1 Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. 2 He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. (Luke 9:1–2, NKJV)
Jesus gave His apostles power (capacity) and authority (the freedom to act) over demons and diseases. He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to work miracles which confirmed the divine nature of their message. The New Testament identifies the kingdom of God as the church of Christ (Matthew 16:18-19; Colossians 1:13). Preaching the kingdom of God is central to preaching Christ. When the evangelist Philip preached Christ, he preached “things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 8:5, 12). We fail to preach Christ if our preaching minimizes His church (His kingdom). There is rich irony in one thinking he can preach Christ to sinners (so they can be saved and added to the church, His kingdom, Acts 2:47) by not preaching the church (the kingdom) to them! Such is the feeble and futile attempt to preach Christ but not His church. We cannot preach Christ (the Anointed One, the King) without preaching His kingdom, His church. Truly, the gospel of Christ is the gospel of the kingdom (Luke 4:18, 43-44). Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom, and so did His apostles. When early Christians preached Christ, they preached His kingdom (the church). When we preach Christ, we must preach His kingdom, His church.
8 You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book? 9 When I cry out to You, then my enemies will turn back; This I know, because God is for me. 10 In God (I will praise His word), In the Lord (I will praise His word), 11 In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? (Psalm 56:8–11, NKJV)
Does Jesus care when your heart aches? Does the Lord see the trial you face when the enemies of faith are in hot pursuit, tempting you to yield to their persuasions to compromise conviction for convenience and conformity? Does God know when those you love turn their backs on truth and righteous living, and on you? Oh yes, He knows – and He cares! He knows the steps you walk in the middle of the night. He stores up your tears in a bottle and records your anguish in His book. He comforts the afflicted. They continue to praise Him through the agony. They put their trust in God and refuse to fear man. The threats, taunts and trials hurled at them by the unfaithful will not distract, deter or destroy those who live by faith. Be one who fears the Lord rather than men (Matthew 10:28). Trust in Him. He is your Redeemer and your refuge in the storm.
Moreover David said, “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!” (1 Samuel 17:37, NKJV)
The armies were arrayed on either side of the valley of Elah. The giant warrior Goliath had taunted and defied the armies of the living God for forty days. King Saul and Israel were greatly afraid, intimidated by the enemy. It would be a shepherd boy, unskilled in the art of war, who put his trust in the Lord and gained a great victory of faith (1 Samuel 17). What a stunning example that “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29). Let us resolve to have the courage that faith requires to face the giants that defy the living God in our day. Moral sins, doctrinal errors, false religions and secularism are but a few of the giants to be faced and fought by faith in the living God. Like David, God will deliver you “from every evil work and preserve” you for His heavenly kingdom (2 Timothy 4:18). Your faith, not force, gives victory over the world (1 John 5:4).
46 Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest. 47 And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a little child and set him by Him, 48 and said to them, “Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great.” (Luke 9:46–48, NKJV)
One of the most notable aspects of the kingdom of God is its spiritual nature; It is not of this world (John 18:36). That nature is on full display in this passage, when a dispute erupted among His disciples about who would be greatest in the kingdom. With a child beside Him, Jesus explained the heart of those in His kingdom will not prompt personal promotion above others, but humble deference to others. Christians are to treat each other with humility, considering others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4). Oh, how many disputes in the church, in the home and with our neighbors could be avoided with such hearts within us! Unless we have humble hearts to receive one another, we cannot receive the Son or the Father who sent Him. Let us endeavor to love our brother (whom we have seen), so that we may love God whom we have not seen (1 John 4:20). Without question, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21).
“Though you grind a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his foolishness will not depart from him.” (Proverbs 27:22, NKJV)
The proverb depicts a process of separating the husk from the kernel of grain in a manner that is more intricate and careful than the usual threshing process. (The word “grind” means “to pound or beat small.”) Pulpit Commentary notes in this proverb “is expressed the idea that the most elaborate pains are wasted on the incorrigible fool…an obstinate, self-willed, unprincipled man cannot be reformed by any means; his folly has become his second nature, and is not to be eliminated by any teaching, discipline, or severity” (Proverbs, 519). Although pounding and grinding grain yields its intended results, you cannot beat foolishness out of a fool. You cannot pound the truth of God into a heart that is hardened by sin against it. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why it is said to be “impossible…to renew them again to repentance” who have tasted heaven’s sweet goodness and then fallen away from the Lord (Hebrews 6:4-6). Unless and until the obstinate heart softens toward God and toward His truth, the sinner will go on, unaffected by efforts to separate him (or her) from the foolishness of his sin. “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your heart” (Hebrews 3:7-8)!
39 And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.” 40 Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, “Are we blind also?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.” (John 9:39–41, NKJV)
Jesus is a decision point in your life. When you are presented the evidence that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, you must decide what you will do with Jesus (see John 9:35-38 and the decision made). That is the judgment for which Jesus came into the world (v. 39). He came to give spiritual sight to the spiritually blind. Yet, His truth also blinds those who refuse Jesus and trust in themselves for spiritual guidance. Jesus is the light of the world who brings enlightenment to those who are blinded by sin (John 8:12). Those who pridefully believe they do not need Jesus remain blinded in their sins. Admitting your spiritual blindness enables you to see Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, but you harden yourself in sin by refusing Him. What decision are you making about Jesus? Is pride causing you to refuse Jesus? If so, you remain blinded in your sins. Or, have you decided to believe and follow Jesus in the light? Your decision has eternal consequences (Rom. 2:1-11).
“In whose eyes a vile person is despised, but he honors those who fear the Lord; He who swears to his own hurt and does not change;” (Psalm 15:4, NKJV)
The sweet psalmist of Israel is in the middle of answering the question he posed in the first verse of Psalm 15: “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill?” David draws our attention to the person who makes a pledge and keeps it even when, by doing so, it hurts him instead of benefits him. God accepts into His presence the person who measures honesty as a mark of integrity and personal honor. Truth is sacred to this person. This person does not pledge himself to honesty only if it results in a personal advantage. Are you such a person? How important is keeping your word to you? For Christians, our word is our bond (Ephesians 4:25). We keep our word, even if it disadvantages us to do so. The person who loves truth and fears God more than personal advantage dwells with God. Pledging our word and then breaking it because it puts us out, displays a lack of integrity that does not go unnoticed by God.
15 “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” 16 But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to declare My statutes, or take My covenant in your mouth, 17 Seeing you hate instruction and cast My words behind you?” (Psalm 50:15–17, NKJV)
The wicked, who defy God’s law and break His covenant, have no ground to stand upon and declare what God will or will not do. God is not a talisman or lucky charm to be called upon to conjure up blessings in a moment of crisis. Yet, too many people think of God this way. They have little time or use for God until a crisis occurs, and then they can be heard crying to God for help. God is not a fire-extinguisher on standby only when we have a problem that needs fixing. He commands and deserves our gratitude and faithful allegiance always. The Lord God hears and answers the cries of the righteous (1 Peter 3:10-12). Are you responsive to what God wants from you (His words of instruction)? If not, how can you expect Him to respond to your cries for help? What right do you have to say what God will or will not do, seeing you have rejected His word? Come back to God and obey His word. Then, He will hear and answer your prayers according to His will, not yours (1 John 5:14-15).
35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said to him, “Do you believe in the Son of God?” 36 He answered and said, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” 37 And Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.” 38 Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped Him. (John 9:35–38, NKJV)
This man, whom Jesus had healed of blindness on the Sabbath, had been cast out of the synagogue because he drew a necessary inference about Jesus, and had the audacity to declare it publicly. He concluded from the miracle Jesus worked for him that Jesus was from God, otherwise, “He could do nothing” (John 9:31-33). When Jesus found the man and challenged his faith in the Son of God, He identified Himself to be the Son of God. The miracle had convinced him that Jesus was the Son of God. When Jesus identified Himself to the man, he confessed his faith and worshiped Jesus as the Son of God. The recorded miracles of Jesus continue to be signs providing the testimony we need to believe Jesus is the Son of God (John 20:30-31). Exalted on high at the right hand of the Father, the Son of God gives life to those who put their faith in Him and follow Him according to His word (1 John 5:11-13).
59 And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:59–60, NKJV)
The heart of Stephen is revealed as his life is taken by cruel men and horrible means. Accused by false witnesses, he spoke the truth to people who were “stiff-necked uncircumcised in heart and ears,” who resisted the Holy Spirit by refusing the word He gave them through the prophets (Acts 7:51-52). As they rushed upon him in hatred and hurled stones at him in anger, Stephen sought God’s mercy for them. When someone sins against you, how do you react? With anger? With hatred? Do you try to harm them in some way? The way of the righteous is different. When wronged, the righteous trust in God, as Stephen did. He had the heart of compassion that each Christian must develop (Colossians 3:12). Even in the face of great injustice, rise above the fray. Keep your trust in the Lord Jesus. Keep your heart pure. Keep your conduct righteous. And, thank God for men like Stephen, who set such a worthy example to follow.