we decide to reject Him, accept Him or to think about it, we make a decision. Some of these leaders were persuaded to believe by what Paul said and others were not. It is a mystery to us why all the people hear the same message but some respond positively and some respond negatively. Did Paul quit preaching the Word because some refused to believe? No! For two years, Paul supported himself and continued to tell others about the Good News. Paul understood that the results of his preaching the Word were not up to Him. His part was to continue to be obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit. We are to do the same thing. Keep preaching and/or teaching and not be discouraged because we don’t see any results. The results are up to the Lord and the Holy Spirit, not to us. We will see the results when we get to heaven. Until then we just keep living out God’s plan for each of us and let Him handle the results.
33 At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. — Mark 15:33 NLT
3 I dress the skies in darkness, covering them with clothes of mourning.” — Isaiah 50:3 NLT
At noon on Friday, the sun was hidden as nature mourned the approaching death of our Lord and Savior. At three o’clock on Friday afternoon, the Light of the world was extinguished. It was a time of deep darkness and mourning for all of nature and the followers of Jesus. It seemed that satan and his demons had won a great victory. At three o’clock, the natural light reappeared. Could this have been a sign that the Spiritual light would also reappear, that all was not as it seemed to be? A heaviness lay over the people and the land. Friday night, all day Saturday and Saturday night was a time of grieving and wondering. Could they have been wrong about this man, Jesus? Was He not really the Messiah? A time of fear, could they be the next to die? For a moment, imagine that you are one of the disciples at that very time. Look at the situation through their eyes, not knowing the final outcome of this event. Take the time to imagine the scene on the cross and mourn the death of your teacher and closest friend. His promise that He would always be with them must have seemed pretty hollow about then. Would your faith have carried you through this event? What would your reaction have been? Would you have been able to remember and believe all the promises at this particular point? Would you still believe that He would arise after three days? Now, back to the present. Will our faith carry us through what God has in store for us now? When temptation stares us in the face, will we give in? Knowing the whole story, how will we respond to the times of darkness and mourning in our lives? Will we remember that there is hope? Will we remember that “joy comes in the morning”?
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous
What words of encouragement Paul gives to the Thessalonians! They have become models for believers everywhere. They are known throughout all of Greece for their faith in God! So, when Paul and his companions arrive at a new place, the people there are already aware of who they are because of the good things they are hearing about the church in Thessalonica. They already know the story of how the people in Thessalonica have turned from serving idols to serving the true and living God. Because of Paul’s message which is being delivered with the power of the Holy Spirit, they now wait for the return of Jesus, the One God has raised from the dead, the One who would come and rescue them from the coming wrath! Do the churches that we attend have that kind of reputation in the world today? Is our local church seen as a place of safety and comfort? Or would people find more fellowship and feel more welcome in a secular setting? Do we do a good job of greeting newcomers and make them fell comfortable in our pews? Are we more like a wide-open hospital tent in a war zone or an emergency room only for believers? Pick a number, any number. If that many newcomers came to our church today, would we have enough members willing to pray with each one individually and explain the message of salvation to them? Or would we need a triage to assign the degree of urgency to each case so the staff could handle it? No, we couldn’t do that since we all have the same disease and we are all affected to the same degree and in the same way. So, would any of them have to leave without having an opportunity to talk to the Doctor? Am I personally able and willing to introduce them to the great Physician? My prayer for each of us is that we are not only able but that we are willing to do that. The fields are white with harvest.
35 You say, don’t you, ‘In four more months the harvest will begin?’ Look, I tell you, open your eyes and observe that the fields are readyfor harvesting now!– John 4:35 ISV
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous
14 But even though my condition tempted you to reject me, you did not despise me or turn me away. No, you took me in and cared for me as though I were an angel from God or even Christ Jesus himself. – Gal. 4:14 NLT
In this letter to the Galatians, Paul reminds them that he became as much like them as possible without violating his conscience. In our words today, we would probably say that he spent time making friends and building a bridge of confidence so that they would be more willing to listen to him. As the saying goes “people have to know you care before they care what you know”. As it turns out, Paul got to spend quite a bit of time in southern Galatia because of his sickness that he developed. This may have been the beginning of what Paul later referred to as “a thorn in the flesh”. It was very possibly a severe eye disease causing some amount of pain and facial dis-figuration. Paul implies that it might have made some of the people treat him badly and others would have plucked out their own eye and given it to him. But Paul pushes on and asks them the same questions we must ask ourselves and others today. Does our telling you the truth make us your enemy? Or once you know and understand the truth, does it make any sense to turn away from it? Just as Paul did, we have to get the people to understand that our witnessing to them is not because we feel that we are better or more holy than they are. It is because Jesus died for all of us simply because He loved us enough to do that for us. And His love for us requires us to show that same love to others.
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” -Anonymous
Although, we cannot now see Jesus physically, we can see Jesus in a spiritual sense because the Holy Spirit opens our spiritual eyes to the reality of who Jesus is. Then we realize, as the former blind man did, that not only can we see the reality of Jesus but that He is speaking to us as well. Hopefully, our reaction will be the same as this man’s was. We will believe and worship Jesus as our Savior and Lord. Jesus not only opens the eyes of those who are physically blind, but He wants to open the eyes of all of us who are/were spiritually blind. If we are asking the same question as the Pharisees that were there that day, we should carefully consider the answer that Jesus gave them to their question. “If you were blind, you wouldn’t be guilty, but you remain guilty because you claim you can see.” There are many religions in today’s world, all claiming to have the truth, but no religion has the truth. We can only know the truth once we establish a relationship with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth. Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.—John 14:6 (NLT)
13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.–-John 16:13 (NLT)
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” -Anonymous
2 Then he sent them out to tell everyone about the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick. 3 “Take nothing for your journey,” he instructed them. “Don’t take a walking stick, a traveler’s bag, food, money,[b] or even a change of clothes. — Luke 9:2, 3 NLT
If Jesus told us to go on a mission taking no money, food or clothes, what would our reaction be? Do we really trust God to completely supply our every need? Do we trust Him to protect us from every harm that comes our way? If not, we must ask ourselves, why not? Has He ever failed on a promise? Is our salvation not secure? If He was able to do this for the disciples, is He not able to do this for us? Every disciple came back safe and sound. God had provided their every need. We think “Oh, but society is different now, we wouldn’t be safe and people now are not as generous as they were back then.” Again, we are guilty of wrong thinkng and allowing ourselves to be decieved by satan. The right question is “Isn’t God still God, can He not do today what He did then”? And the right answer is “Yes He is and yes, He can.” If the people won’t feed us, then God can use another method, just as He did when the ravens brought meat to Elijah. Either we believe that God can and will or we don’t believe that He can and will. In a war zone, there is no neutral ground and we are living in a war zone. There is a war going on around us right now. We may not see the spiritual warriors fighting the battles, but we see the results of those battles around us every day. We see people who are deceived and refuse to believe the truth. They have eyes to see but they don’t see. They have ears to hear but they don’t hear.
14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. — 2 Cor. 3:14-18 NIV
Even though the veil was rent when Jesus died on the cross, there are those who who will hear the news and not accept it as truth. Whether they claim to believe the law or not, their refusal of the offer of salvation leaves them under the law. Therefore, when the Old Testament is read, a veil covers their heart. They hear but they refuse to understand. The veil is not removed from our eyes and hearts until we accept Jesus as our Savior. The law and the veil keep us in bondage and lead to death. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, the veil is removed and the Holy Spirit comes to abide in us giving us freedom and life. At that moment, we are saved from the wrath of God and eternal punishment. But, God wants us to have more than just salvation, He wants us to understand that now we are being sanctified or set apart for His service and for His glory. He wants us to get to know Him, to have a relationship with Him and participate in the abundant life. For that to happen, we must spend time contemplating and meditating on His Word. As we spend time with God, the Holy Spirit is transforming us into the image of God.
2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. — 1 John 3:2, 3 NIV
44 Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me is really believing in the One who sent me. 45 Whoever sees me sees the One who sent me. 46 I have come as light into the world so that whoever believes in me would not stay in darkness. 47″Anyone who hears my words and does not obey them, I do not judge, because I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for those who refuse to believe in me and do not accept my words. The word I have taught will be their judge on the last day. 49 The things I taught were not from myself. The Father who sent me told me what to say and what to teach. 50 And I know that eternal life comes from what the Father commands. So whatever I say is what the Father told me to say.”—John 12:44-50 (NCV)
Because of His great love and mercy, Jesus gives one more invitation to the crowd to believe in what He has said and who He is. He is telling them since you have seen and heard me, you have heard and seen the Father. Every word Jesus said and every act He committed came directly from the Father. On judgment day, the unbelievers will be judged by the words that Jesus was teaching. After all, Jesus was the Word Incarnate, the Living Word, the Word that was established in the beginning. In Jesus, there was life and that life was the light for all the people. 1 In the beginning there was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 All things were made by him, and nothing was made without him. 4 In him there was life, and that life was the light of all people. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it.—John 1:1-5 NCV)
Jesus is God, God is Jesus, Jesus is the Word and the Word is Jesus and in Him is life and light. God and Jesus are in perfect agreement and have been since the beginning. The Word that Jesus spoke was commanded by the Father and contained Life. It is the same Word that has saved us and will keep us until the day Jesus returns. The world needs to hear that Word today, so they can ask the Lord for help. 14 But before people can ask the Lord for help, they must believe in him; and before they can believe in him, they must hear about him; and for them to hear about the Lord, someone must tell them; 15 and before someone can go and tell them, that person must be sent. It is written, “How beautiful is the person who comes to bring good news.”–Romans 10″14,15 (NCV)
15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. 18 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the anti-christ is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.—1 John 2:15-19 (NIV)
God is not in competition with anyone or anything in the world. He will not accept the position of the leader in the race, The only position He will accept is being the only One in the race. He is not in some game to be the first on our list, He wants to be the only One on our list. He wants us to love Him so much that there is nothing or no one that we would not give up for Him. After all, that is exactly what He did for us. He gave up His glory and His position in heaven and finally, His very life. Why should He accept anything less in return? The world and satan tempts us with things that please the lusts of the flesh, they tempt us with our desires for beautiful possessions that please the eyes and they tempt us with power and positions that cause pride in our lives. We cannot love both, either we love Jesus or we love mammon. The time for the return of the true Christ is closer now than ever. We see and will continue to see wickedness in the world and more wickedness in high, spiritual places. We see people that we have respected in positions of leadership who have failed and we must arrive at the same conclusion that John did. If they had truly been one of us, they would have remained with us, but their going showed they did not belong with us.