17 “Friends, I realize that what you and your leaders did to Jesus was done in ignorance. 18 But God was fulfilling what all the prophets had foretold about the Messiah—that he must suffer these things. 19 Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. 20 Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah. — Acts 3:17-20 NLT Acts 3:1-20
Except for Jesus, all humans were born with a sinful nature. We, including Jesus, were brought into a sinful world. Before the death and resurrection of Jesus, most of the people could use the excuse of ignorarnce of that fact as a reason not to accept His story. Even in today’s world of high tech and instant communications, there are still some who can legitmately say that they have never heard the name of Jesus. Although the Gospel has been preached in every country, it is believed that there are more than 6550 people groups that have never heard the gospel. There are even more groups who have heard the Gospel but don’t have established Christian organizations to witness to each and every one of the people. Even in our own country and in a lot of our own neighborhoods, there are those who may have heard the name of Jesus but have little or no idea of His story of eternal life. In 2014, the Pew Research Center survey determined that at least 37% of Americans are not “absolutely sure” that God exists. If you are not absolutely sure that God exists, it would be hard to say that you are a Christian. Could one of these 37% be our neighbor? There is a 1 in 3 chance that we have a neighbor who doesn’t know Jesus.
The fields are white with harvest! Pray that the Lord will send laborers into the fields.
1 This letter is from Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and a brother of James. I am writing to all who have been called by God the Father, who loves you and keeps you safe in the care of Jesus Christ. 2 May God give you more and more mercy, peace, and love. 3 Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people. 4 I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.–Jude:1-4 (NLT)
God is waiting to show you the Way.
Jude opens his letter with great humility. He identifies himself as a slave of Jesus Christ, which is how we should all feel. He further identifies himself as a brother of James. This James is thought to be the half-brother of Jesus which would mkae Jude a half-brother of Jesus as well. They all have the same mother, Mary, but, of course, Jesus has a different Father. His heart is to deliver a message of salvation to the unknown community of people that he is addressing. But, because some false teachers had started teaching that God’s grace allows us to go on sinning as much and as often as we want to, he feels it is much more important to rebuke these teachers and correct their teaching. These teachers had not had a real experience of salvation that changed them from their sinful ways, they were not “new creatures” in Christ Jesus. While forgiveness and grace are certainly there for those of us who fall, it is not meant to allow us to live a sinful lifestyle. This would be in direct conflict with Romans 6:
1 Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? 2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? 3 Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? 4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.–Romans 6:1-4 (NLT)
Those who do these sinful things and teach this false doctrine are making a mockery of God’s grace that He has shown to us. As we are told in Galatians 6:
7 Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. 8 Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.– Gal. 6:7,8 (NLT)
So we must stand firm in what we know to be the truth. When we accept Jesus, we are no longer slaves to the flesh, we are “New creations” and now we are slaves to Christ Jesus and we walk in the Spirit. Do not be deceived by every “new” philosophy that comes along. Stand on the Rock and teach the Truth, even though it is no longer popular to do the right thing.
8 But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. 9 Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. 11 In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us. 12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.–Col. 3:8-12 (NLT)
God is waiting to show you the way.
As Christ becomes more real to us, and as we learn to be obedient to the urging of His Spirit abiding in us, we realize more and more, the weaknesses we have and our inability to control them. Until we can say “I can’t but Jesus can”, we will always have these temptations of the flesh. We have to allow Jesus to control our urges and desires. The more we allow Him to do so, that much more of our sinful nature is stripped away and we put on more of His nature. It doesn’t matter what your ethnicity or your past is. The only thing that matters is Christ in us. Since we are God’s holy people, we must clothe ourselves with His characteristics. Love, mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience is what Jesus looks like. What about us, what do people see when they look at us?
22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 26 Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.–Galatians 5:22-26 (NLT)
God is waiting to show you the way.
If we are obedient to the leading of God’s Spirit in our lives, people will know that we are different from the world. They should be able to see that our focus and our desires are not on pleasing ourselves, but on pleasing God. If they can see that in our daily lifestyle, then they will be attracted to Christ because they, too, are looking for love, joy, and peace. If our lifestyles are not producing these fruits, then perhaps, we need to spend more time with the Keeper of the vineyard. He alone can produce this kind of fruit. But He won’t force us to produce it, even though He could. We must be willing to allow Him to work in us pruning the dead limbs and giving new life to the rest. Pruning is not pleasant to the plant, yet, it is necessary for growth. I once owned an arbor of Golden Muscadines. Each year, the vines produced smaller and less fruit. I pruned the vines back to about 18 inches high and fertilized them. It took 2 years but when the vines came back, they were full of life and produced much larger fruit. The fruit was so abundant that I gave muscadines to the whole neighborhood. The fruit was also much sweeter. Allow God’s Holy Spirit to do the work inside you and you will love the end result.