Changed Men (and women)

Peter changed from a man who denied Christ three times to a man who “cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20)

Paul changed from the most avid persecutor of Christians to the most famous Christian missionary.

Matthew changed from a tax collector to one of the twelve disciples of Christ.

Thomas changed from someone who doubted the resurrection to someone who worshipped Jesus as “my Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)

Mary Magdalene changed from a woman troubled by demons to the first witness of the risen Christ.

There is ample evidence in the New Testament that an encounter with Christ changes lives.  How has Christ changed you?  Bloggers and readers, please respond.  I’m waiting to hear your stories.

 

Evangelistic Acts

“..the word of God continued to increase and spread.”  Acts 12:24

If you’re looking for a primer on evangelism, turn to the book of Acts.  If there is one overarching theme of Acts, it is the verse above –the spread of Christianity.  Acts is also a book about people, individuals, who through their words and deeds made an impact for Christ.  I’m going to list a few of them here.

  • Philip:  one of the first to preach the gospel outside of Jerusalem (Acts 8:4-40)
  • Peter:  led by God to Cornelius, one of the first Gentiles to become a Christian(Acts 9:32-10:48)
  • Barnabas:  went to Antioch as an encourager; traveled on to Troas (Acts 11:25-30)
  • Apollos:  left Alexandria for Ephesus, preached in Athens and Corinth(Acts 18:24-28)
  • Priscilla & Aquila:  taught the complete gospel story to Apollos (same reference as above)
  • Paul:  went on missionary journeys along with Barnabas and John Mark (Acts 13: 1-14); Silas, Timothy and Luke (Acts 15:36-18:22); Erastus (Acts 18:23 and 19:1-21:4)

In all, Acts mentions over one hundred people who contributed to the growth of the church.  It’s inspiring and exciting reading!

Come and See

“Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, ‘What are you seeking?’ And they said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which means teacher), ‘where are you staying?’  He said to them, ‘Come and you will see.’  So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.  One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.  He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah (which means Christ).  He brought him to Jesus.  Jesus looked at him and said, ‘So you are Simon, the son of John?  You shall be called Cephas (which means Peter).”  John 1:38-42

This is a continuation of my last post.  Notice that Jesus doesn’t give them details about where they are going, he just says “Come with me and see.”  They learn from him, and immediately Andrew tells somebody else about Jesus — his brother Simon, who becomes Peter, the rock of the church.

Obedience has results.  Immediate results(they got to know Jesus) and long term results(they introduced Peter, who played a significant role in God’s plan).  I can certainly see the same kind of results in my own life.  I’m a very shy person, but following Jesus has led me to do things I would never have been able to without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  I teach adult Sunday School, I’ve lead retreats and workshops, I am even able to put some details of my personal life and struggles out there for others in this blog!  I’ve been able to use my gifts for God, and I think I’ve encouraged others to do the same.  I’ve been blessed and I hope those around me have been blessed by my obedience, even though it has often been slow and grudging.  Maybe one day, when I die and am judged, I’ll see the really long term results of my obedience and also my disobedience.  I’m sure I’ll be amazed at what obedience has done, and dismayed to see what those times of disobedience led to.

What about you?  Have you been willing to “come and see”?  Are you just beginning the journey?  Or have you been on the road for years?  Bloggers, please write, and readers please comment.  I want to hear your story.

 

 

Why we should Forgive

“By this we are sure that we are in him.  Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” 1 John 2:5-6

In addition to this verse, the Bible tells us to “clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14) and to “fix …our eyes on Jesus”(Hebrews 12:12).  All of these phrases boil down to the same meaning …imitate Christ, he is our model.  We are to watch Him, to follow His example, to become one with Him.

So, think about Jesus and all the people he forgave:

He forgave the paralytic whose friends lowered him through the roof to be healed (Mark 2:5)

He forgave two tax collectors, Zaccheus (Luke 19:1-10) and Matthew (also called Levi) who became one of the twelve disciples (Luke 5:27-32)

He forgave the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) and the sinful woman who anointed His feet (Luke 7:36-48).

He forgave Peter after he denied Him three times, and He even forgave those who crucified Him.

He forgave things that seemed unforgivable:  sinful behavior, betrayal, selfishness, greed, even murder.  If I want to become like Christ, shouldn’t I be willing to forgive:

the cashier at the store who was rude and abrupt?

my friend who forgot to call when she said she would?

the fellow church member who criticized me?

the neighbor who complains about everything I do?

Often the things I don’t want to forgive are truly petty.  Instead of feeling empathy for the people who offend me, I go over and over my own feelings of hurt and anger.  That’s turning in on yourself, the definition of sin, and it isn’t pleasing to God.

If I truly want to walk as He walked, I must forgive as he forgave.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Accepting Forgiveness

I’ve been thinking about how this month we’ve spent a lot of time blogging about forgiving, but not so much about accepting forgiveness.  Michele said forgiving isn’t easy –well, accepting forgiveness isn’t easy either.  Why? Here are some of the reasons I think cause us to have trouble.

  1. First of all we have to humble ourselves.  We have to admit we’re wrong and we need forgiveness.  I don’t know about you, but I like to pretend I don’t need anything, that I’ve got things together, that I’m in control.  That’s just plain denial.  Romans 3:23 tells us, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” 
  2. Sometimes we’re convinced that we don’t deserve to be forgiven.  We think that thing we did is so awful nobody, certainly not a perfect God can forgive it.  Well, (see point #1) we don’t deserve it.  It’s a gift.  Wow!  Get this –“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
  3. We think we have to earn forgiveness, and we feel hopeless to do that.  Again, remember forgiveness is a gift and it’s free.  We don’t deserve it, and we can’t earn it. “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us…”Romans 8:3-4
  4. We’re afraid we might have to change, and really, deep down, we don’t want to.  Remember when Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery, he also told her, “Go and sin no more.” John 8:11

Think of the difference between the two disciples, Peter and Judas.  Judas betrayed Jesus, but so did Peter.  He denied Him three times.  The difference between these two men was not in what they did, but how they responded to it.  Peter trusted Jesus.  He confessed his sin and accepted forgiveness.  Judas felt guilty, but tried to take care of the problem himself by committing suicide.  How sad.  He denied himself the opportunity to be forgiven.  In so doing, he separated himself from God.

So, if you are feeling you can’t be forgiven, remember this promise:

“For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart.” 1 John 3:20

Be a Peter! Accept God’s forgiveness and let Him use you in a mighty way!

 

 

 

The High Cost of Unforgiveness

Well, I have to admit it, I was reading the “Ask Amy” column in the paper the other day.  Not very edifying material, but I guess we all do it from time to time.  Here is an excerpt:

My husband and I are prosperous senior citizens.  We are friends with another couple, also seniors and also prosperous.  We four often socialize together.  He no longer drives and my husband ..always offers our car and becomes the driver.

Here is the problem.  This other couple seems reluctant to share in the parking fees and my husband ..is forever.. footing the entire bill.

…We can well afford the loss, but it is the principal of the thing.

This lady who calls herself “upset” admits that the situation is causing her to quarrel with her husband (who would rather just pay) and endangering her friendship with people she describes as “wonderful.”  I wonder why she is willing to pay such a high price for being unforgiving and protecting her “principles” when forgiving would cost her so little.  You might look at this story as a modern day example of the parable of the Unforgiving Servant, Matthew 18:21-35 (I’ll let you read that for yourself).  It is Jesus’s response to this question:

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.(Matt. 18:21-22)

                                                                                                                                                                           The parable is the story of a servant who is forgiven a huge debt by his master.  He then refuses to forgive a fellow servant of an insignificant amount.  His master is angry and throws him into prison.

The point?  God sent Jesus as a sacrifice so that we could be forgiven and released from the burden of sin we could never pay on our own.  Shouldn’t we forgive our fellow sinners?  As often as they need it?  Unforgiveness separates us from God… are you really willing to pay that cost?