One may wonder why we don’t see today what the First Century Church saw in terms of revolutionary transformation of people. Going back to Acts 2, three thousand people responded to the Gospel message and were baptized.
In one day!
Paul warned several churches, most notably the Galatians, to beware believing a Gospel contrary to the one that he preached to them. He said that even if an angel from heaven appeared and preached a different Gospel, he should be accursed for doing it. (Galatians 1:8-9) The Gospel is crucial! The Gospel is critical. And the Gospel’s purity is worth guarding.
When Paul preached, he wasn’t giving a motivational speech, encouraging people to live better lives or to merely give passing approval to some truth claims. In today’s Bible reading, Paul applauds the Thessalonians for going “all-in” with the “all-in” Gospel message!
So why aren’t we seeing the same results as centuries before? Either the Gospel has changed or the Gospel being proclaimed isn’t the true Gospel. Well, we know the Gospel itself hasn’t changed. So the only other option is that — by and large — perhaps the Gospel that’s being proclaimed isn’t the true Gospel.
Assuming you have received the Gospel message at some point in your life, how affected by the Gospel are you? Is your faith a roaring fire, burning brighter as you hear the Gospel and preach the Gospel to yourself? Or is your faith smoldering, just glowing embers?
When a campfire dies down, the embers glow, but they don’t produce any flames. If you need for it to burn more, you have to add fuel to the fire and add oxygen to the glowing coals. Sometimes getting oxygen deep into the glowing coals means you have to get down on the ground, with your face right next to the fire and slowly blow at the very base of the fire.
To rekindle your fire, to increase your own response to the Gospel you may need to get on your face before God and let Him blow over you with the power of the Holy Spirit. Maybe then you’ll respond to the Gospel the way you did once before.
Several years ago, one of my favorite videos that made the rounds on Facebook was the one of the little girl who told her daddy to worry about himself. As she struggled to free herself from her carseat, her daddy offered to help her, but she kept saying, “Worry about yourself!” It seemed that she would never be able to press the button and gain her freedom. But she was not going to let her daddy help. She was at the precious stage of life where she thought she could do everything herself without help from anyone else. Some of us never grow out of that stage.
Today’s Bible reading includes a little story of a conversation between Jesus and Peter. Peter asks what would become of John the Beloved Disciple. Jesus replies, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” (John 21:22) In other words, Jesus tells Peter, “Worry about yourself. Don’t concern yourself with the fate of others. Make sure that you follow me.”
Why is it that we are always concerned about other people when Jesus starts “getting up in our business”? Just when He begins to answer our prayer to, “Search me, O God” (Psalm 139:23), we shift the attention off ourselves and onto someone else. Why do we do that?
I think it has to do with the fact that we know deep down that our God is a consuming fire. (Deuteronomy 4:24) As much as we want to claim that we love God with all that we are, deep inside, I think we’re afraid of God. Some of that fear can be good. We must always be on guard, lest we become too familiar with God and forget that He is to be respected. He is to be feared. He is awe-inspiring. I recently began reading a book, None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God. It’s important to remember that although God is kind, He is not tame.
How comfortable are you with God? It’s important to see Him as a Friend. But He is so much more than a friend. And we must always remember that God is not like us, though we are like Him. We can never be buddy-buddy with God because He is so beyond us and so beyond our comprehension.
Spend some time today praising God for His greatness and awesomeness. Read through Bible passages like Psalm 8, reflecting on how the infinite God has revealed Himself to finite humanity.
If you’d like to read more about having a healthy respect, a healthy awe for God, take a look at the book I mentioned above. Admittedly, that book is a very deep read. A couple of books that are a little more approachable are Yawning at Tigers: You Can’t Tame God, So Stop Trying by Drew Dyck and Awe: Why it Matters in All We Think, Say, and Do by Paul David Tripp.
 Hat tip to CS Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Mr. Tumnus, the Fawn tells Lucy that Aslan is a very good lion, but he is not tame.
In today’s Bible reading, John records Jesus’ appearing before Pontius Pilate. The Jewish leaders urge Pilate to sentence Jesus to death. They tell the Roman ruler that he is no friend of Caesar if he doesn’t sentence Jesus to death.
But Pilate doesn’t think Jesus is guilty of anything, especially of Roman laws. He tells the Jewish leaders that if they want to crucify Jesus, they are free to do so. (John 19:6) True, the Jews could stone Jesus for breaking their laws, but they didn’t have authority to crucify Jesus. Death by crucifixion was a Roman death sentence. Both the Jewish leaders and Pilate tried to avoid the responsibility for Jesus’ death. But when it came down to it, Pilate simply did what the Jewish leaders wanted him to do. He wanted peace from the Jews and it appears he feared a revolt if he didn’t grant a simple request to crucify a lone Jew.
In most portrayals of this pivotal scene, the same people who lauded Jesus’ arrival on Palm Sunday cry out for His crucifixion on the early hours of Good Friday Morning. But that isn’t how John describes the scene. The only people involved in demanding Jesus’ crucifixion are the Jewish leaders and the Temple servants. (John 19:6) It seems there were only a few people calling for Jesus’ crucifixion. But these popular Jewish leaders had very loud voices. John and the other Gospel writers are quick to point out that Pilate didn’t think Jesus was guilty and deserving of the death penalty.
While the Jewish leaders demanded Jesus’ execution, Pilate defended Jesus’ innocence, but eventually gave in. Both the Jews and Pilate were responsible for Jesus’ death.
So am I. And so are you.
No, we didn’t flog His innocent flesh. No, we didn’t hammer the nails into Jesus’ hands and feet. But we are very much responsible for Jesus’ death. If we weren’t guilty of sin, His death wouldn’t have been necessary. But it was necessary because we are guilty.
Jesus’ payment for our sin was sufficient to fully absorb the wrath of God. No further accusation against us can stand because Jesus’ atonement bore all of our sin debt.
If you have turned from your sin and accepted Jesus’ payment for your sin debt, spend a few minutes today thanking Jesus for dying, that you might live. Thank Him for being the perfect example and the perfect sacrifice.
In today’s Bible reading, Jesus points out that His Kingdom is not of this world. In fact, he demonstrates the point with, “If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:36 CSB)
A short time earlier on the night He was betrayed, Jesus prophesied to His Disciples, “Tonight all of you will fall away because of me, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ ” Matthew 26:31 (CSB)
The Jewish leaders who expected the Disciples to run away if Jesus were to be arrested were very happy that night. Everything worked according to their plans. But they didn’t consider what might happen if Jesus was actually Who He claimed to be.
Everyone else ran. But John the Beloved Disciple and Peter secretly hung around to see what would happen to Jesus. And when pressed if he knew Jesus, Peter lied and called down curses on himself.
But Jesus’ Kingdom wasn’t like any other kingdom anyone had ever seen. If you look at Jesus’ “Kingdom” parables, it’s clear that God’s Kingdom doesn’t look anything like what someone would expect it to look. Those who are first are last; those who are last are first. And the greatest of all is a servant. So when the King was taken, the Disciples ran. His Kingdom is not of this world.
Jesus told His Disciples to seek His Kingdom and righteousness first. Not first as in before going to the next thing. But first as the only thing of importance. Rather than concerning themselves with the things of this world, Jesus tells His Disciples to concern themselves with the things of a different world. A world where He is King.
The Kingdom of God had already come. (Matthew 12:28) And yet, it hadn’t. Even today, we still live in a constant tension of God’s Kingdom as “already, but not yet.” And we await the Day of the Lord, when Jesus comes in all of His glory to make all things right.
Are you a citizen of God’s Kingdom? Have you submitted to His Kingship and to His rule? I urge you do that today!
Even so, come Lord Jesus!
Never let anyone tell you that the Trinity isn’t biblical. And never be unapologetic in your belief in the Trinity. Granted, the word “Trinity” isn’t used in the Bible, but the doctrine is clearly presented consistently throughout the Bible. In today’s Bible reading, John presents the Trinity in its beauty.
Believers believe in a triune God, that is, One God revealed simultaneously in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Don’t fall for the heresy that says the Father became the Son Who became the Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches that all three have co-existed simultaneously through eternity past and will continue to co-exist simutaneously through eternity future.
Look at John 16:5 and John 16:7. Look at Genesis 1:1-2 and John 1:1. Also, look at Jesus’ baptism in all of the Synoptic Gospels. (Matthew 3:16–17; Mark 1:10–11; Luke 3:21–22) All of these passages speak of the ever-present Trinity as separate persons. Neither is another, but all are fully God, as is illustrated in the diagram above. If you’d like to read more about the Trinity, check out this article from the Gospel Coalition.
One of the beauties of the Trinity is that it models perfect submission. And if there is submission in the perfect Godhead, submission is a good thing! John 16:13–15 and John 16:26-28 show that the Spirit submits to and glorifies the Son and the Son submits to and glorifies the Father.