We come to Acts 15 and find a group of believers who felt that grace wasn’t enough to save someone. They said that you must be circumcised in order to be saved.
This was a great concern to Paul and Barnabus, as well as the other disciples. After praying about the matter, the apostles decided that grace was enough; the brothers from Judea were wrong in requiring Gentiles to become Jews to be considered Christians.
What do you consider is required to be a “good Christian”? Church attendance? Baptism? Adherence to a code of conduct (prohibition of dancing, drinking, etc.)? Being a member of a particular denomination (or non-denomination)? Holding a particular theological position? Aligning with the teachings of specific group of teachers, preachers, writers, or denominational leaders? Aversion to the teachings of specific group of teachers, preachers, writers, or denominational leaders?
Application: Be careful. Be very careful as you view other believers through your personal preferences. Be careful what labels (“liberal”, “fundamentalist”, and especially “false prophet” and “heretic”) you apply to someone with whom you disagree. “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Col 4:6 (NIV)
I just watched a great discussion on the importance of the covenant of marriage. It reminded me of a conversation I had between the time when Amy and I got engaged and married. My youth Sunday School teacher said that there would be times when you have to be committed to the marriage, as opposed to each other. I didn’t understand her statement. But through the years, I have come to understand what she was talking about.
The video is just over five minutes and well worth the time to watch.
What sustains the marital bond and affections over the long haul? Three men with a combined 116 years of marriage reflect on what they’ve learned from God’s Word and others along with their experience.
Don Carson, Tim Keller, and John Piper offer insight on falling in love again and again and the ground of covenant in which the flower of love grows. In marriage, man and woman change but their promise does not, sustained by the God who enacted his covenant between Christ and the church.
“Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:9–10 ESV).
Many in Peter’s day were experiencing a great deal of suffering. The attacks on the church were delivered through the hands of the Jewish leaders and the Romans by their adversary, the devil and his demonic troops. Peter encourages his readers to be steadfast in their commitment to their Lord by humbling themselves and casting their anxieties on Him because He deeply cares about them (5:6-7).
Peter doesn’t deny that they were suffering. He didn’t tell them that they were suffering because they lacked faith. He simply acknowledged that they were, indeed suffering for a little while. It’s beautiful how he contrasts their suffering for a “little while” with God’s “eternal” glory in Christ. The all gracious God would not not send just anyone to restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish them — He Himself would do it.
Application: Are you anxious? Do you feel that God doesn’t care about you or your situation? Do you feel that you are suffering for your stand for Christ? Do you need grace? Take courage! Your hardship is only for a little while. The all-seeing, all-powerful, all-loving, all-gracious God cares deeply for you. Cast (literally “throw”) your cares onto Him, knowing that as you do, He will never let you be ultimately shaken. (Psalm 54:23)
Numbers 14 records a sad day in the life of the people of Israel. God judged them for their unbelief after hearing the spies’ report of the Promised Land. God says that for every day the spies explored, the people would wander in the desert. Joshua and Caleb would be the only ones able to go into the promised land.
The judgment of God is bad enough. But then the people decide that to demonstrate their repentance by taking matters into their own hands: “Here we are. We will go up to the place that the LORD has promised, for we have sinned.”
Repentance is a good thing to do when you’ve been confronted by God. But they presumed that God would bless their efforts. “But they presumed to go up to the heights of the hill country, although neither the ark of the covenant of the LORD nor Moses departed out of the camp. “ (Numbers 14:44)
The results? “Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and defeated them and pursued them, even to Hormah.” (Numbers 14:45)
How frequently this happens in church. Instead of seeking God’s guidance in decision-making, oftentimes we make a hasty decision and ask God to bless our plans.
Even our repentance is to be according to God’s leading. I recently heard of a pastor who confessed a private sin from the pulpit and went into way too much detail. Several people were deeply hurt by the confession of his sin — one in which they were not personally involved. In an effort to obey James’ instruction to confess our sins to each other in order that we be healed (James 5:16), he wounded other people. Even in repenting from sin, we must not presume that God will bless our plans to “make things right”.
Application: Is there a decision you need to make or a sin you need to make right? Proceed with caution.
Today marks the 400th Anniversary of the publication of the King James Version of the Bible. This is the most popular English version of the Bible. In fact until the mid-20th Century, it was pretty much the only version of the English Bible available. With the advent of the printing press, literate people were able to read the Bible for themselves – in their own language – and not be dependent on someone else to tell them what the Bible said.
God has greatly used the KJV in the life of the English-speaking church. In fact, The King James Bible was the version used by the Puritans, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, John and Charles Wesley, and Charles Spurgeon. Missionaries like William Carey, Hudson Taylor, and David Livingstone found their calling as they read from it. As people came to faith in Christ, they read the King James Bible to grow in their faith. Even secular writers were also influenced by the KJV.
Copyright protection has long expired and since it is in the “public domain,” many groups like the Gideons use it to avoid paying licensing fees for Bibles they distribute for free to students and hotels. The only cost for publication is, well, publication.
Since I discussed some of the issues of the King James Bible for modern-day readers in an earlier blog, I won’t repeat myself here. But I do want to say thank-you to the translators of the King James Version for the foundation they laid. As the KJV translators stated in their preface, new translations will be required for each new generation so God’s Word can be read in the common language of the people.
Also, join me in thanking God for preserving His Word, and for making it available to us in our common language. If you do not currently have a plan for reading your Bible, check out the one we’re using in our church.
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart
(Hebrews 4:12 KJV)