Courage and the Gospel

Acts 23:11 says,

The following night the Lord stood by him [Paul] and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”

As I was reflecting on this passage in prayer and even now, I notice a few things about this statement that God spoke to Paul after he appeared before the Jerusalem Council.

1) Take courage. God told Paul not to be afraid. That’s fairly explicit in the verse. The reason Paul can write, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16) is because the Lord Jesus himself appeared to him and said, “Take courage”. Also, Paul could say to Timothy, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7) because Jesus said to him, “Take courage”.

2) You have testified to the facts about me. Paul did not believe in some random set of mystical opinions about Jesus. These were cold, hard facts. The reason Paul could write, “For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins…If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:16-17, 19). Paul was so confident in the resurrection of Jesus that he risked being wrong and pitied by men. Because of the facts, however, Paul can say, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead” (1 Cor. 15:21).

3) You must testify also in Rome. Paul wasn’t just commanded to go to Jerusalem, he was called to Rome–the New Yorks, the Tokyos, the L.A.s, the Londons of the world. Rome was the center of religion, government, trade, and social interaction. Because the Lord said, “Take courage” and because Paul knew facts about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, Paul could go to Rome.

As I begin to apply this to my own life, I think of times I lack courage. I think of situations when I don’t know the facts about Jesus. I think of chances I’ve had to “go to Rome” for Jesus and didn’t do it. May we be encouraged that Jesus gives us courage, shows us the facts, and leads us to where he wants us to be.

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things” (Rom. 10:15). Is there any greater duty to be done for the kingdom? How beautiful it is. We must share the gospel. Without it, there is no forgiveness, no redemption, no salvation, no everlasting life. If God is truly for us, how can the world be against us? He gives us comfort in the face of affliction. His yoke is easy and burden is light when sufferings bear us down.

Take courage. Go share the gospel with the world.


Evangelism: Tell of All God’s Works

Psalm 73:28 (ESV):

But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

For the Psalmist, he made God is treasure for one reason: to tell other people. He sat at the Lord’s feet, learned from him, was reproved by him, was fed and clothed by him so he could tell of God’s mighty works. The point was not so that he could gather up God’s love for himself and keep it in. In Luke 11:33-36, Jesus said that no one lights a lamp for it to be hidden. Rather, it is to be displayed for all to see.

We must be a city on a hill, burning bright for everyone to see from miles away so Christ’s cross would be magnified. We must be lights in a dark place so that God would be seen as the all-satisfying, all-sufficient, priceless treasure that he is. When Christ is our treasure, we share him with others. Our desire and motivation for evangelism is weak, useless, and dead when Christ is not our treasure. But when we, like the Psalmist, can proclaim, “Whom have I in heaven but you? Who do I desire on earth besides you, Jesus?” then we will relentlessly pursue relationships with others in order to tell of all God’s works. Only then will we be dedicated to live humbly, poorly, dangerously, and recklessly for Christ. Only then will we live radical, Jesus-centered lives where we are able to, like Paul, say, “I would rather be accursed so that you could drink deep of God’s goodness and grace.” With Paul, we would say, “I would be beaten, lashed, stoned, and shipwrecked if I could just see joy in your heart in Jesus.”

O, that Christ would be my treasure! That he would be my satisfaction and my utterly complete joy. O, that Christ would be my only possession in heaven and my only desire on earth. May his cross be my ground for all hope, glory, boasting, rejoicing, treasure, and desire for evangelism.


Life Theology

God’s Gracious Will

For the past few days, I have been reflecting on the verse of the week, Luke 10:21. Jesus thanked God that “these things” were hidden from the wise and understanding people and that they were revealed to little children. Jesus ended with, “Yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”

This plainly shows that God hides things from people. Why would he do that? Why would a gracious and loving God not reveal all of himself to anyone and everyone in the world? How could a God who doesn’t desire that anyone should perish, but all come to everlasting life not reveal the way to salvation to everyone?

Perhaps the question we should ask is “How in the world does a just, perfect, holy God reveal anything to little children who are dead in their sin?” First Corinthians 1:27 says, “For God what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” God has chosen to reveal things to little, frail, incapable children.

Why did God do it? Jesus says it was God’s “gracious will.”

There is no one who deserves grace. That’s why it is called grace. But God chose to reveal it to some and not others. I do not know why God did it that way. All I know is that he did. Passages like Romans 9, Ephesians 1, John 6, and this one from Luke make that theme inescapable.

Instead of arguing over God choosing or not choosing some to believe, perhaps we should simply look at the Scriptures and tremble at what it says. Perhaps we should bow low and worship God for not hiding his glorious plan of salvation from us.

He is God and we are not. The only way his revelation to us can be explained is that he did it simply because it was his “gracious will.”


God, Be Merciful to Me!

Lamentations 3:22-23 says:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

I was talking to my discipler from my summer project the other day. I told him how I am continually amazed at God’s mercy more than any of God’s other attributes. What is mercy? Mercy is what you don’t get when you do deserve it. It’s different than grace. Grace is what you do get when you don’t deserve it. In layman’s terms:

Grace gets you in to heaven.

Mercy keeps you out of hell.

That is a very humbling, amazing, mind-blowing thought. How wonderful is thy mercy, O God! I am an unworthy, wretched sinner and all I deserved was to be stillborn. If I died at this moment, God has done me no wrong! God has been putting in on my heart to wake up everyday (at least most mornings) and pray, “Thank you for not killing me in my sleep because that’s what I deserve! I praise you for another day to breathe!”

Titus 3:5 says, “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of theHoly Spirit.” God’s mercy saved us from eternal punishment and condemnation! How glorious is God’s mercy on helpless and hopeless sinners.

As I talked to my discipler, he reminded me of a passage in Luke 18 where Jesus tells a story about a Pharisee and a tax collector praying. The Pharisee thanked God that he wasn’t like the other “sinners.” He boasted of his fasting and tithing. The tax collector, however, stood afar and could not lift his eyes to heaven. Beating his chest, he said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” That was all the words he needed and that was all God needed to hear. This man, Jesus said, was justified rather than the Pharisee.

We don’t realize how depraved and gross our sin is. We barely comprehend how much it offends God. I want to grow to hate sin and be immersed in and amazed at God’s mercy every day.

As the old hymn says,

God be merciful to me
On thy grace I rest my plea
Plant us in compassion now
Blot out my transgressions now
Wash me, make me pure within
Cleanse, oh cleanse me from my sin

To that, I sing, “Amen.”

Life Theology

I was Bought with a Price

For you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

– 1 Corinthians 6:20

I don’t answer to myself anymore. I don’t even own myself. My being–heart, mind, body, was purchased on the cross. What was the price? The price was God’s own Son, Jesus. Second Corinthians 5:21 says Christ became sin for us even though he didn’t know what sin was. He had never, has never, and will never experience sinning. Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death. Christ became sin, he bore the wage of death and used that as a ransom for my soul to escape from death and hell. He bought me–not from a posh shopping center, but from a dirty, stinking, ghetto, white-trash garage sale. I was the item in the corner, tattered and beaten down, almost thrown away and unrecycled. Christ bought me with a price, not because I was worth anything, but because by his grace he wanted to make me worth something (2 Cor. 3:4-6).

So, if I am a purchased vessel, a bought slave, I must be obedient to my master and use my members for righteousness. My body must be used to glorify God–for there is no other option. I was bought as an enemy, a rebel, a fugitive. Now, I am alive in Christ, no longer dead in my sins. “He who washed us with his blood has brought us nigh to God.” Near to God, there must only be obedience and love for righteousness and a utter contempt for wickedness.

I must glorify God in my body, because I was bought with a price.