Another King, Jesus

Today’s reading is Acts 17.

When the Jews wanted to bring charges against Paul, Silas, and the Christians, they turned to a favored ploy. “They are acting against Caesar. They are saying there is another king, Jesus.” Hmmm. Do you remember when the Jews wanted to have Jesus crucified? “We have no king but Caesar,” they shouted. Once again, these Jews, who were actually hoping for a Messiah to come, conquer Rome, drive out Caesar, and establish Israel as the world dominating nation, want to get the Christians in trouble for calling Jesus king. But let’s not miss that they could base that on something. The Christians really were saying there is another king. That King is Jesus. Caesar is not the ultimate king. And while surrendering to King Jesus does not mean becoming militantly subversive to the earthly kingdom in which the Christians lived, it really does mean something to call Jesus King. Jesus is really and truly our King. He is not just kind-of our King. He is not a puppet King or a figurehead. He is not a King in title only. He is our ruler. He gets to tell us how to live. He gets to direct us. And why wouldn’t we want Him to do that. After all, He is not only our King, He is our deliverer, our savior. You can’t have a much better King than that. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 17.

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Listen to the Lord

Today’s reading is Acts 7.

We’ve been swimming in the deep end of Stephen’s sermon throughout the week. Let’s rise up, get some fresh air, and get down to the final point. Throughout history God had worked through various men and in various places. What made it all successful was the hand of the Lord, not the people He used or the places He met them. The faith of the people should not be in holy men or holy place, but in the God who made them holy. But Israel had made a mistake over and over and over again. They were stiff-necked and uncircumcised of heart and ears. Just as the brothers had rejected Joseph, just as the Israelites rejected Moses, just as the Israelites rejected God at Mt. Sinai, they were now rejecting Jesus–the one God had chosen to be their redeemer and ruler. They persecuted all the prophets (think especially Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah). They killed those who announced the coming Messiah. It is, therefore, not surprising that they killed the Messiah Himself. And sadly, though these Jews had received the Law as if it were delivered to them as if from angels, they were about to do with this man, who had the appearance of an angel (see Acts 6:15), what they had done with the prophets and the Messiah. They were going to stubbornly reject his words, turn on him, and kill him. So now we have a choice. We will either listen to the Lord or we won’t. We will either soften our hearts and surrender to the Prophet. Or we won’t. I hope you get the message. The only viable option is this: Listen to the Lord. He is King. He is Priest. He is Prophet. He is Redeemer. He is Ruler. Hear Him.

Next week’s reading is Acts 8.

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The Prophet

Today’s reading is Acts 7.

If you have been able to read with us earlier in the week, you’ve already noticed some great parallels between Moses and Jesus. Both were rejected by their brethren. Both performed signs and wonders. Both were raised up by God to be the ruler and redeemer of His people. In the midst of all this, Stephen brings to mind a promise given by Moses: “God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.” Moses had promised this. In other words, allowing another prophet to come along and supersede Moses was not rejecting Moses at all, but believing him. However, the Israelites were making their same mistake over again. But it is an interesting and subtle mistake. Israel didn’t worship the golden calf because they had no trust for Moses or because they hated him or because they simply rejected him. It is actually trickier than that. The problem was the people got scared because it seemed to them Moses had disappeared. They had a leader they had followed and trusted, but now he had gone up into the mountain and been gone for 40 days. It may be that God had even killed him up on that fiery mountain. Rather than trusting God, who had just told them not to make idols, they had put their trust in Moses. Because Moses wasn’t coming back, they freaked out and rejected God. What happened here? It wasn’t that they didn’t trust Moses, it was that they put too much trust in Moses and the devil was able to twist that very trust to get Israel to abandon God for idols. In Stephen’s day, they were doing the same thing again. They were putting too much trust in the man Moses, and the devil was twisting that trust to get the people to ignore the very words of the man they supposedly trusted. He had said the Prophet was coming. He had said they should listen to the Prophet. But the people weren’t listening to him. What an amazing and shocking twist. It also shows how the devil works. He is subtle and crafty. His tricks run deep. The point for us is Jesus is the Prophet. Jesus is the one God was bringing. Don’t put your faith in Moses the man, but in the God who spoke through him. We have a Prophet. We have a Redeemer. We have a Ruler. His name is Jesus. Let’s put our faith in Him.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 7.

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Who Was David Talking About?

Today’s reading is Acts 2.

Peter quotes Psalm 16:8-11, from the writings of David. When we read Psalm 16, it certainly seems David was talking about himself. Of course, in talking about himself, we recognize there is hyperbole; that is, exaggeration used to clarify or highlight the point. David wasn’t saying he personally would never die or that his body would never be buried. In reference to himself, he was discussing the great blessing of life God gave David by protecting him and delivering him from his enemies. God delivered him from Goliath, from Saul, from Absalom, from so many enemies who would have dragged David down to death. However, we cannot apply these statements literally and absolutely to David. As Peter points out, he could actually take the Jews there in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost to the very spot where David was buried. Thus, Peter says, David wasn’t actually talking about himself, but was talking about the ultimate descendant of his that God would place on the throne. That descendant would not remain in the realm of the dead. That descendant would be raised from the dead. That descendant, Peter says, is Jesus. Peter was not asking the people to believe Jesus was raised from the dead because of what David said in Psalm 16. Rather, he was asking people to believe his testimony as an eye-witness and that the people should recognize Peter and the apostles as valid eye-witnesses because of the amazing miracles that had surrounded their preaching on that day. He is quoting David in Psalm 16 to say, “I know what I’m saying about Jesus sounds odd, but we should have known something like this would happen. David said it would. Believe David. Believe me. Believe the signs.” Who was David talking about? Now that we’ve seen Jesus rise from the dead, we know exactly who he was talking about. He was talking about Jesus. Believe Jesus.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 2.

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A Sequel

Today’s reading is Acts 1.

“In the first book,” Luke begins reminding us that Acts is a sequel. In the first book, Luke dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach. This implies that the book we are about to read is about all Jesus is going to continue to do and teach. This isn’t really the Acts of the Apostles, it is the Acts of Jesus. Of course, Jesus isn’t physically present, rather He is working through the apostles and through the church that gets established. But that reminds us exactly what the church is. It is Christ’s body. The church is the incarnation of Christ in the world today. With that in mind, “Acts” is continuing on today. In a real sense, we are part of the sequel. It is not being recorded in Luke’s account, but it is being recorded in heaven. Christ is the head, we are His body. In our doing and teaching, when we follow where the head leads, Christ is continuing to act in the world today. Let’s be Jesus today.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 1.

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He Is Not Here, But Has Risen

Today’s reading is Luke 24.

“While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.'”

What else do we need to say?

He is risen. He is risen indeed!

Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 24.

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Simon: A Picture of Discipleship

Today’s reading is Luke 23.

Yesterday’s picture of discipleship was great, wasn’t it? Learning that Barabbas is us and we are Barabbas is just awesome. Jesus died in my place so I don’t have to. Wow! Today’s picture is just as great, but we rarely see it that way. In fact, this is a picture many Christians forget and ignore. We love the picture of Barabbas. We rush through the picture of Simon of Cyrene. Here is a fellow seized by the Romans to bear a burden because they could do that to subject people. Now imagine in your mind’s eye watching these two men walking up Golgotha’s hill–Jesus leading the way with Simon following in His footsteps while carrying a cross. That is discipleship. Discipleship is not waving at Jesus as He walks up Calvary and then heading on our merry way. Discipleship is placing the cross on our shoulders and falling in line behind Jesus. He is still the one that does the dying, praise the Lord, but we carry the cross. We walk in His footsteps. We follow Him wherever He goes, even if it is up the hill of death. Bearing the cross is not merely going through some hardship. Bearing our cross is walking in Jesus’s footsteps. In today’s story and yesterday’s, we find the complete picture of discipleship, confessing Jesus as both Savior (the picture of Barabbas) and Lord (the picture of Simon). We take comfort in the salvation from His sacrifice, and we willingly lift up the cross to bring glory to His name.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 23.

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Looking for Signs

Today’s reading is Luke 23.

When my oldest daughter was a toddler, Marita and I had to learn an important lesson. We would teach her how to sing a little song or recite a memory verse or she would say something really cute, then we would put her on display as if she were a little puppy trained to perform tricks. At first, she played along. But at some point, even as a little child, she realized something wasn’t quite right about this. Then it was like pulling teeth from a chicken to get her to perform on command. At first, we would get upset and treat these infractions like a matter of respect, obedience, and submission. However, we came to realize God didn’t bless us with children to entertain us, impress you, or perform tricks on command. She was our child, not our pet. This is a lesson we need to learn about Jesus. Since the very beginning, some have treated Jesus like a trained pet who is supposed to perform tricks on command. This was Herod’s approach. He had heard about the signs Jesus had performed. Rather than wanting to meet Jesus in order to worship Him, learn from Him, or submit to Him, he wanted to meet Jesus in order to get Jesus to perform for him. Jesus wasn’t playing along because He is neither pet nor court jester. He is King. He has demonstrated plenty of signs. We can either accept them or reject them. We can believe the testimony or disbelieve. What we cannot do, however, is demand He perform on command as the condition for our submission. After all, demanding He perform for us is the exact opposite of us submitting, and it is the exact opposite of faith. If He did act that way, it wouldn’t lead us to the proper relationship with Him anyway. If you don’t want to believe the testimonies recorded of the numerous signs Jesus performed, that is your business. But, please, don’t make the egregious mistake that Jesus is not exactly what and who the Bible says He is simply because He won’t act like your trained pet. Because, if He did, then He wouldn’t be exactly what and who the Bible says He is, would He?

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 23.

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Beware Judas

Today’s reading is Luke 22.

What is up with Judas? How could this happen? Why did Jesus even let him into the group? There are plenty of opinions regarding how this happened. I think the most likely is Judas made it into the group because he was just as qualified to be in the group of disciples and apostles as the other 11. Think about it. We tend to see Judas through the negative lens because we know how the story ends for him. However, it is clear none of those who worked with him saw him that way. He was set up to be their keeper of the purse, the treasurer if you will. None of the other apostles questioned his sincerity and loyalty. When Jesus says someone at the table would betray Him, each disciple was concerned it would be himself. None of them said, “I knew you shouldn’t have let Judas in.” And this leads us to the warning we need to consider. When we say that we need to beware Judas, we are not saying that we need to watch everyone around us carefully and see if we can weed out the traitors around us. No. We need to watch ourselves. We need to fearlessly and thoroughly examine our own hearts. We need to find where the chinks in our loyalty to king Jesus are because the enemy will exploit them. The enemy will lead us down a primrose path that ends with betraying our King and ultimately destroying ourselves. Beware Judas, not the Judas out there, but the Judas within. We must never think it couldn’t be me. We need to be radically honest with ourselves and with our King. That is the only way to beware Judas.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 22.

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The Other Side of Jesus

Today’s reading is Luke 19.

When the wicked servant expresses his fear of the nobleman’s severity, the nobleman doesn’t respond, “Come now. Why do you think that? I am gracious and loving. I would never take what I didn’t deposit and reap what I didn’t sow. Here, try again. This time, let me be of more help.” Instead, the nobleman condemns the wicked slave, removes his mina, gives it to another servant. Then, he goes and slaughters all the people who didn’t want him to be their king. Here is the big question. Whom does the nobleman represent in this story? Have you thought about it? Are you ready to say it? The nobleman is Jesus. Never believe that the gracious love of the Lord and King Jesus Christ means He is someone to be trifled with, taken for granted, or taken advantage of. We cannot dismiss Him, ignore Him, or defy Him and then when He comes in judgment protest, “But I thought you were loving and gracious.” For those who put their faith in Him, He is a gracious and victorious strength for deliverance, rescue, and salvation. For those who refuse to surrender to Him, He is a severe and dominating judge for punishment and condemnation. Jesus is not a two-dimensional character in a poorly developed book. He is a multi-faceted complex being who was God in the flesh. Because of His gracious love, we do not have to live in terror of His severe judgment, but we must not forget it either.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 19.

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