certainty

Luke 1:1-4 (NIV)

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

It’s a great thing to have certainty.

And it would appear Luke, the author of this Gospel account, has done everything in his power to help Theophilus (and us) to be as sure as we possibly can about the ‘things that have been fulfilled’.

Firstly, Luke tells us that others have done the same, writing down what they too have seen and heard, thus providing corroborating evidence (see Matthew, Mark & John).

Secondly, Luke points out that the information provided comes from first-hand ‘eyewitnesses’; people who can be trusted.

And finally, Luke himself has undertaken an exhaustive investigation: ‘carefully’ and ‘from the beginning’.

He has been most helpful in putting together such an ‘orderly account’.

And so we would do well to pay attention to what he says because it involves matters of life and death.

Kim+

prayer : thank you Lord that we can have such certainty because of Luke’s work

action : point people to this and the other gospel stories, encouraging them to investigate the claims made by Christ for themselves

mighty works and wonders and signs

  

Acts 2:22 (ESV)

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— “

There it is again. The word: mighty.

It first popped up in the Book of Acts in reference to the coming of the Holy Spirt: ‘a mighty rushing wind’. (Ac 2:2)

Then in reference to the Holy Spirit testifying about God the Father: ‘the mighty works of God’. (Ac 2:11)

And now in reference to Jesus of Nazareth: the ‘mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him’. (Ac 2:22)

Turning water into wine. Healing the sick. Feeding the thousands. Calming raging storms. Raising the dead to life.

Yep. All of them seem mighty to me.

Interestingly they are all linked to God. They are divine works. And their purpose is to glorify God.

Although they all pale in comparison with Jesus Himself rising from the dead.

Now that’s mighty.

Kim+

prayer : thank you for your mighty works and wonders and signs that point us to your divinity

action : ‘Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!’ (Ps 96:1-2)

everyone … shall be saved

Acts 2:21 (ESV)

21 “‘And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.'”

So what does it mean to ‘call upon the name of the Lord’?

If we turn to Paul in the Letter to the Romans we find: ‘… if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’ (Rom 10:9)

Paul, too, then quotes Joel 2:32 saying ‘For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”‘ (Rom 10:13)

So it seems to me that it’s an acknowledgement that Jesus is Lord and a whole-hearted acceptance that He died and was raised to life by God.

Pretty straight-forward.

But so, so hard for many people to grasp a hold of. They would rather turn their back on Him; ignore Him; reject Him.

Yet the offer of salvation is to everyone.

There’s no select group. No elite inner circle. Simply a universal offer to ‘all nations’. (Matt 28:19)

Everyone.

Kim+

prayer : thank you that hold out to everyone the offer of salvation

action : help me to tell everyone I know that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Saviour

amazed and astonished

  

Acts 2:5-13 (ESV)

5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6  And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7  And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8  And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9  Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10  Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11  both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12  And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13  But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”


Bewildered. Amazed. Astonished. Perplexed. 

Clearly something is going on here that those seeing it and hearing it cannot easily explain.

Yet Peter understands full well what is happening. Because it’s a fulfilment of prophecy from the Book of Joel. (Ac 2:16)

Although Paul talks about believers being ‘baptized into one body’ (1Co 12:13) the suggestion here is that this is a special occasion.

That the blessing of the Holy Spirit at this time is not general but specific.

And what an amazing and astonishing thing to behold.

For the ‘mighty works of God’ were being extolled. (v.11)

Interesting that many believed yet some were ‘mocking’. (v.13)

Kim+

prayer : help those of unbelief to be amazed and astonished at the ‘mighty works of God’

action : help me to faithfully extol and explain  the ‘mighty works of God’ to friends & family

discipleship

To be a disciple – at its most basic level – is to be a follower of Christ. A member of ‘one body’ (Rom 12:5, NIV): the church.

Yet how does this play out in real life?

It’s all well and good to say “I’m a Christian”. But does it change how you behave?

Naturally, it begins with repentance and belief. For we all fall short of the glory of God. Rejecting Him. Putting ourselves first. Making ourselves God. (Rom 3:10-18)

And we know that we are ‘justified through faith’ (Rom 5:1) by ‘grace’ (Rom 5:2) ‘not by works, so no one can boast’ (Eph 2:9).

But once we become a Christian it’s not as if we then need to work to become a disciple. The two are not separate or distinct stages of an ongoing process. To be a Christian is to be a disciple of Christ.

What’s great is that as Christians we have a wonderfully personal relationship with God through Christ.

He is our ‘great high priest’ who can ’empathize with our weaknesses’ and through whom we can now ‘approach God’s throne with confidence‘. (Heb 4:14-16, 10:19)

What a privilege it is to be able to cry out to God: “Abba, Father”. (Rom 8:15)

To have the ‘hope of glory‘ that the Apostle Paul speaks of. (Rom 5:2)

Yet we must understand that we may have to suffer for what we believe. Remembering that ‘suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.’ (Rom 5:3-4)

So there is a cost to discipleship. We are called to ‘take up [our] cross and follow [Him]’ (Mt 16:24).

Though, when all things are considered, ‘our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us’ (Rom 8:18), the ‘riches of his glorious inheritance’ (Eph 1:18), and ‘the crown of life‘ that awaits us (Jas 1:12).

Thus discipleship is a growing into ‘maturity’ through ‘persecutions and trials’ (2Th 1:4) as we are ‘[equipped] for works of service’ in order to build up ‘the body of Christ’ (Eph 4:13).

Paul urges us to be a ‘living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God’ (Rom 12:1); to change our behaviour – to be ‘transformed’ – and ‘not conform to the pattern of this world’. In order that we may know God’s ‘perfect will’ (Rom 12:2).

This process to ‘maturity’ will involve us ‘imitating’ those who have displayed ‘faith’. (Heb 6:1-12; 1Th 1:6)

So what are some specific ways we can achieve this?

  1. God’s word: regular – personal & communal – study of and ‘meditation on’ God’s word (Ps 1).
  2. Prayer: living a life ‘devoted to prayer‘ (Acts 1:12-14). One in which we ‘pray without ceasing’ (1Th 5:17). Individually & corporately.
  3. Fellowship: frequently ‘meeting together‘ (Heb 10:25) with other disciples as a community of believers so that we can ‘encourage one another’ (Heb 3:13, 10:25) and ‘spur one another on toward love and good deeds‘ (Heb 10:24).

Thus our view is both:

  1. Inward: involvement in the making of other disciples by ‘teaching them to obey’ (Mt 28:19) as we ‘equip his people for works of service’ (Eph 4:12), and
  2. Outward: acting as ‘witnesses … to the end of the earth‘ (Acts 1:8). Being ready to give ‘a reason for the hope that [we] have’ (1Pe 3:15).

So not only do we ‘live by faith’ (Gal 2:20). We also hand-down the teachings of Jesus (and the prophets and the apostles); the ‘good deposit that was entrusted’ by Paul to Timothy, for example. That is, the gospel message, that all believers are effectively called to ‘guard … with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us’. (2Tim 1:14)

But why? Why do we do all of this? To what end?

To glorify God, just as Jesus did everything to glorify His Father. (Jn 17:1-5)

How then?

Well, we should start by living ‘such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse [us] of doing wrong, they may see [our] good deeds’ and thus God will be glorified. (1Pe 2:12)

For we are a ‘chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession.’ (1Pe 2:9)

In summary, I think it comes down to three things:

  1. Faith: having ‘confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see’ (Heb 11). We rest assured on what Christ has already done for us on the cross.
  2. Hope: ‘let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith’ (Heb 12). We look forward to what is promised when Christ returns.
  3. Love: ultimately, we must ‘keep on loving one another’ (Heb 13:1). We put into practice what we believe. It’s not enough to say it; we must ‘[do] what it says’ (Jas 1:22).

Jesus commands His disciples to: ‘Love each other as I have loved you’. No small feat when He then goes on to talk about ‘[laying] down one’s life for one’s friends’. (Jn 15:12-13)

Yet we know that this love (which also applies to us) is not restricted to our friends and fellow Christians alone.

That the definition of neighbour is not limited in any way by geography, culture, race etc. In fact, we are explicitly called to ‘love [our] enemies’. (Lk 6:27)

That’s the real challenge. To love in such a way that it hurts: just as Christ loved us. (1Jn 4:7-21)

Fortunately, we don’t have to do this alone. We don’t have to rely on our own strength. We can look to Jesus to ease our ‘burden’. (Mt 11:30, 1Jn 5:3)

For we are the ‘branches’ within the ‘vine’ of Jesus, as he helps us to ‘bear much fruit’. (Jn 15:1-11)

What’s more, we ‘received power when the Holy Spirit [came] upon [us]’ so that we might ‘be [His] witnesses’. (Acts 1:8)  As Paul tells Timothy, God’s Spirit ‘does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline’. (2Tim 1:7)

In doing so, we proclaim ‘Christ crucified’ (1Cor 1:23), ‘admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ’ (Col 1:28).

Kim+

prayer : Heavenly Father, help me to be an effective disciple maker

action : start ‘meeting‘ (Heb 10:25) regularly with several young Christians – studying God’s word & praying together – One-on-One; helping them ‘mature in Christ’ (Col 1:28)

Scripture had to be fulfilled


 

Acts 1:15-17 (NIV)

15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.”

 

All that happened to Jesus was foretold in Scripture. (Lk 24:27)

It wasn’t like it came as a surprise to God. As if He had to deal with circumstances as they unfolded.

In fact, the suffering and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was all God’s doing (Lk 24:46): ‘planned’ (Acts 2:23) and predicted long ago (Lk 24:44).

Don’t for a second take away God’s sovereignty and say that mankind was in control. (Rom 8:3)

Yes, ‘lawless men’ are to blame. (Acts 2:23)

But Jesus came to earth to die: to die in our place. That was His goal; His purpose. (Isa 53)

And He resolutely followed the path to Calvary. (Matt 26:54)

The one laid out for Him by His Father. The one of suffering (Lk 24:46) and rejection and ‘death on a cross’ (Php 2:8).

Yet that was not the end of it. Because we know that ‘on the third day [He rose] from the dead, …’ (Lk 24:46)

And thank God He did!

Kim+

prayer : thank you Jesus that you are the Christ: the Messiah who has ‘fulfilled’ the Scriptures (Lk 24:44)

action : ‘meditate’ on the Scriptures ‘day and night’ (Ps 1:3)

[He] will come back

Acts 1:9-11 (NIV)

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

 

When?

When will Jesus come back?

Good question. However, ‘[it] is not for [us] to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.’ (Acts 1:7)

We simply don’t need to know. (1Th 5:1)

Yet we remain prepared. For ‘the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.’ (1Th 5:2)

Think of it as actively waiting: as we witness. (Acts 1:8)

Kim+

prayer : thank you Lord that you will return

action : ‘… shine as [a light] in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.’ (Php 3:15b-16)