In Luke 4:16-30, Jesus returns home to Nazareth, where He visits the local synagogue and reads from Isaiah 61. His visit came after having spent time preaching and teaching along the shores of Galilee, near Capernaum. Those who had heard Him preach glorified Him, and He had apparently performed some miracles along the way.
The passage He read at the Nazareth synagogue was a Messianic prophecy concerning the healing and restoration that Messiah would bring, a reference to the power of the Gospel. The people, however, were unimpressed, wishing that He would rather perform some of the same miracles He did in Capernaum. When Jesus confronted their hardness of heart, they tried to kill Him, but He passed through them and escaped.
In reading the opening of Isaiah 61, we are reminded of the power of the Gospel. It is the Gospel that brings healing and eternal salvation. We are also reminded of Who Jesus really is, and why we should place our faith in Him. Ultimately, we are reminded of the hope that our faith brings.
The ministry of John the Baptist is a key component of the Gospel story, hence it is included in all four accounts of the Gospel. The ministry of John the Baptist is one more fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, and John’s ministry demonstrates the divinity of Jesus Christ.
However, if we only make a theological point about John’s ministry, and miss his words, we’ve missed the point altogether. John’s preaching in Luke 3 teaches us three key things. (1) Judgment day is upon us, (2) The way of repentance, and (3) the power of Christ.
John the Baptist said, “The axe is laid to the root of the trees.” In that statement, he warned that Christ was coming, and so the people would need to make a decision regarding their faith. The proper choice, of course, is to repent and believe.
In discussing repentance, John gave clear teachings on what it meant to repent, and what true repentance looks like. The word repent means to turn and never return. It’s very similar to the word “forsake,” which means to turn away and never return.
While the repentant sinner may stumble and fall in the sin again, his life and desires are no longer consumed by the sin. Along those lines, John gave some guidelines by which to evaluate your life.
He said, “Let those who have two coats give to the one who has none. Let the tax collectors collect no more than is due. Let the soldiers no longer extort the civilians.” At the root of these statements are an evaluation. Are we covetous, are we content, are we prideful?
Had John been preaching today, he may have said, “Let the porn addict log off his computer, let the drug addict put down the pipe, and let the thief earn his way.”
The fact is that we often self-medicate with sin. If we are self-medicating, have we repented? And if we are self-medicating, are we really trusting God for healing and salvation?
John’s ministry also points out the power of Christ, who will baptize us with the Holy Ghost and with fire. The Holy Spirit indwells us at the point of salvation, giving us the power to overcome sin and heal. The fire is the adversity God uses to transform and purify us. Our job in life is to trust that process.
Judgment day is closer now than it has ever been, and if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that business as usual can no longer be trusted. Let us all repent and trust the Lord as we move into 2021.
One of the more fascinating stories in the Bible is the story of the wise men who came to visit Jesus when He was born. With little more than a bright star that lit the night sky as a guide, the wise men traveled a far distance to worship the newborn Messiah. What motivated their journey? How did they know of Christ?
There are a lot of good theories and stories out there, but since none are backed by scripture, we may never really know. The good news is that their motivation is not key to the message of the scriptures.
Matthew wrote His Gospel to record the life of Jesus, to record His teachings, to demonstrate the redemption He purchased on the cross, and to prove that He is the Christ based on how He fulfilled Old Testament scripture.
With that context, the message of the wise men takes shape. From this passage, we learn that Jesus Christ is real, that He redeemed us from sin, and that He fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy foretelling His birth in Bethlehem.
These lessons should make Christ more real and tangible to us, and should teach us to rest in His grace and salvation.
Isaiah 9:2-7 is one of the more famous Old Testament passages foretelling the birth of Jesus, as that is the passage that contains the words, “Unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given.”
Isaiah prophesied in a time when the nation of Israel (both northern and southern kingdoms) was in great decline. The kingdom was constantly losing territory and cities to neighboring invaders, the economy was crashing, and the nation was in a state of moral and spiritual decline.
All of this could be traced back to the inception of idolatry in Israel, and the nation’s drift toward sin and worshipping idols.
As a result, the nation declined, and God warned of a coming captivity which would correct their sin.
Israel was in a dark place. Times would get darker. Yet, on the other side of the darkness was light, prosperity and joy. In this lesson, Pastor Leland Acker discusses how God takes us through the darkness and into the Light, and how all blessings come through Christ.
Simeon was a man who had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would live to see the day that Christ would arrive. Think about how amazing that must have been?
How would you feel if you knew that scripture would be fulfilled in your lifetime? How would you feel knowing that you would live to see the second coming of Christ, and the establishment of His Kingdom on Earth?
How would you be impacted if that which you believed in your entire life was suddenly real, tangible, and right in front of you?
All of these were realities to Simeon, who in Luke 2:22-40, was overcome with his excitement and lifted up his praises toward God. In his and Anna’s praise, three observations are made:
Jesus is the Christ.
Jesus is Salvation.
Jesus is Redemption.
The Christ is the Anointed One, the Chosen One, the Messiah. In scripture, God made multiple promises to Israel, and He made many promises to us. Each and everyone of those promises would be fulfilled by the Christ. Simeon identifies the Christ as Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus is Salvation. It’s His very nature, and it’s even in His name. The name “Jesus” literally means “The Lord is Salvation.” Jesus gave His life on the cross to save us from our sins, from darkness, from hopelessness, and to bring in everlasting life, and eternal reward.
Jesus is redemption. Redemption means to be liberated from bondage by the payment of an outstanding debt. We were in bondage to sin and condemnation, but Jesus liberated us by paying our sin-debt, that we may go free.
Simeon’s words are deep and profound. Check out Life Point’s worship service, posted above, and learn more through Pastor Leland Acker’s message on “What Child is This?”
One of the most common criticisms of the Laodicean church, based on the words of our Lord in Revelation 3, is that they were rich, slothful, and to a certain degree, prideful. They loved their riches, and proclaimed, “I am rich!”
The problem was that their faith was weak, and that faith could only be strengthened by the Lord’s refining process, which involves trial by fire. The Apostle Peter wrote about such trials in 1 Peter 1:7, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”
The Lord invited them to have their faith refined.
This weak faith that the Lord critiqued led to another situation He addressed, the fact that the Laodicean church was lukewarm. This means that the church didn’t really do anything, and didn’t really stand for anything. It just sort of existed. The picture almost becomes one of a social club. There’s no real celebration of redemption. There’s no concerted effort to advance the cause of the Gospel.
Because this church was lukewarm, the Lord threatened to spew them out of His mouth. He then invited the church to let Him in so that He could fellowship with them.
There are multiple lessons from Laodicea. (1) Trust the Lord and allow Him to refine your faith, even when that refining process brings pain. (2) Stand for something, and do something. Don’t merely exist, do something for the Lord. Take a stand for the Lord. (3) Open the door and allow the Lord in. Fellowship with Him. (4) Don’t be so consumed by worldly things that you neglect your Spiritual condition. That leads to true poverty.
Trust the Lord. Love the Lord. Live for the Lord. God bless you.
Moment of transparency: The shelter-in-place orders of the COVID-19 pandemic have scared me. I do not fear death, disease, or loss of income. I do fear passing the disease to our church members, and I fear losing the church. My biggest fear is that I am not doing a good enough job keeping the church together while we remain in isolation. At the end of the day, God is the One Who does that anyway, and I should have no fear.
The first Sunday we went totally online, our data failed toward the end of the sermon, and I had to finish up early. Two weeks later, my mobile device I was using to stream failed during a Wednesday night message.
Meanwhile, other churches who had already maintained an online presence were putting together top-notch presentations. And while I am not jealous of those churches, and I am not offended when a church member seeks wisdom from the teaching of another pastor, I worried that I had not done enough to minister to my flock. Indeed, the Gospel is being preached more online than ever, and thousands are being reached. Am I doing my part?
Then, I read the letter to the church at Philadelphia, which encouraged a church that was remaining faithful despite mounting obstacles and opposition. The Lord told Philadelphia that they would be spared from the hour of temptation, and their enemies will worship at their feet.
The lesson here is that God honors faithfulness, and He delivers and gives the victory. So, if you are struggling with whether God is pleased with your in-home, quarantined worship, He is. If you are a pastor who cannot get your messages uploaded due to spotty internet service, God still honors your faithfulness.
Turn to the Lord, and He will turn to you. Trust the Lord, and He will deliver you. God bless you all.
The church at Thyatira, like the other churches in Revelation, had a lot of things going for it… but one issue God took was the sin and immorality that was infiltrating the church. God allowed time for those involved to repent, but they didn’t, so the day of reckoning was coming. From this, we learn that now is always the time to repent.
Jesus had high praise for the church at Pergamos, but unlike their counterparts in Smyrna, there was an issue. Pergamos had those that held to the doctrine of Balaam. What does that mean?
To understand that, we need to go back and read the story of Balaam from Numbers. Balaam was willing to work with Balak to sabotage or pronounce a curse on Israel, that is, until God told him to only speak the words the Spirit gave Him. Upon heeding those instructions, Balaam proclaimed a blessing on Israel.
What happened next, however, is kind of subtle. With Balaam’s direction, the people of Israel began to worship idols and commit sexual immorality. The result was God’s punishment upon the people.
It is easy to get distracted from our relationship and faith in God by enticing sins and temptations which present themselves. Such was the case at Pergamos. They were faithful to the Lord and endured affliction, but at the same time, they had fallen into temptation.
You can be a faithful Christian, and have issues. You can believe in the Lord and be saved, and yet, struggle with sin. The Lord takes issue with that, therefore when we identify that sin, we should repent of that sin and get it out of our lives.
Or as Hebrews 12:1 says, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”
In his letter to the church at Smyrna, Jesus said, “I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. (Revelation 2:9)”
Smyrna was in a difficult situation. They were being persecuted, they were facing hardships, and they were poor. Jesus said He knew this. Jesus knowledge of the plight of the Smyrnan church went beyond an awareness of their suffering, He understood it, because He experienced it during His earthly ministry.
Jesus gave them hope. He told them that their suffering would not be long, and that it would be rewarded.
For us, the Lord not only knows what we are going through, but He experienced it Himself. Therefore, He is sympathetic (Hebrews 4:15). He will hear your prayer and respond.
In the meantime, the trials and tribulations through which you suffer are not pointless. God uses them to transform you, and He will reward you. Keep looking up, and have faith in the Lord.