Monday, November 28, 2016, 9:26 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Give Ear to Jesus.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 14:8-15 (NIV).
He Saw He Had Faith (vv. 8-10)
In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.
What do you suppose Paul saw in this man that assured him this man had the faith to be healed? He must have had a look of expectation in his eyes, in his facial expression, and in his body language. The man had been listening to Paul as he preached the good news about Jesus. Perhaps the Holy Spirit had been convicting the man’s heart as Paul preached, and the man was already responding in his heart to the Spirit’s voice, and so Paul could see this in his eyes, and in his countenance, as well. We don’t know for sure, but something about the man told Paul that this man had faith.
Thinking about what this man’s faith looked like then brought me to wondering what our faith looks like when we believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives. What would tell someone else that we have genuine faith in Christ? What about us should be different? In what ways should we stand out to other people as those who are believers in Jesus in contrast to those who are not believers? And, would we be able to sustain the character? If someone demanded evidence by our actions that we truly have faith, what would that evidence be? For the lame man, he jumped on his feet, and he began to walk. That is pretty solid evidence, I would say.
And, that brings me to my opening question: What is faith? I hear so many people talk about believing in Jesus, but the way they describe it, it sounds like a one-time emotional decision made at an altar, or words they repeated after someone else in saying a prayer, or an intellectual assent to who Jesus is, to why he died, and a mental acceptance that he came to save us from our sins and to offer us forgiveness. But, is that what the Bible teaches?
This man’s heart response to the hope he was given that he could be healed was physically obvious, and it was followed up with action, which then proved his faith to be genuine. Is that the way it works with saving faith? I believe it does.
Making Idols of Men (vv. 11-13)
When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.
Sometimes people’s response to the preaching of the gospel, or to the preaching of a false gospel, is to fall in love, in a sense, with the one who brought them the good news, rather than falling in love with Jesus. The preacher they can physically see, and physically interact with, and they can witness his (or her) personality. Thus, they may find themselves more drawn to the man (or woman) than to God. When someone is kind to us or helps us in some way, or does something miraculous in our lives, we may misdirect our praise and admiration to human beings, who are only instruments of God, if they are his true messengers, and we may begin to follow them instead of following Jesus. So, we need to guard against this.
In today’s modern church, many people are following men as idols rather than following Jesus. They are listening more to the words of humans, rather than to the words of God, or else they are expecting humans to interpret God’s words for them, rather than going directly to the source and hearing from God themselves. This is nothing new, though. They had the same problem in the early church. Yet, today, I think it is even a greater problem because many pastors have become entertainers who try to win people over through their captivating personalities, their charm and their humor. They draw the people to themselves often instead of drawing them to Christ. So, we need to make sure we not putting humans above or in place of God.
Turn from Worthless Things (vv. 14-15)
But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them.
Going back to the question of “What is faith?”, notice with me here that when Paul and Barnabas brought the people the “good news,” they told them to turn from these worthless things to the living God. This is what it means to have faith, i.e. it means to have our blinded eyes opened, and to be turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so we might receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ (See: Acts 26:16-18).
In Romans 6 Paul described faith in Jesus Christ in these terms: We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? We know that our old self was crucified with him 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. Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves of righteousness. Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life (See: Ro. 6:1-23).
And, in Romans 8 he described faith in this way: God sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. 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 are putting 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, in Ephesians 4 he described faith in Jesus in this way: Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (See: Eph. 4:17-24).
Jesus said the same thing. He said that if we want to come after him, we must deny self, take up our cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. He said if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self) we will lose them (die in our sins), but if we lose our lives for Christ (die with him to sin), we will gain eternal life (See: Lu. 9:23-25). He also said that his sheep listen to him, he knows them, and they follow (obey) him (Jn. 10).
So, you see, faith in Jesus Christ is not just words we say or a mere acceptance of what Jesus did for us in dying for our sins, but true faith in Jesus means we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life; and that we die to sin and live to righteousness. This is why Jesus died, that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (2 Co. 5:15).
Give Ear to Jesus / An Original Work
Based off Isaiah 55 / February 16, 2016
Call on your Savior.
Seek the Lord while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way;
Turn to the Lord.
God will have mercy.
He’ll forgive you of your sin.
He will freely pardon you
And give peace within.
Turn from your sin, follow Jesus,
Be cleansed from sin.
Give ear to Jesus.
Come to Him. Your soul will live.
Listen to Him speaking to you:
“Eat what is good.”
If you are thirsty,
Come to Jesus, drink from Him.
Drink His Spirit given to you.
Be born again.
Listen to Him. Do what He says.
Rejoice in Him.
God’s Word, eternal,
Will achieve what He desires.
He is willing none should perish,
Saved by His blood.
Share now the gospel.
Jesus died so we’d go free.
Walk in vict’ry,
Free from your sin, eternally.
Die to sin, and live to Jesus.
In Him believe.