Boy, oh, boy. The new year is approaching quickly. Where has this past year gone? I know we say that every year, but it seems truer this year than many. I just got used to writing 2011 and now I have to relearn 2012 — I had to type it carefully to get it right. 🙂 Hopefully, you’ve been working all the way through 2011 on reading through the entire Bible and following my blog. If this is one of the first times you’ve read my blog and are interested in reading the Bible through in a year, you could just grab the first entry in this blog and work your way through every post everyday in supplement to your actual Bible reading. But getting down to business of the blog, what does the Scripture say to us today?
Salvation in no one else — Acts 4:12
In a day and age in which truth is relative, “it’s all good”, and inclusivity is king, there could be no more important message for us to hear and embrace with a bear hug. Yes, expressing this aloud will get you jeers and contempt, but 1) it doesn’t make it any less true and 2) people still must hear it (it is their only hope). The jeering and contempt is just what the Master warned us to expect. We certainly don’t want to do it with the wrong attitude — then we’ve earned the jeering and contempt — but do it we must! Buddha didn’t die for our sins, nor Mohammed, nor Moses, nor Krishna, nor Confucius, nor crystals, nor the pagan gods, nor the angels, nor our “inner goddess” or any other new age nonsense. Jesus did; He paid the price of our sin, which our only salvation! Otherwise, we must face the justice that our sins deserve — no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Sin is the problem and Jesus is the only solution. Period.
Sadly, our world seems to want to be saved by any other — any other — name than Jesus’. Yet Peter tells us explicitly, “for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” There aren’t zillion ways to Heaven. There aren’t even two ways to Heaven. There’s one and only one way — Jesus. When we, through neglect or deliberate omission, fail to mention this way to Heaven, we cut off people’s one and only hope. It’s true — it’s true.
We cannot stop speaking — Acts 4:20
And that’s why the apostles couldn’t stop speaking in His name. It was about obedience to God and about the one way to salvation!
In this verse, too, there is another interesting phrase worthy of meditation: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge.” It was a rhetorical question — they knew the right answer. It is not just the Jewish leaders of the first century who were saying, “Don’t speak in Jesus’ name!” It has become the mantra of social and political leaders of today, too. And although the ignorance of our day may not make the answer a rhetorical question anymore (they don’t know the answer to the question), the answer must be the same — we must obey God rather than men. Which do you obey?
Prayer that shakes the ground — Acts 4:31
The courage of the apostles during this first encounter with opposition coupled with their fervent prayer that they may continue to speak God’s word, the Good News of Jesus, confidently and boldly was answered by God with an earthquake. It was sort of God’s way of saying that He would answer their prayer with a “YES”! We’d probably all like a similar answer to our prayers, but the key factor to their answer was that they had already (as it were) stepped into the Jordan River. They had already acted faithfully and courageously and boldly and confidently. God would certainly bless such a prayer with a resounding yes, then — and now. Praying in faith this way is really hard for us to do; we want all the pieces in place before we act. God wants us to act in faith in accordance with His will, and then He’ll provide the pieces. Do you want to pray earth shaking prayers — pray for them in faith, act as if you have already received the yes answer, and step forward.
I’m reminded of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. One of the “tests” of the worthy man, before he can reach the Holy Grail, is to step off into what looks like a bottomless chasm. Indy takes a deep breath and steps off into what looks like thin air — but it turns out to be an illusion; there was something there all along; he just couldn’t see it. How like our spiritual lives lived in faith. Are you stepping off into the chasm? Or waiting for the bridge to appear?
Lying to God — Acts 5:4
The question that is often asked about this story is why God punished so strongly over what seems to human eyes to be a pretty minor infraction, lying about how much was given. The answer boils down to this, lying isn’t that minor, especially when it has to do with God. Secondly, God’s tendency is to illustrate the gravity of sin early on in His dealings with His people in covenant — the church, in this case.
But a deeper question is whether we’re lying to God. Perhaps not about money, although that is sometimes done, isn’t it? But perhaps about other things. What promises have you made to God? Marriage? Becoming part of His New Covenant? Discipleship? As a witness? Other things?
First deacons — Acts 6:1ff
Deacons were among the first servants of the church (after the apostles) to be documented in the Bible. They were needed because there are two sides to ministry: a physical and spiritual side. Both can be quite taxing and consuming. The apostles found themselves run ragged and doing neither as well as they’d like trying to do both. So deacons were needed. As Paul later tells those who were to be appointed deacons in 1 Timothy 3, such a place of service is not inferior to spiritual matters. Done well, the service of deacon is granted high standing and confidence in the faith in Christ Jesus. Do you consider your act of service in the church to be minor? Don’t!
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.