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FAITH COMES BY HEARING

FAITH COMES BY HEARING

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

“But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our message?’ Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” Romans 10:14-17.

What a gem of a chapter is Romans 10!

Paul, in this one chapter, sweeps away all the complicated arguments and explanations about religion, even the religion of the Jews, and reveals the simplicity of the message about Jesus. It’s all about believing – not just giving intellectual assent to, but entrusting oneself to the truth that Jesus is Lord, and He is the way to the Father.

You don’t have to search for Him. He is right here – wherever you are – as close as your breath and the words of your mouth. It doesn’t matter whether you are a Jew or a Gentile. There is no longer any distinction because the door is wide open for anyone who believes in Him to enter the kingdom of God and receive the gift of righteousness and eternal life.

To receive this gift and the assurance of eternal life takes nothing more that listening to  the message about Jesus and believing the good news that He has done everything to clear the way for us to return to the Father and be reconciled and restored to Him as His sons and daughters.

But, in order to receive the message, people have to hear it; and in order to hear it, someone must preach it; and in order to preach it, someone must be sent; and that means all of us. To His disciples Jesus gave the commission: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” John 20:21.

Who are His disciples? Surely not only those who physically followed Him during the three years of His public ministry? He commissioned them to go and make disciples – followers who would make more disciples, who would make more disciples…right down to today. If you are a follower, the instruction is for you and for me to tell the message so that others can believe and tell the message.

But hearing the message is not enough. How many times did the Israelites hear the message in the Old Testament era? How many times did the Jews hear the message from the lips of Jesus and from the lips of the apostles and the early Christians, yet they still rejected it? Paul prayed for them and grieved over their stubborn unbelief but nothing would persuade the majority of them of the truth that is in the message about Jesus. But while they refuse to believe, there are many millions that have believed and have experienced the truth of the message.

In verse 17 Paul gives us a little gem about faith. What is the origin of faith? It doesn’t just drop out of the sky. Faith must have a foundation, a substance, some truth that generates confidence and gives us something stable to stand on. What is that foundation, that substance upon which we can pin our hope? It’s the message about Jesus. Every time we read or hear something more about Him, our confidence in Him can grow.

Like patience and all the other virtues we long to possess, faith can be cultivated by exposing ourselves to the message. The more we can discover about Jesus, the more we will be able to trust Him, not only with our eternal destiny but with the nitty-gritty of our everyday lives.

There is no one who cannot respond to the message in faith. It takes nothing more than hearing and believing. No ritual, performance, ceremony, offering, sacrifice or even a pastor or counsellor is necessary to facilitate believing. Just believe and Jesus Christ is yours.

Acknowledgement

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – BIBLE SCHOOL, JESUS STYLE

CHAPTER NINE

BIBLE SCHOOL, JESUS STYLE

“Jesus now called the Twelve and gave them authority and power to deal with all the demons and cure diseases. He commissioned them to preach the news of God’s kingdom and heal the sick. He said, ‘Don’t load yourselves up with equipment. Keep it simple; you are the equipment. And no luxury inns – get a modest place and be content there until you leave. If you’re not welcomed, leave town. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and move on.’

“Commissioned, they left. They travelled from town to town telling the latest news of God, the Message, and curing people everywhere they went.” Luke 9:1-6.

Step two of Jesus’ training programme for His disciples was about to begin. Mark outlined His strategy in one simple sentence: “He appointed twelve: that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach.” Mark 3:14 (NIV).

He had spent a considerable time modelling His method and His message, with His disciples with Him day and night, watching and listening to Him and getting the feel of the kingdom He was introducing to His people. Although they still had in mind that He had come to deliver them from Rome, perhaps they thought that what He was showing them was part of His strategy to win the people over.

Jesus considered them ready to go out without Him to do what He had been doing. They needed plenty of practice for the day when He left them on their own for good to get on with what He had started. The day would come when He would give them their commission to a life work to go, not just to the towns and villages of Israel but to the whole world to pass on who they were – disciples of Jesus.

His instruction was simple. ‘Don’t weigh yourself down with loads of baggage and equipment.’ This was a partnership between Himself and His disciples. It was His responsibility to see that they were provided for on their journey. They did not have to run “Praise-a-thons” to raise funds or stay in 5-star hotels or travel in Mercedes Benz vehicles. Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission, said, ‘God’s work, done in God’s way, will never lack God’s supply.’ His policy was “to move man through God by prayer alone.”

They were to rely on the hospitality of the local people. Between the lines, He was giving townspeople the opportunity to have a share in the blessing of partnering with His disciples in the work of the kingdom. If there were those who were inhospitable enough to turn them away, it was not necessary to make a fuss about it. They would be the losers and that would be enough.

Jesus’ strategy was brilliant, bringing people and God together and showing His disciples how to trust Him for their resources by giving people the opportunity to be generous. He promised to meet our needs but He does not do it by tossing money from heaven. It is the generosity of people that creates a current and keeps His resources circulating. This principle works in the natural world too.

The disciples did what He instructed them to do and He did what He promised He would do. He was already beginning to multiply Himself in twelve men who were listening, watching, learning and imitating their Rabbi.

Isn’t it sad that the simple message of Jesus has been covered up with layers of stuff and ritual until it had become unrecognisable? There is nothing wrong with using technology to get the message out as long as the message remains unadulterated with human ideas and interpretations. What Jesus came to do should remain unchanged, however it is delivered.

What did He come to do? He came to show us the Father and to take us to the Father so that we can be reconciled and live as His sons and daughters here on earth. Anything else is not who He is and not what He came to do!

A Universal Message

A UNIVERSAL MESSAGE

Later, Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; He rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16: 14-16)  

Although this final section of Mark’s gospel was not in the original manuscript, it is quite clearly the work of someone who was in the inner circle. Note how his addition links in with what had gone before.

The Eleven! The disciples were often officially called “The Twelve” but one had failed and dropped out. Whoever wrote this short ending was well aware of this and re-named the group “The Eleven”. After the ascension of Jesus, Peter took it on himself to convene a meeting of the believers to choose a man to replace Judas. However, although Matthias was chosen by lot, it is clear from the early history of the church that God’s choice to replace Judas and complete the Twelve was not Matthias but Paul.

When Jesus appeared to the Eleven after His resurrection, according to this anonymous writer, His first words were to rebuke them for their unbelief. Mark had made it very clear that no one believed the report of the women or the two whom Jesus had accompanied on their way home to Emmaus. Even the women themselves had fled from the tomb in fear after seeing and hearing the message of the young man. What a slap in the face for their Master!

Although Jesus had appeared and reappeared to His disciples at various times and places, it was never the same as it had been before. He was no longer with them constantly to teach and guide them on their journey with Him. He has promised that the Holy Spirit would come to take His place but His promise was yet to be fulfilled.

The additional ending to Mark’s story is a summary of the forty days between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. He tied up all the loose ends of Peter’s denial and their desertion, making sure that they were all aware that their past was behind them and that they had a commission to fulfil which had not been withdrawn because of their failure. On the contrary, they were better prepared to do their Master’s will, now that they had tasted the terrible consequences of their independence and self-sufficiency. Already, some of Jesus’ teachings and warnings were coming home to them with painful clarity.

Jesus informed them that the sweep of their commission was far greater than just the human race. That didn’t mean that they had literally to preach to animals and inanimate creation, but it did mean that His death and resurrection had implications for the whole universe. The twelfth apostle, Paul, caught the impact of this and reported it to the readers of his letter to the church in Rome and, of course to all those down the centuries who have benefitted from his correspondence to them,

For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (Rom. 8: 19-22)

A day is coming, said Paul, when all of creation, not just those who have believed and were baptised, will be restored to the original plan of the Creator. Tied up with the good news of redemption through the blood of Jesus, is the hope of restoration and renewal for all of the created universe.

Why did this writer make clear that baptism was to be an integral part of a believer’s initiation into the kingdom of God? Ritual washing was a common practice in Judaism, not a unique rite of Christianity. It was not a once-off occurrence among the Jews but a common practice because it testified to the washing away of old things; e.g., of uncleanness after physical healing or childbirth; of a preparatory stage in a person’s life, e.g., for the priesthood, and identification with a new group or movement. John’s baptism was symbolic of the washing away of old ways of thinking and believing (repentance) and identification with John and his teaching about the Messiah.

How unfortunate that the Greek word, baptizo, was transliterated instead of translated, making it appear to be something unique to Jesus. Baptism was not understood to be part of salvation, but a cut-off point for everyone seriously committed to following Jesus. It is the declaration of intent as well as the witness to what has already happened within.

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life. (Rom. 6: 3-4)

How sad that the church has made baptism to mean something different from Jesus’ original intenion. It is impossible for babies and young children to make such a commitment, or for parents to do it on their behalf. This is about mikvah, washing away the old life and entering into a new one, in union with Jesus through faith; and the public confession of identification with Him in His person and mission – to reveal the Father and to establish His kingdom on earth.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my new book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or kindle version or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Watch this space. My second book, Learning to be a Disciple – The Way of the Master (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing), companion volume to Learning to be a Disciple – The Way of the Master, will soon be on the bookshelves.

Check out my Blog site – www.learningtobeason.wordpress.com

 

The Proof Of The Pudding

THE PROOF OF THE PUDDING

Calling the Twelve to Him, He began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits. These were His instructions: ‘Take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.’ They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them (Mark 6: 7-13).

It was time for the acid test. Twelve men had spent enough time with their rabbi to have a feeling for who He was and what He was about. It was time for them to put into action the lessons they had learned. If they were to continue the mission of Jesus when He was no longer with them, they had to show Him that they could do it, that His confidence in them was not misplaced and that they had enough confidence in both Him and themselves to replicate Him wherever they went.

He sent them out in pairs so that they would have each other for encouragement and support. Jesus was not interested in “lone rangers”. They needed each other and He paired them up so that they would learn to live together as one. Imagine! Who did He put with whom? Peter – the motor mouth? John – the hothead? Thomas – the dubious one? Judas – the schemer? O yes, they needed each other alright – because they had many rough edges to knock off.

Why did Jesus tell them to travel light? I think it was a test for both preachers and listeners. The Jews were part of the Middle Eastern tradition to be hospitable. There was no ”guest house” industry in Israel. Travellers relied on the hospitality of the people as they moved through the country. The attitude of the inhabitants would determine their attitude to the message. If they received the disciples with generosity it would be a sign that they were open to their message, and to one whom they represented.

The disciples were not to be picky about their hosts. They were to accept the hospitality of those who received them gladly and not to go off looking for more comfortable accommodation or better cuisine. It was a case of give and take. Where they were welcome they were to stay as long as they were in that town.

Why should they travel light – no suitcase of clothing and no ready cash in their money belts? This was also to be a faith journey for them. They were to learn to trust their heavenly Father to meet their needs as they went out proclaiming the kingdom. Again it was to be give and take. As they obeyed the Master, so He would ensure that their everyday needs were met.

What if the people of the town or village rejected them? Jesus’ instruction sounded like He was telling them to thumb their noses at them. That’s probably how we would react, but that was not Jesus. When a rabbi was training His disciples to walk with him, they did not walk in a bunch around him. They walked in an orderly line, one behind the other. The rabbi wore sandals with flaps on them which kicked up dust as he walked. The one closest to the rabbi, who led them, was privileged to have the dust of his rabbi on his cloak and feet.

As representatives of their rabbi, the disciples would have their rabbi’s dust – His disposition – on them as they went from place to place. If they were not welcomed in the town, they were to shake the dust off their feet – not cursing the people, but leaving behind their rabbi’s blessing as they went on their way. Isn’t that neat! Isn’t that just like Jesus! The very dust of the rabbi’s blessing would testify against them because of their unbelief.

The disciples must have been ecstatic, disease and demons giving was to the authority Jesus had given them. Getting rid of the Romans had nothing on that! Even Judas was in on the deal. We will never know what was in Judas’ heart that led him to betray his Master after an experience like that.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my new book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (copyright 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or kindle version or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Check out my Blog site – www.learningtobeason.wordpress.com

 

 

Boundaries

BOUNDARIES

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place where He prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for Him, and when they found Him, they exclaimed, ‘Everyone is looking for you!’ Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages- so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’ So He travelled throughout Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and driving out demons (Mark 1: 35-39).

‘Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages- so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’ What a remarkable man! A lesser person may have been so excited about his popularity and the success of his ministry that he would have found an office and set up his headquarters right there in Capernaum.

Not Jesus! He wasn’t out to build a ministry and set up a data base of supporters so He could send out His newsletter every month and garner “partners” for His ministry. He had a twofold mission to accomplish – to reveal the Father to His people and to train disciples who would be replicas of Himself so that they would carry on His ministry when He was no longer there. It was a hands-on, on-the-job training programme.

His power came, not from the support He could build based on His popularity and His “seeker friendly” methods. His source of power was simple – prayer, much prayer, early-morning prayer when there was no one around to clamour for His attention. He was in partnership with His heavenly Father, energised by the Holy Spirit.

He had to touch base every day to ensure that He maintained His unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit and did exactly what He was instructed to do. This was, after all, the Father’s business and He was the Son. Only through submission and obedience to the Father would Jesus succeed. The success of His enterprise would come, not from His methods but from the Holy Spirit who came upon Him at His baptism and who put Him through His paces in the wilderness. The principles were hammered out there and He would stick to them, no matter what.

This meant that He had to set boundaries. He was not driven by people’s need. He was led by the Holy Spirit. The fact that people were up and out at the crack of dawn looking for Him was not His motivation. He had a much wider mission to accomplish than healing all the sick people in one town. He had a message to deliver to the whole nation. He was not deterred or held up by people in need in one locality.

Jesus had not come from heaven on a healing campaign, as urgent and necessary as that was in Israel. Healing and casting out demons was not an end in itself but a demonstration of what God’s reign would be like when He came in His fullness. Satan’s rule had brought misery and suffering to the human race because people allowed him to deceive them into thinking he was in charge. It was time for the people to know the truth.

When God is in charge, everything that is contrary to God will be defeated and destroyed. Love and all the ramifications of love, will be the ruling principle. There will be no place in His kingdom for any imperfection. Attitudes and behaviour that represent the dominion of darkness will be gone forever. That’s what Jesus came to show His people. He would conquer disease, death and demons and with them all the ugly emotions and attitudes that mess people up and destroy relationships.

He would not allow anyone or anything to deter or distract Him from His purpose. He walked away from Capernaum because He had a message to deliver everywhere. Not His disciples, not the clamouring crowd, not the promise of success or popularity, nothing would stop Him from following the Father’s directions. He knew His boundaries. He drew His boundaries. His disciples would just have to get used to Him if they were to learn His ways.

What if those of us who think we are His disciples were to take a leaf out of His book? What if we were to get our directions daily from the Holy Spirit and not from our plans and strategies? What If we were to draw boundaries around our times of interaction with the Father and His directives and allow nothing to distract us and pull us off course?

What if we were to spend more time seeking the kingdom of God than we do building our own kingdoms?

What if we were to understand the heart of Jesus and do what He did – bring heaven to earth where we are by being like Him? How effective would that be?

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my new book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (copyright 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

Available on www.amazon.com or www.kalahari.com in paperback, e-book or kindle format, or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Check out my blogsite at www.learningtobeason.wordpress.com