Sunday, November 27, 2016, 6:57 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “All Through the Night.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 13:44-14:7 (ESV).
Paul and Barnabas were sent out by the Holy Spirit to the work to which God had called them. They were in the city of Pisidian Antioch, where they had shared the gospel with the people at the synagogue the week prior. The people had invited them to come back the next week, so they were back. Yet, where God is blessing, and people are open to hearing the gospel of salvation preached, and where people are turning their hearts to Jesus Christ in faith, Satan is also at work trying to put doubts in the people’s minds.
They Brought Salvation (13:44-48)
The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,
“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.
In my world today, here in America, we have much opposition to the full gospel message, as well. And, a lot of that opposition is coming from within the institutional church and from within the government, even from those who claim to have faith in Jesus Christ.
It began in the institutional church, among evangelical Christians. From high levels of power and authority within church denominations it trickled down to individual congregations across denominations, which was amazing in and of itself. Soon, many Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, &/or C&MA churches, etc., all began teaching the same propaganda. Their visions for their congregations began to sound like carbon copies of one another, but it wasn’t because their visions were all coming from the Holy Spirit, but because they were coming from man, and from human marketing schemes and business techniques on how to build big churches (i.e. businesses).
Pastors who had been preaching the full gospel message were now avoiding words such as “sin,” “repentance,” “obedience,” and “judgment.” They were no longer teaching walking in the fear of the Lord. Now God was being presented as our good buddy or like a doting grandfather in the sky there to grant our every request, while we were being taught that God requires absolutely nothing of us – no repentance, no submission to the cross, no obedience, and no surrender to God’s will for our lives. There was no more death to sin and self; no more preaching on holiness, righteousness, and walking in the Spirit as opposed to walking according to our sinful flesh. God’s grace simply became a get-out-of-jail-free card to escape hell, if hell was even mentioned, and it became a free ride into heaven based on a lie.
In order to discredit the full gospel message, as Jesus taught it, and as his NT apostles taught it, they had to narrow the gospel down to very few scriptures, largely taken out of context, which they felt supported their theology, while they ignored the bulk of teaching in scripture related to the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They diluted the gospel in order to make it more attractive, appealing and acceptable to the world, because part of their business and marketing techniques and plans for building their businesses was to do what was necessary to draw into the “church” large crowds of people from the world, and to make the “church” comfortable so the world would “feel at home” there and so they would come back.
They also, in order to promote and convince people to follow their false grace gospel, had to go on an all-out attack against the full gospel message and its messengers by convincing their listeners that “repentance,” “submission,” “obedience,” and even “holiness” and “righteousness” were not necessary, because they classified them all under “works-based” salvation. And, so, if you teach the full (undiluted) gospel, you are tagged as one who is teaching “works-based” salvation, and not salvation by grace alone. They have so convinced so many professing Christians of this that they are being trained to turn a deaf ear when you begin to teach repentance, obedience, and the like. And, yet, we must continue to teach people the truth of the gospel, because their eternity depends on it.
They Spread the Word (13:49-52)
And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
So, what is the “word of the Lord” the apostles taught? Paul taught belief in Jesus means we died to sin. Our old self was crucified with Christ so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Thus, we are to count ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. We are no longer to offer our bodies to sin, but we are to offer ourselves to God as instruments of righteousness. Sin should no longer be our master. When we are set free from sin, we are to be slaves to God. The benefit we reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life (See: Ro. 6:1-23).
Paul also taught that Jesus died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk no longer according to the flesh, but who walk (conduct our lives) according to the Spirit. He said that we have an obligation, but it is not to the sinful nature to live according to it. “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (See: Ro. 8:1-14). And, he taught that Jesus died that we should no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us, and that Jesus became sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Co. 5:15, 21). True salvation results in a change of heart, mind, attitude, actions and behavior (lifestyle).
Paul also taught that coming to Christ means we put off our old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires, we are made new in the attitude of our minds (repentance), and we put on the new self, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (See: Eph. 4:17-24). He taught not that God’s grace was free license to continue in sin, but that it teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s soon return (Tit. 2:11-14). As well, Peter taught that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). And, John said that if we say we have fellowship with God while we walk (conduct our lives) in the darkness (sin), we are liars, and the truth is not in us (1 Jn. 1:6).
And, when we teach what the apostles taught, which was also what Jesus taught, we, too, will be hated and persecuted, spoken evil against, falsely accused, kicked out of institutional churches, rebuked harshly, and be forsaken, forgotten, despised, ostracized, rejected, etc. But, we can’t let it get to us. If they reject the message, just share it with someone else who will listen. Not everyone has ears that are stopped up and eyes that refuse to see the truth, though many do these days.
They Spoke Boldly for Jesus (14:1-7)
Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles. When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country, and there they continued to preach the gospel.
I love this! It says that the unbelievers stirred up people (who might have otherwise listened and believed), and they poisoned their minds against the truth. And, that is exactly what is happening today, in spades, i.e. to a very high degree! But, that is not the part I love, obviously. It is that the apostles, despite this opposition, remained for a “long time, speaking boldly for the Lord.” Awesome! Sometimes the Lord has us shake the dust off our feet and move on to someplace else, when we face great opposition, and other times he has us remain right where we are and stand strong in our fight and keep on preaching the truth, even against great opposition. So, we need wisdom from above to know when to leave and when to remain.
Those who opposed Jesus the strongest were the leaders in the temple, much like our pastors today. Yet, the Jews had their own form of government, so these leaders often served in positions of governmental rule, as well, such as in the Sanhedrin, which was a ruling council of the Jews. And, we, too, will face much opposition from leaders within the church as well as from governmental officials, many of whom also profess to believe in Jesus Christ, at least here in America they do.
And, now it isn’t that they are just diluting the gospel, to make it more appealing to the world, but now they are pushing a one-world government and one-world religion. The message being pushed by these leaders, across the globe, is that we need to break down everything which divides us as the people of the world, and we need to be one united people, with one voice and one heart, and with a shared purpose and a common resolve. And, guess who has joined in on this chorus? Yes, it is our president-elect, Donald Trump, who had been promoting himself as an outsider, and one who was anti-establishment, and who was going to change things in Washington. He, too, is singing the same song. And, the song is against Christians. So, get ready for some serious persecution of Christians here in America.
All Through the Night / An Original Work / December 7, 2013
Based off Various Scriptures
Blessed are you when you’re persecuted
Because of your faith in Jesus Christ.
Blessed are you when people insult you,
And falsely say what leads folks to doubt.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is
Great in the heavens. You’re not alone.
When you are persecuted in one place,
Flee to another. God will be there.
You will be hated by all the nations
Because you testify of God’s grace.
Many will seize you and persecute you,
And put to death the foll’wers of Christ.
Yet, do not fear what humans may do to you,
For I’m with you all through the night.
I tell you, love your enemies with my love,
And forgive as I forgave you.
Pray for those who do evil against you.
Rest in my love and grace from above.