Note: This Sunday’s blog picks up where part one leaves off. If you haven’t read part one, I suggest strongly that you read part it first, and then continue with part two, which may be a little late being posted. I apologize for the lack of timeliness.
Jesus had appeared to the disciples gathered on a mountain, where He had sent them prior to Pentecost, and had given them the Great Commission: “And all authority has been given Me in heaven and on earth. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name [singular] of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Peter was familiar with scripture about God appointing the prophet Ezekiel as a watchman to the people of Israel. His ministry was more to individuals than it was corporate. God charged him with preaching to ungodly persons in an attempt to convert them. He was responsible to God for everyone he met. If Ezekiel preached to someone and that person didn’t heed his warning and died in his sins Ezekiel was blameless. But if he gave him no warning, nor spoke to warn the wicked from his way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; “but his blood I will require of your hand” (Ezekiel 3:16-21). God extended the prophet’s responsibility for evangelism to all Christians through the Great Commission. Peter, therefore, knew it was his responsibility to witness to the Sadducees as much as it was to preach to the temple goers, even though there was the possibility of dire consequences.
Jesus told His disciples to take up their cross and follow Him, and anyone who did not do so was not worthy of Him. If anyone was ashamed of Him in this world He would be ashamed of them before the Father (Matthew 16:24;10:38; Luke 9:23, 26; Mark 8:38). In other words, Jesus is our advocate with the Father. If we don’t live according to His standards and proclaim Jesus to others, He won’t claim us as His own before the Father.
Just talking about Jesus and claiming to be a Christian doesn’t work. The seven sons of a Jewish chief priest found this out when they tried to exorcise an evil spirit from a man by using Jesus’ name saying, “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches”. Not who they believed in. The spirit replied, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?” The spirit-possessed man then proceeded to beat up all seven sons and throw them out of his house ( Acts 19;13-19). Their exorcism failed because they weren’t Jesus’ own. They were trying to appropriate His name, and He didn’t hear them.
Jesus tells us that that people like the seven sons of will be surprised when they reach the judgement: “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart form Me you who work lawlessness’ ” (Matthew 7:21-23).
Following Jesus has to come from the heart. You didn’t gain salvation by simple observances. You were recreated in Christ and He in you, unto good works that He has planned for you (Ephesians 2: 8-10; 2 Corinthians 5;17). Following Jesus isn’t easy. It may be the hardest thing you’ve done in your life if you don’t rely in Him. Jesus told us that in this world we’ have problems, but to be of good cheer because He has overcome the world ( John 16:33). And, so will you in Christ.
God’s providence will see you through your trials as He did with Peter in his confrontation with the Sadducees. “Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle, and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and My burden light” (Matthew 11: 29-30). God will not test you beyond your ability to manage the task He assigns to you (1 John 5:3). Therefore, do not fear what the future will bring, as God will lead you through all that happens to you in your life if you stay focused on Christ and what He wants you to do (Matthew 6:19-34): If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:18-31).
God’s orchestrating the totality of the beggar’s healing was a miracle itself, though I doubt anyone but Peter and John recognized it. God had planned that healing since before the foundation of the world. He controlling of the events caused all of the elements of the miracle to work together for the healing of the beggar, the salvation of many temple goers and for Peter and John’s protection for the Sadducees. Peter and John had to arrive at the Beautiful Gate when the beggar was there, and he had to ask them for alms. The Jews who were to be converted to Christ had to be among the congregants and all the people had to attribute the miracle to God, otherwise the Sadducees would not have feared them: If the majority o the people had not believed that they would have supported the Sadducees and Peter and John would have been killed. And, God had distracted them long enough for Peter to complete his sermon.
God saved the apostles from being martyred by the Sadducees so that He could continue to use them to fulfill His purpose, just as He had kept the Hebrews safe from the Egyptians before, during and after the Exodus so that the Egyptians would recognize His sovereignty and supremacy. (Exodus 10:1; 11:19; 14:4, 17-18; compare, 14:30, 31). God will not let His true people ignore His will for them. He caused the Israelites to take a 40-year scenic tour through the desert, when they could have easily have crossed in two weeks, to chastise them for doubting Him and for worshipping a false idol. Yet during this time their sandals and clothing didn’t wear out, their feet didn’t swell from walking and God provided food and water ( Deuteronomy 29:5; 8:4); Exodus 16:35; 17:6). Jesus insists that we keep focused on Him and not worry about what will distract us for doing His will for us. Jesus was giving Peter His post-resurrection instructions when Peter looked back and saw John following them. “Lord, what about this man”, he asked. Jesus told him not to worry about what someone else was doing. “You follow Me”, He said. That admonition applies to us today.
His way is not always the way we, in our limited understanding, would prefer to do things. We may not like what God has planned for us. Jonah certainly didn’t! He hated the Ninevites. He rebelled when God told him to go preach to them, and tried to run away from the Creator of the universe and ended up in a whale of a fix! It is advisable t listen to God.
You, I and all of today’s Christians have the same problems that Peter and John had, and more. Jobs, family, friends and worldly concerns take our minds off God. Perhaps you have a detestable neighbor that God wants you to witness to. Your anger at your neighbor lowers your self esteem, separates you form that neighbor and others, and more importantly it separates you from God. Maybe He’s telling you to use the money you’ve been saving for new titanium golf clubs to feed the homeless. The point is that what God wants you to do takes precedence over what you would like to do. And, what He has planned for us is infinitely better than what we could plan for ourselves.
Cornelia (Corrie) Ten Boom was a Christian in Holland during the Nazi occupation. Her family worked with the Dutch underground, secreting Jews in their home until they were caught by the Germans on February 28, 1944. Her Father died in prison 10 days later of medical complications. Corrie and her sister, Betsy wore moved to several different camps. Betsy’s health grew worse, and she died in a camp. Corrie used whatever situation she found herself in as “a witness for Jesus” to other inmates and to the German camp guards. She was released on January 1, 1945 due to a “clerical error” in German paperwork. One week later all the women her age were sent to the gas chamber. Corrie said ther are no ifs, buts nor errors in God’s providence. She survived because in the worst possible circumstances she trusted and followed Christ. And, God wanted to continue using her.
After the war Corrie worked with a Lutheran Church committee to refurbish the Darmstadt concentration camp to care for Germans who had been devastated by t about her was he war, opened a similar place in Holland and gave speeches about her war time experiences. A man who had been on of the cruelest, most personally intrusive of the German SS guards at Ravensbruck came up to her after one of her speeches and asked for her forgiveness: He had become a Christian. Corrie shook his hand and forgave him. She said it was impossible for her to do it on her own: “I discovered that it is not our forgiveness any more than it is our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself. Later, she wrote The hiding Place, about her war time experiences. The book was a best seller and still sells today. It has led thousands of people to Christ.
Christian empowerment is not ab0ut you. It is all about God. You are saved for His sake, not yours (Psalm 23:1-3; Romans 3:9-25; 4:1-8; 1 John 2:12). Empowerment is the utilization of our Spirit-given gifts, augmented by His dedicated authority and directed by Him to implement His plan for your bringing others to Him. It is your willingness to forego your own plans and live first and foremost for Christ that empowers you. It is as Jesus prayed in the garden: ” Not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39; John 5:30; Psalm 40:8). In other words, He uses His power through you when you acknowledge your weakness and submit to His plan for your life so, that you can be the change God wants for this world (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).
Pastor Martin of the Ebenezer Baptist Church became the proud Father of a baby boy on January 15th, 1929, who he named after himself. He was to have good reason to be proud. Martin Jr. was ordained at the age of 18. He became a prominent figure in the civil rights movement in 1955, when he led a successful boycott of the Montgomery, Alabama, bus system. He was later the first of the Southern Christian Fellowship Conference. He received the Nobel Prize for advocating nonviolent opposition of the injustice inherent in racial prejudice and discrimination.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was preparing to give a speech at he Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC on August 3, 1963. His prepared speech wasn’t going well. A lady on the platform with him whispered, “Tell them about the dream, Martin, tell them about the dream”. Dr. King laid down his prepared speech, looked out over the vast sea of expectant faces, and said, “Five score years ago a great American, in whose shadow we stand, signed the Emancipation Proclamation”. What followed was Dr. King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech, the most inspiring and influential speech since Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. It added a booster rocket to the civil rights cause. Dr. King was tragically martyred on April 4, 1968. But the civil rights movement continues today largely because of Dr. King’s influence. His was a God-given dream, and no bigoted crackpot with a rifle can stop God. Likewise, no person, angle, principality, power or government can stop your God-given dream. God will insure that what He has planned for you to do will get done in the timing and manner He wants it done.
Jesus told us that as long as He was in the world, He was the light of the world (John 8:12; see Isaiah 9:2). And now He is still the light of the world though you. “You are the light of the world”, so you are to let His light shine our from within you so that “men may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” like the beggar did after his healing ( Matthew 5:14-16; john 1:1-4; 17:6-26). Your allowing Christ’s light to shine out from within you gives you a transcendental incandescence which causes the unsaved to want what you have. The Jewish term here is kiddish-ha-shem, meaning all you do should be to God’s honor and glory; the only way the unsaved can see Christ today is through your actions and speech. We are Christ’s ambassadors ( 2 Corinthians 5:20). If the lost don’t like what they see in us, then no amount of witnessing will convert them.
Steve Greene was a member of his high school’s choir in 1971 when they were scheduled to sing at World Faith Church in New Orleans. He and a friend were sent to the church before the performance. He doesn’t remember the reason. During that visit Steve had a five-minute “chance” encounter with Pastor Charles. The encounter changed Steve’s life. “I cannot remember what he said to me”, Steve wrote. “But I distinctly remember how he said it. He didn’t present the gospel to me; he simply made me feel he cared about me. I know I wanted what he had”. Steve went on to say, “The seed planted in me grew until I was saved at the age of 19. I have never forgotten that one encounter with him. The only reason I cannot forget him is that he made such a significant spiritual deposit into my life. Why else would I remember one moment from 1971 with such clarity? I can only conclude that the meeting was a Spirit-led appointment” (Do you Have an Appointment Down the Hall? Ministry Today, May/June 2016, P.18). Dr. Greene is now publisher and executive producer of Charisma Media, and executive producer of Charisma Podcast Network.
The stories of Corrie Ten Boom, Dr. Martin Luther King and Dr. Steve Greene are prime examples of how God works through people of ordinary beginnings. Dr. Green was an ordinary teenager who was influenced by a relatively unknown pastor in an average church. Dr. King was born into the family of a poor black pastor in the deep South. And, Corrie Ten Boom was the unmarried daughter of a local clock shop owner. God calls people of all backgrounds to further the propagation of the gospel, including teachers, fishermen, carpenters, watchmakers, doctors, ditch diggers policemen, butchers, bakers and candle-stick makers.
An executive recruiter for large corporations likes to disarm prospects during interviews, and when they’re relaxed he pops the question, “What’s your purpose in life?” One prospect immediately fired back, “To go to heaven and take as many people with me as I can”. The recruiter said that for the first time in his life he was speechless. Alternately, one homeless black Christian in the deep South told a middle-class white man who challenged his authority to witness to him, “I’m just a nobody trying to tell everybody about Somebody who can save anybody”. God is no respecter of social status: Jesus was a homeless itinerate preacher.
Your unique abilities and Spirit-given aptitudes will provide opportunities for you to present Jesus Christ to lost people every day regardless of your occupation or lack of one. “For the love of God compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” ( 2 Corinthians 5:14,15).
Jesus used spectacular instant miracles to bring unsaved people to Him. He healed a blind man so “the works of God should be revealed in him”. He healed a paralytic so that he, the people and the Pharisees would know that He had the power on earth to forgive sins (Matthew 9:1-8). John the Baptist sent a question to Jesus from prison asking Him if he was the Messiah, or should they look for another. Jesus replied, “go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Luke 7:18-21; emphasis mine).
The apostles and some disciples of Jesus received authority from Him to cast out demons and heal infirmities. The 70 disciples He sent out on a mission returned elated because demons and evil spirits were vanquished by them. Jesus told them, “Never the less do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10: 17-21). The miraculous was simply a means of glorifying Jesus before people.
Instant miracles are not much in evidence today: Jesus and the apostles have already done them. It is true that they do still happen when God determines it is in His best interest- and therefore ours as well- to do a miracle. But Jesus tells us that blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe (John 20:19-29). However, God still works through Christians every day to bring people to Him, though His methods are usually more subtle now. He uses ordinary people in seemingly normal events to accomplish His work. For example, I usually carry a few extra day passes for the city bus for people who really need them. One morning I got a strong feeling I should leave my “coffee club” early and go to an appointment a little early. A man and his two young daughters arrived at the bus stop about three minutes after I did. He asked if I had any spare change, though it embarrassed him to ask. I asked if he needed bus fare, he said yes. One daughter was old enough that she need fare too, so I gave them two passes that were good all day for as much as they needed to ride. Like Ms. Ten boom said, there are no coincidences or accidents with God. He put me at the bus stop exactly when I needed to be there.
You have seen that there are three primary ways in which God works through you, to let His light shine out through you. One is through your ethics and morals. One is your personality and caring for others, and one is your ability to come out on top of all the adverse situations in your life. These three in combination make the unsaved want what you have. Dealing with life is not easy. Making Christian responses to secular problems requires a complete paradigm shift from how the unsaved deal with the world’s problems. That requires your restructuring your core values, which is difficult: “But seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness” and everything will work out for the best in the long run, so you need not worry (Matthew 6:19-34). You do have to plan for necessities and work to maintain them. Shelter and food are nice to have. But you do not have to become stressed over working for them or the fundamentals of dealing with the world. Worry is the antithesis of faith, which is more of an action verb than a noun. You really don’t have faith that a chair will support your weight until you take action and sit on it.
The one word that sums up Christian empowerment is commitment. Commitment to Christ and His plan for you. Unless you are completely committed to Him, His light will not be in much evidence in your life. It’s something like working for an employer who needs to place great authority in you to keep others safe and keep the company going by attracting new business. If you come to work and spend most of your day at the coffee pot or on social media using the company’s computer, you won’t gain the trust of the boss, nor the authority to do much, and you probably won’t work there very long, either. However, if you show up a little early every day, listen to what the company needs to have done, and follow the commands of you boss, you’ll soon gain authority and responsibility. Like the song says, you can’t have one without the other. So, take stock of yourself. Are you really a Christian, or are you, like the seven sons, just using the name? Christ requires total commitment, not perfection. Do the best job you are capable of doing to further His plan for you, and He’ll pick up the slack and make extraordinary things happen. That’s the essence of Christian empowerment.