Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Acts 21:15 - 28:31

Acts 21:15- 40 – 23:1-35 – Testifying while in Trouble
Principle:  Jesus Christ provides His presence and promises to encourage and direct us in our troubles.

Paul arrived in Jerusalem and found James and other elders.  Many Jews were believers now, but still were zealous for the law.  They believed in circumcision.  They had heard that Paul taught to turn away from Moses’ Law and that Jewish Christians should not do circumcision, but this was not true.  Paul taught that it did not matter to God, if they were circumcised or not.  James and the other were going to go through seven days of purification rites by having their heads shaved and invited Paul to join them, which he did.  This showed loyalty for the Jewish vows and was supporting James and the others.  As we learned earlier in 1 Corinthians, Paul believed in becoming all things to all people.  To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.  To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.”1 Cor. 9:20

As a result of Paul being in the temple at Jerusalem word spread that he had brought a Gentile into the temple, which he had not.  This offended the legalistic Jews and they stirred up the crowd against him.  They seized and dragged him from the temple trying to kill him, but Roman troops stopped them and took him to prison.  Roman law didn’t allow people to be killed without a trial.  Paul was allowed to speak to the crowd.  He told them he was a Jew and was not against the Jewish religion.  In the past he had been very eager to obey God thinking it was ok to arrest and persecute Christians.  Then he told them of his conversion on the road to Damascus.  Paul told them that God wanted the Gentiles to know Him, too and they didn’t have to be a Jew.  This made the crowd very angry again and again they tried to kill him.  Paul told them he was a Roman citizen.  It was illegal to flog a Roman citizen so he was brought before the Sanhedrin for trial. 

Acts 23:1-6 shows the quality of Paul’s life with God.  He lived a godly life and obeyed God in all things.  He never made excuses for the truth.  It also shows Paul had a quick temper, but a keen sense of justice.  When the high priest Ananias ordered Paul to be struck in the mouth, Paul accused him of being a hypocrite and that he was violating the law himself.  Then it shows that Paul was submissive to man under God when he was told that Ananias was a high priest.  Paul backed down and submitted to his authority.  He quoted Ex. 22:28 “Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.”  They couldn’t find any reason to kill Paul, but still kept him in prison.  Paul was alone in chains, but a believer is never really alone.  God was with Paul and comforted him.  He spoke to him telling him to take courage and that he had more work to do by testifying for Him in Rome.

How are you being persecuted?
Can you admit you are sorry for something you’ve said?
How has God been a comfort to you?
Where do you need God’s comfort in your witness?
When trouble comes, where do you turn?
Will you testify in trouble?

Acts 24-26 – Testifying While in Waiting
Principle:  Crisis reveals our character.

Paul was brought before the governor, Felix.  Felix was the most depraved man of his time.  Paul defends himself again and presented Jesus as the Messiah and describing his conversion.  As most politicians Felix wanted to please everyone.  He made no decision and kept Paul in prison for two years hoping Paul would try to bribe him.  God arranged for Paul to speak the gospel to Felix for those two years.  Festus succeeded Felix, but kept Paul in prison.  Then Paul had another trial before Festus.  He spoke again.  Festus consulted King Agrippa as to what to do with Paul.  He was brought before the king and Paul was allowed again to plead his case again.  It was decided that he did not do anything that deserves death or imprisonment. 

In Paul’s message before the king he told his aim when he gave the gospel to the Gentiles.  He wanted to “… open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”Acts 26:16-18.

Acts 27-28 – Testifying in the Unexpected
Principle:  God’s will for spreading the Gospel cannot be thwarted.

Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius and they sailed for Rome.  His troubles never seem to stop.  A hurricane came about and they were in fear for their lives.  Paul began his trip as a prisoner and became a leader and an encourager.  They became shipwrecked and had to swim to an island shore.  Paul’s leadership continued from ship to land.  God had a plan for Paul.  For three months he healed and preached on the island.  Paul eventually made it to Rome where he was allowed to live and to preach.  He was chained and under house arrest for two years preaching without hindrance.  Nothing can stop God.  His hands were chained, but the gospel is never chained!  Paul never gave up and continued to be a witness for God.  He was committed to God and always obeyed Him.  In Rome he explained the kingdom of God and tried to convince them to believe.  He wanted the people to understand the truth about Jesus Christ.  He quoted Isaiah 6:9-10.  Some did not believe, but some did.  Paul never stopped sharing the gospel.

God protected Paul through all his troubles by bringing the plot against him to light, by not allowing the crowd to kill him, by keeping him in prison where he was safe, saving him when shipwrecked, and allowing him to preach in chains without hindrance.  Paul demonstrated Christ-like traits during all his trials.  He was calm and trusted God during the storm.  He never stopped obeying God and witnessing for Jesus through messages before the people, the governors and the king.  He showed great courage and perseverance.  The only way he was able to do that was through faith and trust in God.

What kind of faith do you have in a storm?
Are committed are you?
How much do you trust God?
Have you given up on God?
Is life too much for you to bear?

God will protect you as He did Paul.  So put your faith and trust in Him.  Sometimes it may not seem He is there during your crisis, but He is.  He keeps His promises.  God will use trouble, waiting and the unexpected to show who He is.  Do you realize that Paul’s effort and direction is why you and I know who Jesus is?  You and I are writing the next story of Acts.  Our lives are to be about one thing – glorifying God.  He is the main emphasis of our story.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

2 Peter and Jude

2 Peter 1 and Jude 1-2 – Growing in Truth
Principle:  Believers grow in faith and Christ-like virtue by obeying God’s Word.
2 Peter 2 and Jude 3-16 – Contending for Faith
Principle:  Believers can only contend for faith and reject false teaching by knowing God’s Word.
1 Peter 3 and Jude 17-25 – Living for Christ’s Return
Principle:  Living for return of Christ involves preparing other for His arrival.

Peter writes this letter knowing he would die soon.  He died on a cross about 35 years after Jesus ascended to heaven.  He wrote to the same Christians as his first letter.  They were not only in danger of persecution, but in danger of being confused by false teaching.  He taught that in the last days there would be many scoffers not believing that Jesus would return, but that He would come when they least expected it – like a thief in the night.  They were to stand firm in their faith and be on guard so they would not be deceived. 

2 Peter 1
He opens his letter with grace and peace to them, because he wanted them to have more of it through the knowledge of God and of Jesus.  This is a very clear statement of the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Grace means God’s kindness to people who do not deserve it.  It means that God loves and forgives and that He helps and protects His people.  Peace is the opposite of war.  God gives Christians a quiet spirit that is in every part of a person’s life and relationships.  We have peace with God and with each other.  No one can have true peace without grace.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has give us his very great and precious promises…”(2 Peter 1:3-4).  His great and precious promises are:  that we will be delivered from a corrupt world and our evil desires, we are renewed in Him, God dwells in us, He’s made us holy, the glory that is to come, we’re saved by grace, we’re heirs with Christ, He loves us in spite of our failures, He will meet our every need, He will return and many many more.  He has given us everything we need to live a holy life.

Peter describes the character of a Christian.  “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.”(2 Peter 1:5-7).  Does your faith reflect these virtues?  He wants them to be all the more eager to make their calling and election sure.  If they do these things, they will never fall and will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord. 

He is reminding them to refresh their memory, because he knew he would die soon. – (2 Peter 1:14).  Peter has true knowledge speaking the truth about the power and coming of Jesus Christ, because he and others were eyewitnesses of His majesty.  He was there when Jesus received honor and glory from God in His transfiguration, when a voice came down from heaven and said, “This is my Son, whom I am well pleased.”(2 Peter 1:16-21).  We have the words of prophets and should pay attention to them.  “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture come about by the prophet’s own interpretation.  For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”(2 Peter 1:20-21).

How would people tell that you have true knowledge of Jesus Christ?
Can they tell by the fruit in your life?

2 Peter 2
Peter warned the Christians about false teachers.  There will be wide-spread success of these false teachers and many will follow their shameful ways.  They will dispute the truth of God.  They are greedy and will exploit with made up stories.  Several times Peter said that God will punish them severely.   He says that false teachers bring swift destruction from God on themselves. – (2 Peter 2:2-3).  God will punish them.  They offer cheap grace.  God’s grace is costly.

God didn’t even spare wicked angels when they sinned, but sent them to Hell or Tartarus (the very lowest pit). – (2 Peter 2:4; Gen. 6:4; Jude 6).  God brought judgment to the ungodly by sending the flood upon the world, but saved Noah who was a preacher of righteousness and his family. – (2 Peter 2:5; Gen. 6-7).  He punished Sodom and Gomorrah for their sexual immorality.  He turned Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes by raining on them fire and brimstone. – (2 Peter 2:6; Gen. 18-19). 

False teachers satisfy the wicked desires of their bodies.  They do not obey authority, especially God’s authority.  They do what they want.  They pretend to know a lot about God, but know little.  They have no moral standards.  They are greedy and never stop sinning.  They are compared to animals.  God will destroy them. – (2  Peter 2:10-22).

“If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.  It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.”(2 Peter 2:20-21).  This means they were never true children of God.  True believers cannot lose their salvation!  They had no inward new birth and no transformation took place.  They professed to know the Lord, but did not forsake their evil ways.  They never accepted Jesus with a living faith.  This describes many false teachers today.  They think they know Jesus, but were never born again or experienced real salvation.

There were false teachers even in the church.  There are still false teachers in the church today.  So Christians should heed Peter’s warning.  Why are people willing to listen?  It is very sad that many people are willing to listen to false teachings and will follow.  False teachers appeal to the lustful desires of human nature.  They entice people and make promises they can’t keep.  People don’t listen to the truth, because they don’t like what they hear.  People don’t want to hear about Hell.  They think they are good people.  They say the Bible is not true today.  They reason that God is a good God, but Jesus can’t be the only way.  They say that God doesn’t care if they go to church.  They think they deserve to be happy and don’t deserve the wrath of God.

What are you venerable for false teaching because your faith is weak?
How can we avoid being deceived?  Know the Word of God and don’t fall for the lies.  Stay in His Word and pray often.
How do you stand attacks on your faith?

2 Peter 3
Peter is writing this letter as reminders to stimulate wholesome thinking.  He wanted them to remember the words of the prophets and the command of the Lord that in the last days there would be many false teachers. – (2 Peter 3:1-3).  They will ridicule and scoff at the idea that Jesus will return.  A scoffer is one who mocks the truth.  Do you know any scoffers?

When is He coming?  But do not forget this one thing, dear friends:  With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”(2 Peter 3:8-9).  Bear in mind that the Lord’s patience means salvation. – (2 Peter 3:15-16).  The Day of the Lord is coming and we need to be prepared.  We should live holy and godly lives as we look forward to His coming. – (2 Peter 3:11-13).  We should make every effort to be found spotless and blameless. – (2 Peter 3:14).  We should be on guard so we won’t be deceived by lawless men and fall from our secure position. – (2 Peter 3:17-18).

Jude was a brother of Jesus.  His letter is much like Peter’s warning Christians about false teachers and wanted them to look forward to the last days, because God promised to multiply His grace, peace and mercy.

As in Peter Jude reminds us of three lessons of the past.  1) God delivered the Israelites from Egypt, but destroyed those who did not believe; 2) Angels who did not keep their positions of authority were punished; 3) God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah by fire for their sins. – (Jude 5-7).

Jude lists the sins of false teachers.  They pollute their bodies, reject authority, slander celestial beings, speak against what they do not understand, they are like Cain, they are blemishes, feeding only themselves, they are clouds without rain and trees without fruit. – (Jude 8-13).  God’s judgment will come on them and they will be cast into Hell forever.  They are always complaining and finding fault with others.  They are greedy and prideful.  They follow their own desires and boast about themselves. – (Jude 16).  These false teachers will suffer God’s punishment and will be cast into Hell forever.

Do you know anyone like that?
Do you grumble and complain?
Do you blame on others?

Jude gives us advice of how to persevere.  We are to remember what the apostles foretold.  We are to build ourselves up in our most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.  We are to keep ourselves in God’s love as we wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring us to eternal life.  We are to be help weaker believers who doubt. – (Jude 17-22).

Jude ends his letter with four qualities of God:  God’s glory, God’s majesty, God’s power, God’s authority.  He reminds us that God is all powerful now and always.  Now and always emphasizes God’s total and complete command of everything.

Are you prepared for Jesus’ return?
If He comes tonight, where will you go – Heaven or Hell?
How will you discern between truth and lies?
Do you minimize sin in your life?
Do you live afraid of Judgment Day?
How will you help prepare others for His coming?

Don’t be afraid of these attacks on your faith.  Be prepared!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

1 Peter 3 - 5

1 Peter 3:1-7 – Submission

Chapter 3
Here we go again more scripture on submitting so it must be important to God.  “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives,”(1 Peter 3:1).  In chapter 2 slaves are to submit to their masters and we are to submit to authorities.  In the same way, wives are to submit to husbands according to the example of Jesus.   Submission does not mean to put a husband in place of Christ.  It doesn’t mean to give up independent thinking, to give up efforts to influence her husband, or to give in to every demand of her husband.  It’s not based on less intelligence or competence.  It is not meant for wives to be fearful and timid.  It definitely doesn’t mean wives are not equal in Christ.  Instead what it does mean is to have a quality of gentleness affirming the leadership of her husband, being obedient like Sarah and acknowledging authority.  Wives should submit without nagging.  Marriage is very important to God and submission is a command of God.  God’s established the order of the family.   God’s hierarchy is God, Christ, man, and woman.  Wives don’t submit because your husband deserves it, but because our Lord Jesus Christ deserves it.  It’s not that you love your husband that much, but because you love Jesus more.

Peter warns that beauty should not come from our outward adornment, but it’s the inner beauty that counts.  We should have a gentle quiet spirit, which produces kind words and gentle actions and look to past examples like Sarah who obeyed Abraham.  Outward beauty focuses attention to ourselves.  Inward beauty focuses on Jesus.

Also husbands should be considerate and have respect for their wives.  It’s hard to submit when there is no respect.  Women are usually the weaker sex so husbands need to love and protect them.  Husbands should understand her spiritual, physical, and emotional needs.

Christ-like submission in marriage reveals the heart of God to our husband and family.

What do you need God to how you to submit to your husband?
What are you nagging your husband about?
Who will you pray for?  When you pray for someone, you love them more and more.
Who is your role model?  Is it the girls on the magazine cover?
Does your refection in the mirror matter most or your refection in Christ?
What will you change to be obedient to the Lord?

1 Peter 3:8-4:9 – Suffering

Peter describes several desirable characteristics for Christians when dealing with each other.  Christians are to live in harmony, be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble and not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing. – (1 Peter 3:8-9).  We should talk out problems calmly, make every effort to carry each other’s troubles and burdens, recognize others’ sorrows, be sensitive to the feelings of others and desire only the good for others.  We as Christians have benefits for our Christlike behavior.  We inherit a blessing, the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, His ears hear our prayers, and He is on our side and is against those who do evil. – (1 Peter 3:9-12).

1 Peter 3:13-17 reminds us as Christians how to suffer for righteousness sake.  We are not to be afraid of whatever persecutors may do or say, because He is set apart in our hearts and is ruler and has all authority.  We are always to be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks for the reason for our hope.  We are to do this in gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.

Is your life generating anyone’s curiosity?
Can you describe the faithfulness of God even when you are suffering?  Our response to suffering opens doors to be a witness for God.

1 Peter 3:19-20“… he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago…”  There are various interpretations of the spirits this verse. 1) spirits in prison between His death and resurrection, Christ offered salvation to those in Hades who missed it on earth (see Matt. 25:31-46; 2 Co. 5:10);  2) or at that time, He preached to angels that sinned;  3) or before the flood, Christ’s Spirit through Noah preached to people then living (Noah was a preacher of righteousness, 2 Peter 2:5);  4) or spirits were in prison of sin before the flood;  5) or spirits were in prison when Peter wrote.  I think these spirits in prison are fallen angels held in prison waiting for judgment – see Jude 6, 2 Peter 2:4-5, 9.  He went there to proclaim His victory over sin and to declare His finished work, not to share the gospel.

Chapter 4
We are to live for God.  We are not to live with earthly desires like pagans who live in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.  Pagans are those who don’t follow God.  They will be judged because they refused salvation.  Jesus carried the sins of the world, but they chose to carry their own and will be judged for it.  He wants people to know Him so much that He was willing to die for all and He wants everyone to be saved. 

We are to live responsibly until Christ’s return.  We are to be clear minded and self-controlled so that we can pray.  We are to love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  To cover sin is to forgive them.  “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” – (Ps. 32:1).  We are to offer hospitality without grumbling and use whatever gifts we have to serve others.  “Do everything without complaining and arguing”(Phil. 2:14).  When we speak, we are to speak as if they were the very words of God.  When serving, we should do it with the strength God provides so God will be praised and glorified. – (1 Peter 4:7-11).

How do you show love toward others?
How is it possible to obey all these commands?  It is possible by the power of the Lord.

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering….”(1 Peter 4:12).  We as followers of Christ will suffer, but there are advantages of our suffering.  We will be overjoyed for our suffering when Jesus returns.  If we are insulted because of the name of Christ, we are blessed for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on us. – (1 Peter 4:13-19).

Believers’ suffering for obedience to God's will are blessed by entrusting themselves to God.

How might you be completely faithful?
Are you alert and notice needs of others around you?

Your suffering may have redemptive value for someone else.  Knowing that, how will you respond?  We lead by suffering and we serve by suffering.  Sincere submission requires humility.  Suffering produces patience.  Suffering is a way that God blesses us.  He uses suffering for our benefit by purify us through it.

How are you suffering right now?  God knows your pain.  He cares for you.  You are not alone.  He will bring you strength to get through it.

Chapter 5
Pastoral leadership was important then as it is now.  Elders are teachers and leaders of the church and are examples and instructors of faith.  They are not to be proud and think they are the boss, but are there to serve others.  They are to be shepherds like the Chief Shepherd, Jesus.  Christians, especially new Christians need their encouragement and support.  They will be rewarded with a crown glory that will never fade away. – (1 Peter 5:4). 

If you are a leader in your church, what is your attitude? 
Are you honoring your Saviors’ example?
Are you serving in humility?

Younger people should show humility and have a submissive spirit to older Christians.  They should treat them with respect for their knowledge, maturity, and experiences.

We are to give all our worries to God.  Cast all our anxiety on him because he cares for you.”(Peter 5:7).  A proud person does not cast his anxiety on anyone.  They think they can do it alone.  We are to be humble in the sight of the Lord.  We must trust that God will take care of us in every situation.  We are to be self-controlled and alert, resist the devil, and stand firm in the faith.  Satan is just waiting for Christians to become lazy.  He is out to deceive and destroy.  He is the enemy and opposes Christians.  He wants us to fail.  Christians must fight the devil and not give in.  We must trust God and be strong.  Peter wants us to know that the attacks of the devil will not last, but the Glory of Christ will never end.

Peter started his letter with a greeting of peace saying, “Grace and peace be yours in abundance.”(1 Peter 1:2).  Now he closes with a greeting of peace.  “Peace to all of you who are in Christ.”(1 Peter 5:14).  Because of Christ, they can know God’s gift of peace in their lives even in difficult times.

God’s grace makes us strong and steadfast when we humbly submit to Him.

What worry do you need to submit to God?  Stand on the promises of God.  He promises to restore you when you suffer.