God is doing an amazing work in our day!

“‘Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.'” (Acts 13:41)

Paul, preaching to the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia, tells the Jews that they should expect the Lord to do a work that they would not believe. The work is that their wise men will perish (Is 29:14). In other words, God will do something among the people that will astound them – He will save the Gentiles. He bring those who they thought could not experience salvation to Himself. He will do it through their belief in a crucified Messiah. While at the same time, He will give the Jews over to their enemies (Hab 1:5-6).

After the Jews rejected their teaching, Paul explicitly tells them the work God is dong in verse 47 when he says,

“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.'” (Acts 13:47)

Again quoting from the prophet Isaiah to show that this has always been God’s plan. A plan that was hidden but is now revealed (Col 1:26-27). Salvation has come to the Gentiles. God’s plan has always been to unite them as one man in Christ (Eph 2:11-22).

Through Jesus we are all united to one another – Jew and Gentile, poor and rich, slave and free. In Christ, we are all equal. We are all brothers and sisters. We are adopted into the same family through the death of Jesus for our sins and the forgiveness extended by the Father and the work done by the Spirit to draw and regenerate. Because of the Work of God, an amazing work we cannot even fathom, we all experience salvation in Jesus alone.

God is doing a work in our day. A work no one would believe if told beforehand. God is uniting us all in Christ. He breaks down divisions. If we want to experience unity, we must turn to Christ. We must recognize that at the foot of the cross all men and women are equal. No one is greater than another. No one is loved by God more than another. We are all one, a new humanity, a new people in Christ.

God, help us delight in your Word

“Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.” (Ps 119:37)

The Psalmist asks the Lord to turn him from those things that are worthless. The things that will not bring joy, satisfaction, and life. Those things that are contrary to God’s will. In place of worthless things, he asks that God would give him life, which is found in God’s ways.

As you read through the remainder of the section, you realize God’s ways are found in God’s Word. His ways are found in His law (Ps 19:34). They are found in His commandments (Ps 19:35). They are found in His rules (Ps 19:39) and his precepts (Ps 19:40). While each of these words have nuanced meanings, they all essentially point back to God’s Word. It is His Word that provides life as we live according to his law, commandments, rules, precepts, teaching, and wisdom found therein. It is no wonder the psalmist says that he delights in God’s Word (Ps 19:35).

We should delight in God’s Word as well. And our prayer, our ask of God should be for Him to help us turn from those things that are worthless to life which is found in His ways.

Spend some time this morning asking the Lord to help you delight in His Word.

A righteous life stems from a righteous heart

“Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments!”

(Psalm 112:1)

God’s promise for us in Psalm 112 reveals that those who fear the Lord, who live in reverent awe of God, seeking to align their life with God’s will receive blessing from God.

The remainder of the Psalm goes on to highlight what it looks like to live as one who delights in God’s commandments, as one who is upright.

  • They are not greedy but generous (5a)
  • They are not unfair or unjust. Rather they deal justly in all their affairs (5b)
  • Bad news does not move them. Rather they continue to trust in the Lord (7).
  • They are not afraid of their enemy, instead they continue to trust in the Lord to vindicate (8).
  • They freely give to the poor, seeking to care for the marginalized and disadvantaged in the city (9).
  • They are able to give of their wealth and resources because they trust the Lord to provide for their needs, viewing their resources as those given by God whom they are to steward and use to meet the needs of the community in which God has placed them (9).

The psalms ends with a word about the wicked, who doesn’t desire the Lord’s commandments and thus is angry when he observes the righteous in action. The difference between the two characters is not external action but an internal desire. Those who fear God live a life aligned with God’s will and those who disdain God reject the will of the Lord.

The point being we can’t manufacture righteous actions. They do not spring forth from a heart that rejects the Lord. Our heart, our desires, our affections must first be given to God. Only if we have turned to the Lord can we truly live a righteous life. To say it another way, a righteous life cannot spring forth from a wicked well. The well must first be made righteous.

We cannot make ourselves righteous (Rom 3:9-20). Only the Lord can change our heart from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh that desires to live under His rule.

Ezekiel writes,

“And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.”

(Ezekiel 11:19-20)

Has the Lord changed your heart? Do you desire His rule? Are you living a righteous live in the power of the Holy Spirit or are you trying to live for God in your own power and strength?

If you are seeking God in your own power, it is most likely because you want something from Him or the community in which you live. You don’t want God for God. You are using God to meet your own desires. The righteous don’t use God. They are satisfied with God alone.

It is never too late

He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God.

2 Chronicles 33:13

It is never too late to turn to the Lord. Manasseh was one of the most wicked kings in Judah. He reversed the reforms of his father Hezekiah, leading the people away from the Lord and to worship false gods.

The Lord humbled Manasseh. From captivity in Babylon, Manasseh prayed to the Lord and the Lord forgave him. He actually did more than forgive him. He brought him back to Judah restoring Manasseh’s reign as king. Manasseh then led the people to worship and follow God.

It is never too late to turn to the Lord in repentance and belief. He is the one true God who provides salvation to those who humble themselves by recognizing they can’t save themselves. Only through Jesus can we experience a reconciled relationship with the Lord and accomplish our God given purpose — to bring God glory.

A Christian View of Social Justice

Social Justice is a word we hear often. From discussions with our neighbors at our local coffee house, to the nightly news, to the political arena, social justice seems to be a common topic of discussion and debate. But what is meant by the term social justice? Is it biblical? Should Christians participate in acts of social justice?

Two Predominate Views of Social Justice

(1) Unconstrained view – This view is based on everyone getting their fair share. As we are all aware, every society has a finite amount of resources to go around. This view holds that everyone should have their fair share of those resources. It is unjust to allow some to hold onto a greater portion of those resources. We should, then, do all we can to see that those resources are shared equally.

(2) Constrained view – This view is based on the fair treatment of all peoples, and it is not concerned with everyone having their fair share of the total resources in a given society. In this view, it’s not unjust for people to hold onto wealth. People are entitled to what they have earned. Instead of putting energy into the redistribution of wealth, we should put our energy into seeing that everyone is treated fairly.

Which View is Biblical?

Let’s look at a few verses on social justice from the Bible:

  • Exodus 21:1-11 provides laws regarding the fair treatment of slaves.
  • In Deuteronomy 15:1-18, especially 7-11 and 13-15, rules are given concerning meeting the needs of the poor.
  • Psalms 72:12-15 and Psalm 103:6-7 tells of God redeeming the oppressed and persecuted from their oppressors, working righteousness and justice for them.
  • Proverbs 31:8-9 tells us to judge righteously and to defend the rights of the poor and needy.

By far these are not all the verses in the Bible on social justice, but they give us an idea of which view the Bible is upholding. I believe that is the second view, the Constrained View.

God’s Word does not command us to redistribute our wealth to neighbors, so that we all have equal access to the total resources of the society in which they live. Differing classes and a distribution of wealth does not constitute injustice [1].

A biblical view of Social Justice holds that we are not to show partiality, not to steal, not to swindle others, not to take advantage of the weak because they are uninformed or unable to stop us. 

Rather than saying we need to redistribute our resources, so that we are all on equal footing, the Bible tells us that we are to care for the oppressed and seek to stop others from oppressing them. We are to speak up for those who are being persecuted. We are to work for laws that stand for the fair treatment of all peoples regardless of race or nationality.

Christians are to Work for Social Justice

If we believe part of God’s mission is to redeem the oppressed and persecuted, to make sure the poor are cared for and the helpless are not taken advantage, and if we believe we are a part of that mission, then we are to do the same. Christians are to work for social justice in their cities.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do you agree that the constrained view represents the biblical view of social justice?
  2. How does your church care for the needy, oppressed, and persecuted?

Resources

Gilbert and DeYoung, What is the Mission of the Church?, 176, 180-183.

[1] I do not believe the churches actions in Acts are meant to be prescriptive. Rather, I see their actions as being descriptive of what took place in that city.

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6 Characteristics of a Spiritual Awakening Servant of Christ

“What [characteristics must a pastor possess in order to] be the pastor of a great and growing church that is experiencing a significant spiritual awakening?”

Lewis Drummond proposed and answered that question in his comprehensive biography on Charles Spurgeon. He does so with six answers, which amount to six characteristics of the man God could use to create a significant spiritual awakening. These characteristics were true of Spurgeon and are needed in men today.

Six Characteristics of a Spiritual Awakening Servant of Christ

(1) He must be a Spirit-filled man, who has been saved by God.

(2) He must be a man unencumbered by tradition, who is able to relate to the people he is given watch over.

(3) He must be a disciplined thinker, who studies hard and reads voraciously.

(4) He must have a personality that is warm and outgoing, and he must love people.

(5) He must be sold out for Christ. Evangelism and church planting run thick in his blood.

(6) He must be a man who is given to much prayer.

Question for Reflection

  1. If you desire to be a minister, are these characteristics true of your life?