Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hebrews 2 - 4:13

Hebrews 2:5-18 – Jesus is in Charge

God put Jesus in charge of salvation and not angels.  “The world to come” (Heb. 2:5) I think refers to Jesus’ millennial reign, which takes place after His second coming.  God put everything under Him and left nothing that is not subject to Him.  He was honored this way “because He suffered death” (Heb.2:9).  He died for us, in our place.

Scripture here speaks of 3 enemies from which Christ’s death freed us:
            1. The devil
            2. Eternal Death
            3. Sins. 
Christ destroyed Satan, but he is still active in the world today.  He is the Prince of Death and is over this world ever since he tempted and caused Adam and Eve to sin against God.  He continues to tempt us.  Jesus’ death conquered Satan’s hold over the world and Jesus will return to reclaim the earth.

Hebrews 3:1-6 – Jesus Greater Than Moses

Both Moses and Jesus did God’s work and were sent to save people.  Moses led the people out of Egyptian slavery and Jesus leads people from the slavery of sin.  Moses sinned against God and God would not let him enter the Promised Land, but Jesus was perfect without sin and through Him we all can enter Heaven’s Promised Land. 

Jesus is worthy of greater honor than Moses (Heb. 3:3).  Jesus is the creator and Moses is the created (Heb. 3:4).  Jesus is the faithful Son of God over God’s house, while Moses was a faithful servant in God’s house (Heb. 3:5-6)

Heb. 3:1 tells us to fix our thoughts on Jesus.  How can we fix our thoughts on Jesus?  We can read and study the Bible, talk with God in prayer, and confess and repent of our sins.  We can follow the examples of Jesus.  If we don’t stay close to God, it opens a door for Satan can find his way into our thoughts and actions.

What is the difference between Christian meditation and other forms of meditation?  We as Christians meditate or focus on Jesus in order to get closer to Him and to know Him better.  Other types of meditation are used to relax, take away stress, to calm the mind.  In other words it’s all about self and has nothing to do with God.

Hebrews 3:7-19 – Unbelief

Israel rebelled and hardened their hearts against God (Heb. 3:15).   They sinned and disobeyed God and had unbelief (Heb. 3:16-19).  God responded with anger and they spend 40 years in the wilderness of the desert and did not allow them to enter the Promised Land (Heb. 3:17-18).

Some specific ways we can show our unbelief and squander our time today in the wilderness of the world is to spend too much time on TV, internet, video games, hobbies, etc.  and of course the obvious - ignoring God, His truth and His word.  When we do any of these things, every second of our time is wasted.

Hebrews 4:1-13 – God’s Rest

God’s rest is used two ways in this chapter.  1. God’s rest, which is the ultimate resting place - heaven (Heb. 4:1), 2. God rested from His work after He made creation (Heb. 4:4).  How do we enter God’s rest?  God offers us this rest through faith in His Son, Jesus.  We have a choice to accept it or not.  Don’t be like the Israelites by being disobedient, disbelieving and refusing God time after time.  All we have to do is – believe.  Believe what?  Believe the gospel – that God sent His Son, Jesus to earth in human form, died on the cross for our sins, and rose again on the 3rd day.  Now all who believe and trust in Him will have eternal life.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Hebrews 1 - 2:4

Hebrews 1:1-3 - Jesus is the Son of God
Hebrews 1:4-14 - Jesus is Superior
Hebrews 2:1-4 - Jesus is More Than Worthwhile

 The author of Hebrews is unknown.  Some of the purposes for writing Hebrews are:  to show Christ is superior to angels (Heb. 1:1-14), to warn believers to pay careful attention and not drift away (Heb. 2:1), to show Christ is faithful which encourages people in difficult times (Heb 6:3) and to remind us to leave the elementary teaching and go on to a maturity in Christ (Heb. 6:1).

Who is the Son?
1.      He’s heir of all. All things belong to him.
2.     He’s creator. All things are made through him.
3.     He’s the radiance of God’s glory.
4.     He’s the exact representation of God’s being.
5.     He’s the sustainer of all things by his powerful word.
6.     He’s the purifier and cleanser of our sin.
7.      He’s enthroned at the right hand of God in all majesty.

            The way to know God today is to know His son, Jesus Christ.

What are you facing that Jesus Christ is not empowered to impact?
What are you trusting to meet a need other than Jesus Christ?  No one compares to Jesus Christ.
Who are Angels?
1.      They are ministering spirits sent to serve and help those who are to receive salvation. 
2.     God commanded them to worship Jesus just as we do.

Jews believed angels were like God. They believed angels were consultants to God and that God actually asked angels for advice.  Jews were angel worshippers.  Angels were very important in the Jewish religion.  AND - We do not become angels when we die. 

Angels are created by God and are in heaven.  Angels worship and serve God.  Angels protect believers from danger, protect children and rejoice when people are saved.  They are and will be our servants.  Angels serve the interest of God the Son. God the Son is eternal and his reign knows no end.  Jesus is God.  Jesus remains the same and his years will never end.  The universe will cease to exist one day, but Jesus will never end.  Angels continually serve as Jesus sits on the throne. 

            Jesus Christ as God the Son is superior and sovereign.

What do you worship today other than Jesus Christ? Ask the Lord to show you.
Do you have plans to worship with your family over the holidays, or do you have plans to worship your family?
How will you respond the next time someone gives credit to an angel?
Do you worship Jesus for who he is or for what he can bless you with?
How does your life reflect that Jesus is Lord?

Old Testament passages are quoted to show that Jesus is God’s son and is superior to angels:
Heb. 1:5 – Ps. 2:7, 2 Sam. 7:14, 1 Chron. 17:3
Heb. 1:6 – Deut. 32:43
Heb. 1:7 – Ps. 105:4
Heb. 1:9 – Ps. 45:6-7
Heb. 1:12 – Ps. 102:25-27
Heb. 1:13 – Ps. 110:1 

These are many passages in the Old Testament that point to Jesus. There are many in Isaiah.  Just to name a few:
Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 35:3-6, Isaiah 53:5-7  One of my favorites is Isaiah 53:6 “We all, like sheep has gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all”.

(Hebrews 2:1) Carries a warning to pay attention to what we’ve heard and not drift away.  What we have heard is that Jesus is the Son of God and He is to be worshiped.  He is the only way to God.

Many things in our culture today entice us to drift away.  Just look at TV programs, news, politics, movies and the list goes on.  They are really anti-Christ and where self-indulgence is glorified.  Drifting occurs when we don’t pay attention to Jesus (through God’s Word and communicating with God through prayer).  We’re held accountable for the truth we have been given. 

Red flags to help you identify if you are “drifting”:
            Is reading the bible just a chore?
            Are you more concerned with the affairs of the world than the heart of God?
            Do you not care if you miss church?

Stop now and let God know:           
            I want to care about what you care about.
            Please take my heart and mind to your Word.
            Make me want what you want for me.

How does the time you spend in the world compare to the time you spend with him and serving him?  Your spiritual gift is not just for you.  Ask God to show you the temporary scaffolding in your life that keeps you going. Take a step off of that temporary scaffolding to allow God to keep you secure.  Jesus is your sure foundation.

(Heb. 2:2-3)  The message given by angels is true and disobedience to the word of angels is dangerous.  How can we escape if we pay no attention to the great salvation?  How much more dangerous is it to be neglectful of words spoken by Jesus?

            Spiritual drifting results from neglecting Jesus, the anchor of hope. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Acts 15:1-35

 Acts 15:1-3 – The Dispute

Paul and Barnabas just finished an amazing journey preaching the gospel.  Many Gentiles were saved and the church grew.  But when a church is growing, you can always count on opposition.  The Jewish Christians didn’t like the fact that the Gentiles accepted salvation and did not have to do anything for it.  The Jerusalem Christians wanted them to obey the Law of Moses, which commanded circumcision.  They were also concerned that they would be overrun by Gentiles and their customs since they had very different backgrounds.  The men from Judea were called Judaizers and insisted the Gentile converts be circumcised. 

It would have been easy for Paul and Barnabas to just ignore this issue.  If they had, the church would have a large crack in it and there would be no absolute truth.  The gospel of Jesus plus anything else is not the true gospel.  If you find yourself in a controversy, be prepared.  Speak with God and spend time with Him.  This way you will grow closer to God.  We should also keep a joyful heart during controversy.   You worship God in the mist of it, which is a great defense.  We need to speak up when something attacks sound doctrine of the church not just for things that don’t really matter.  Don’t dwell on the small things and don’t get tied up in it - let the main thing be the main thing. 

1.      Conflict dealt with according to scripture through the power of the Holy Spirit leads to spiritual growth.

What conflict are you avoiding?  Will you ask God to be bold and speak out for you?  (1 Peter 3:15-16) – “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect.”

Acts 15:4-21 – The Discussion

Some believe that Galatians 2:1-10 is a picture of the meeting Paul, Barnabas and the others had with the Jewish council.  Paul opposed the circumcision of the Gentile Christians, because he was trying to teach them that Jesus was the only way to salvation - not the outward appearance of circumcision.  Peter told the brothers that God chose long ago the Gentiles would hear from his lips the message of the gospel and believe.  God made no distinction between Jews and Gentiles.  He purified their hearts by faith.

2.     Salvation comes only through faith in Jesus Christ.

Are you serving God just in case?  As you serve God examine your motives.  There is nothing we can do to earn a place in heaven.

Acts 15:22-35 – The Decision

James spoke to the council quoting scripture. (Amos 9:11-12)  He suggested they not make it difficult for the Gentles, but to compromise.  Instead, he suggested they write the Gentiles at Antioch and tell them to abstain from food polluted by idols, abstain from sexual immorality, and from eating meat of strangled animals and from blood.  They agreed and sent Judas and Silas with the letter.  When the letter was read, they were glad for its encouragement and Judas and Silas said much to encourage the believers.  Then they were sent back with blessings of peace. (Acts 15:19-34)

(Galatians 2:11-21)  Peter lived with the Gentiles and ate with them, but when the Jews came from Jerusalem, he was in a dilemma.  He knew they would disapprove of his actions.  So he refrained from eating with the Gentiles.  This caused confusion and was setting a bad example for new Christians.  Paul called him out on it and called him a hypocrite.  Peter was quick to see that Paul was prompted by the Holy Spirit and accepted his wisdom.  He received his rebuke with maturity for the sake of immature Christians.

How do you take public rebuke?  Will you receive it graciously?  How do we know when to speak up?  What’s your Motive?  Is it a Bible truth or your personal preference?

3.     Christian should strive for unity so that we can serve the Lord as one body.

The Holy Spirit is the same, but made each one of us different.  How much could you let go with the power of the Holy Spirit?  Ask God to help you see the bigger picture and let it go.  Ask God for boldness to speak to someone.  What can you give up for the sake of someone’s salvation?  It is a matter of life and death.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Acts 14

Poison Control - Acts 14:1-7

In Acts 13 Paul and Barnabas were removed from their ministry, but God created new opportunities to minister.  At Iconium Paul and Barnabas preached effectively and boldly because of the power of God and many Jews and Gentiles believed.  The bolder they became the more uncomfortable the Jews became.  Some refused to believe and stirred up trouble and turned the Gentiles against them.   

We get uncomfortable when we see God differently.  We are threatened and become controlling - just like them.   They thought they were following the Old Testament laws and it was probably hard for them to change their thinking.  They had centuries of tradition and now Jesus was changing everything.  But that didn’t stop Paul and Barnabas from speaking and performing miraculous signs and wonders.  In Matthew 10:34 Jesus said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”  Being a good person will not bring you into a relationship with God is insulting for some.

Paul and Barnabas left Iconium and fled to Lystra and Derbe.  Sometimes God says move and sometimes He says stay put.  God will give you information so you will go where He wants you to go. 

1.      A committed Christian encouragingly lives by God’s truth even when others refuse it.

The enemy is at work to poison our minds.  How are you being poisoned?  God is the ultimate “poison control center”.  God’s motives are love, goodness and grace and is willing to do anything to work on your behalf.  Contact the “poison control center” – He will give you courage.  Get into His Word and pray.  If in doubt, He will give you hope for tomorrow.  His “poison control center” will remove the poison from your thoughts. 

What is your immediate response when someone opposes you?  Are you worn out defending Jesus to your family or to your friends?  Don’t waste energy – just speak the message of truth like Paul and Barnabas.  God will tell you when to do it differently.  The gospel cannot be stopped!  Nothing can change God’s plan to spread it to the world.

Popularity Channeled - Acts 14:8-20

In Lystra as Paul preached, he saw a man crippled from birth.  Paul saw that he had faith and Paul healed him.  This doesn’t mean if you have faith you will be healed.  God does His will and He may choose not to heal.  Healing can occur when someone has no faith.  (Romans 10:17) - "... faith comes from hearing ...".   How is your faith evident to others? 

When the people saw this, they thought Paul and Barnabas were gods and wanted to offer sacrifices and worship them.  Paul knew if this spread, it would be very hard to convince people otherwise.  He told the people they were human just like them, bringing the good news and telling them to turn from these worthless things to the living God who made everything.  They were ignorant and needed to become knowledgeable of scripture and of God.

How do we know God is the Creator?  First because He says so.  Then just look around and see the sky, the stars, the moon, the sun, the oceans, etc.  (Romans 1:18-20)“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”  Paul mentioned the created world so they would realize how powerful God is and no one could do what He had done.

Some of the Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over.  They stoned Paul and left him for dead.  But the disciples gathered around him and I am sure they prayed earnestly.  Another answer to prayer - Paul got up and went back to the city.  This showed Paul’s determination and commitment in serving the Lord.  He went right back to preaching and didn’t give up.  This is one of many examples Paul gives us to live by.  He knew how they felt.  After all he use to persecute and kill Christians himself and God forgave him.  He had forgiveness, patience and love even for his enemies.

2.    A committed Christian’s response to adversity should point others to God.

Are you like one of those people Paul and Barnabas spoke to?  Is the Bible unfamiliar to you?  Will you yield to the Holy Spirit and accept Jesus as your Savior?

Personal Care - Acts 14:21-28

Paul shows his love and care for those he led to Christ:
Acts 14:21-23 – Paul encouraged disciples reminding them that they must endure hardships to enter kingdom of God.
2 Corinthians 7:3 – Paul said he would live and die for you.
Galatians 4:19 – Paul saw believers as dear children
1 Thessalonians 2:7-11 – Paul cares for believers as a mother and deals with them as a father.
1 Thessalonians 1:19-20 – The people are Paul’s hope, joy and glory.
1 Thessalonians 3:8 – Paul really lives when believers stand firm in the Lord.

3.    A committed Christian has a testimony about God that will strengthen and encourage the body of Christ.

Paul set a great example of never giving up.  He showed us an example of determination, commitment, and faith through hardships.  Paul and Barnabas strengthened and united the disciples by their examples.  They prayed and fasted, encouraged them to remain true to the faith.  We need to encourage others by telling them God loves them in all their circumstances.  Tell them you are praying for them.  It means a lot to me when someone says they are praying for me. And – don’t forget to pray. 

Every Christian should be involved with the body of Christ.  Churches are not perfect.  We need to pray and help strengthen our leaders.  How do you encourage others?  What leader could you encourage in your church?  Do you shepherd them with your time or your energy?