Always be governed by truth and principle, but never hindered by tradition. That was Paul’s motto. When the Early Church sought to impose legal restrictions on new Gentile believers (Acts 15), Barnabas and Paul stood together “as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles” (15:12). That struggle at Jerusalem inspired Paul to write his first letter to the Galatians about the pure gospel of grace.
Throughout his ministry, Paul was always seeking to be effective in preaching the gospel and making disciples so they were established in their faith (14:21-23). He always looked “for a wide door for effective work [to] open” even when there were “many adversaries” (1 Corinthians 16:9).
We have tried to follow Paul’s example. Even before travel restrictions prevented us from conducting training sessions in various parts of the world, God was preparing us for this time. Before COVID-19 hit the world, we were perfecting the interactive format for both training books so that students could do their studies right on their computers or iPads. This solved the problem of having to print books in many places where there were obstacles.
This is why I am happy to announce that God’s Plan for His Disciples and God’s Plan for His Church are both in the interactive format. They can be downloaded from our website: http://www.newfoundationsinternational.org/training-resources.html
The English and Mandarin are on that page and we will soon add the Vietnamese and Spanish. Arabic and Farsi are being translated now. As we desire to be more effective in helping you, we also long that you become more effective in your work for the Lord.
The memory is so vivid to me. When I disobeyed my parents, I would get a good scolding from my mother, but my father would give me a certain look that said much more than words. Later, he would have words with me after I had time to think about what I had done. It was that look without words that got to my heart!
Peter loved the Lord. He said so just before Jesus was about to be falsely accused, judged and crucified; “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33). That bold statement was tested within hours as Jesus was arrested and Peter is recognized and identified as one of Jesus’ followers.
Then the awful moment came when Peter denied the relationship; “Man, I do not know what you are talking about” (22:60). As Jesus had told Peter, the rooster would crow on the third time that Peter denied Him. What Peter did not expect was the moment after the rooster alarm when “the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord” (22:61).
Have you felt the Lord look at you? That look is not one of condemnation, but love and desire that you be fully restored to an intimate relationship with Him. If that is true of you, let His look do the work of grace in your life.
A special person who had much influence on my life has just passed into the presence of Jesus. He was looking forward to seeing his Savior and Lord whom he served for over fifty years. Ravi Zacharias had many sayings, but one that stands out in my mind and was a cornerstone of his ministry was; “love is the most powerful apologetic.”
This causes me to reflect on the life and ministry of Jesus. Ravi learned from Him principles that guided his ministry and how he was so successful in presenting the gospel in many different venues around the world. On one occasion, “a man ran up and knelt before Him [Jesus] and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”” (Mark 10:17). Jesus answered by quoting some of the Ten Commandments.
The man replied, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth” (20). Mark records something about Jesus that no other gospel writer gives us. “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him” (21). I have pondered this section of Scripture for a long time today and realized that in dealing with individuals who were in His path, Jesus’ love for them was behind every word and action.
I began to ask myself whether genuine love is motivating me as I serve each person. When I preach, do I really love each person I speak to? When I counsel persons, are my words coming from a heart of love for them? As I write these articles, is the love of Christ motivating what and how I write? His love flowing through me to them will determine my approach to each person and how they receive my act of service.
Will you ask these and similar questions of yourself?
One important quality the Holy Spirit gave the Apostles when the Church was born, was wisdom. This was greatly needed. Just as Jesus left the disciples and the Church in the sufficient hands of the Holy Spirit, so the Apostles left behind them instructions that were vital for the health of the Church until the Lord will return.
Two days ago, we looked at Barnabas and his handling of new Gentile believers at Antioch. We stopped short of the final point in Acts 11:23; “When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose.” This principle is key to establish believers anywhere, at any time, and under any conditions.
How is this done? “Exhort” means to “encourage or console” by verbal or non-verbal means. It is an “earnest request” that comes from the heart of the person making the request, knowing that perseverance is dependent on “remain faithful to the Lord.” The object of faithfulness is never to leaders, but to the Lord. He must be our sole reason for all we do and say!
Barnabas adds to this formula, “with steadfast purpose.” The mind and heart must be fully set on a plan to “remain faithful.” Since God has planned everything about us and the Church ‘before the foundation of the world,” should we be careful to live for His purpose? In the conditions this world is in during these days, this instruction is even more important.
Let me start with the meaning of “Pentecost” which Luke said arrived in Acts 2:1. The title refers to “a Jewish harvest celebrated on the fiftieth day after Passover. At the time this took place, Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples the night before His crucifixion. It was at the Passover celebration that Jesus introduced the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:14-20).
Jesus knew the spiritual significance of Pentecost as He spoke to His disciples just before He ascended into heaven. “And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4). This is followed in verse 8 with the last promise from the Jesus. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
During those ten days of waiting, the disciples spent time in prayer and preparation for this event. When Pentecost came, “they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind…and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (2:1-4).
The significance of this day was remembered by Paul; “I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost” (1 Corinthians 16:8). Not only was this day the birth of the Christian Church, it was the beginning of Spirit empowered witness to the resurrection and freedom from sin through the gospel of grace.
What is important to remember is that God fulfilled His promise to send the Holy Spirit to be with us and in us who believe forever (John 14:15-17). Is He filling you with the power of Christ?
Joy is the natural reaction in a person who loves to see God at work in others. There’s an inner joy when we see disciples grow and respond to the gospel and the truth of Scripture that is taught. When Barnabas came to Antioch, “he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose” (Acts 11:23).
This was the same for Paul after he had preached the gospel, made disciples and planted churches in many places. “For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you” (Romans 16:19). This was also true in Corinth, even after his stern rebuke over conditions that prevailed in that church, they repented and started doing what was right.
“As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us” (2 Corinthians 7:9). This verse is so important to remember — joy also comes from “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) and seeing the Spirit form Christ in others through discipline.
In both receiving the gospel and in benefiting from discipline, joy is the result. Both are God’s work and we should rejoice in both. I trust you are also finding joy in following God’s work.
As I read the account of the Early Church in the Book of Acts over and over, there are records of events that light UP my soul with, may I say, divine fire. About twelve to thirteen years after the Church was born in Jerusalem at Pentecost, there was a major shift in who made up the population of the Church. Most of those in the Body of Christ up to Acts 10 were Jews. Through a vision given to Peter, the Church became open to accepting and receiving Gentiles as part of the Church.
Peter is sent to visit the family of Cornelius who, on hearing the gospel, are saved and receive the Holy Spirit. This begins a movement of God in conjunction with persecution that caused Jewish and Gentile believers to be scattered (Acts 11). This prompted a new church at Antioch to start.
The leaders in the Jerusalem church became concerned about this sudden growth and sent Barnabas to make sure these new believers were really what they should be. Notice what happens with Barnabas as he visits this new church.
“When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose” (Acts 11:23).
The first thing we must look for is the active work of God. We have a saying in this ministry; ‘Find where God is at work and join Him.’ If God is going to do something through you in a place, you can be sure that God has been there before you preparing the way for what He wants you to do. (More on this tomorrow).
It is learned in some circles, such as the military and law enforcement, that how you stand is very important to stability. It is often called “planting your feet.” This is critical when unexpected and strong forces come against an individual with the intent of throwing that individual off balance so they are overcome and lose their footing.
Paul knew this danger in a spiritual sense. As you read these few verses, think about what it means to “stand firm.” See if they help relate to the idea of “planting your feet.”
“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).
“Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith” (2 Corinthians 1:24).
“Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness” (Ephesians 6:14).
In the first two references, the phrase “stand firm” means to “continue to be steadfast.” This has the assumption that you are already standing strong in the truth and he wants that to continue. That is also my desire for you and why in this ministry we keep pointing you back to the Word of God. The winds of falsehood, tradition and accepting other standards than Scripture are blowing strong. I appeal to you; stand firm in the truth of Scripture!
In every generation, there have always been segments of the population that support certain ideas, philosophies or theories about life, science, or political agendas. They seek to raise support and a following, hoping that they will get enough human power behind them to influence the world. These agendas are largely about “self!”
Jude, the bother of James, writes a very short letter to believers with a warning that can easily fit our day. “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4).
It has always been the work of Satan to “pervert the grace of our God” by a pseudo gospel that does not provide freedom from sin, and puts people into bondage to human works (Read Paul’s comments in Galatians 1:6-9). In the few verses that follow in Jude, he builds a scathing case against those who corrupt the message of the gospel. Are we to argue and fight with such persons? Paul gives Timothy similar instructions in 2 Timothy 2:23-26 to that of Jude.
Jude answers that question by giving the reason for writing this bold letter. “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
In other words, ‘you keep repeating the truth about the grace of God, the faith on which our salvation is built and on which the church stands.’ Contend for that and God will deal severely with those who purvey a false gospel.
As I was meditating on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 13:44-46 on the kingdom of heaven, I realized how vast and deep it is. We must not skip over these parables too quickly. These two parables are a couplet, because they both point to a person looking and finding something of such extreme value that it is worth “selling” everything else they have to obtain the “treasure” or “pearl of great price”. This is NOT bargain shopping!
Most preaching and commentaries on this section focus on the value of the “treasure” or “pearl,” and that is the main point. I am seeing something that indicates how much a person really values what they find. The person in this parable “Sells all that he has and buys” the treasure for his own possession. We cannot have both the treasured possession and items once considered important. The act of ‘selling’ is not so much a monitory issue, but removing things we once thought had value and can no longer have a place in our lives. We can no longer give them time, attention, or resources. Basically, we remove them from our priority list and active attention.
There is more to this idea of ‘selling’ than just getting rid of unwanted distractions. We gain more resources from ‘selling’ what has no value to invest in the new found “treasure” or “pearl of great price.” By doing this, I am giving even more value to the “treasure” or “pearl of great price” in time and attention.
This is a very difficult change for us in the Western World, because we have been duped into thinking that other things beside the kingdom of God have great value they really do not have. How much more could you invest in the “treasure” of knowing Christ more (Philippians 3:7-11) if you sold things (activities) that have no eternal value? Paul calls those things “rubbish” (2:8).
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