N Acts 15;1-21 there are some “Religious” folks resorting to “churchy rules & regulations” to come up w “formulas” for having acceptance in the “Church”.They present their case to Peter&Barnabas who decide to see what their trusted brother&sisters in Christ think.Peter&Barnabas know the importance of seeking counsel(Proverbs11:14,”Where there is no guidance, a people falls,but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”).Some of the motivation behind the people from Judea was a prejudice against the new Gentile believers.You can kind of get the idea that there was an arrogance n the hearts of the folks from Judea as well as a prejudice.Arrogance & prejudice are always linked some way!In the middle of the discussion,Peter brings the conversation “back to Jesus”...,back to THE DETAIL that truly makes THE DIFFERENCE between someone being a true disciple of Christ or not(Acts15:7b,”Brothers,you know that in the early days God made a choice among you,that by mouth the Gentiles should hear the Word of the Gospel and believe.”).Peter states that hearing and then BELIEVING the Word of the Gospel is what brings a person into the family of God,and not ceremonial rules & regulations.When the brothers & sisters n Jerusalem considered the challenges brought by the men from Judea,the believers n Jerusalem went “back to The Word of God” to see what the scripture told about lives that truly follow the Lord.Their response gives a description of what lives will look like if they have truly/sincerely become believers.It is not a matter of looking for and following churchy rules & regulations,but a matter of lives being changed by seeking to have a thriving relationship w God by seeking to know what God says,and then assimilating God’s Word into their lives through The Gospel of Jesus Christ!Jesus says the same thing in John 8:31-32, “If you abide in my word,you are truly my disciples,and you will know the truth,and the truth will set you free.”We are given the opportunity to have a loving&thriving relationship w The One True God through “abiding” in His Word!The people from Judea we’re abiding in things other than the word of the Lord,& got into the weeds and away from being true disciples of Christ.We must ask ourselves,”what am I abiding in”?If I am not abiding in God’s Word,then I am turning away from the Love of God...His Great Love that desires a personal relationship w me!And I am not a true disciple of Christ,but a disciple of something or someone else!Dear Lord,help me to survey my life to reveal where I am abiding in things other than Your Word....give me a hunger for Your Word and a heart that is tender for Your Word...a life that is changed by Your Word.
N Acts12,the grandson of Herod the Great that desperately tried to kill baby Jesus by slaying all the baby boys n Bethlehem(Matthew2:16),& nephew of the Herod that beheaded John the Baptist...has had more than ample reasons to at the very least seek to know more about Jesus...more about THE TRUTH!But this Herod has the same life perspective that his elder relatives had!That being one of overwhelming self importance and selfishness/greed/arrogance which makes his mind & heart so hard that instead of acknowledging the miraculousness of things he has heard about and even witnessed himself,he rejects ETERNAL TRUTHS to the point of even killing the guards that told him about the angel of the Lord coming for Peter...freeing him from being chained to 2 guards,passing through 2 more sets of guards,& then opening the jail gates for Peter to go free!Instead of allowing all that Herod has heard and seen about Jesus,and those that TRUST Jesus,throughout his life cause him to seek to know more about this Jesus...Herod turns away from TRUTH and allows his mind&heart to become so very hardened that he is absolutely “lost” by his own selfish&egotistical“designs”&ideas.Herod has become so “lost” n his selfish&egotistical “designs”&ideas,that he becomes his own god of sorts.We all do this whenever we do not seek TRUTH,but instead settle for the way our personal “designs”&ideas define a personal version of truth.N this Herod’s life it led his demise n Acts12:21-23 as his selfishness&egotism kept him from acknowledging The Lord as God(“On The appointed day Herod,sat on his throne & delivered a public address to the people.They shouted,’This is the voice of a god,not of a man.’Immediately,because Herod did not give praise to God,an angel of the Lord struck him down and he was eaten by worms.”).Whenever we turn away from TRUTH,for any reason,we run the same risk that all 3 Herod’s succumbed to n their lives.That of having our mind&heart so hardened that we become “lost” in our own personal “designs”&ideas...just as they did.Dear Lord,I know that I have a lot of my own personal “designs”&ideas about You and about life that have me “lost” n ways that I need Your HELP with!I pray for Your Spirit & Your Word to lead me&guide me and empower me away from my personal “designs”&ideas,& into the life of the FREEDOM&JOY that only Your TRUTHS enable.
Toward the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry he tells His disciples about The Holy Spirit’s coming to every one of His disciples!N Acts the Holy Spirit in a life is The Identifier of True believers/followers of Christ,true disciples.When someone truly turns to Christ for His Grace&Mercy,Jesus baptizes that person with His Holy Spirit!(Matthew3:11b,”He will baptize you with The Holy Spirit and with fire.”)N other words,Jesus immerses us with His Holy Spirit when we sincerely turn away from a life avoiding His Heart/His Ways/His Word/His Love...& decide to earnestly acknowledge and seek to know & follow His Heart/His Ways/His Word/His Love.When this truly/sincerely happens n our life,The Holy Spirit will make Himself known n our lives,& through our lives...and our lives begin a transformation of cleansing from sin and old ways that are not eternally best for us-> this is the cleansing “fire” that comes w The Holy Spirit in our lives!So,n my life I need to be making myself aware of the WAYS The Holy Spirit is bringing Jesus’ Wisdom&Discernment into my life for purposes of growing Evidences of His Presence n my life...for my personal edification as well as for the purposes of those around me being able to know whether or not I am a true&faithful follower of Christ.Thus,The Holy Spirit became The Identifier of True Disciples of Christ for the 1st century Christians!As the Church in Antioch IDENTIFIED Barnabas(Acts11:24,”He was a good man,full of the Holy Spirit and Faith...”)Below is from Word Press,about the need for us to “know” The Holy Spirit’s Presence n our life.
“What is the evidence that we have the Holy Spirit? This is a common question among Christians. Following is my sampling of some of the answers I have heard. One answer is that the Holy Spirit indwells only through the word of God; so the evidence of indwelling is an increasing understanding of the word of God, the Bible. A second answer is that the gifts of the Spirit are the evidence. A third answer is that you know you have the Holy Spirit by the evidence of the fruit of the Spirit, which are the qualities and deeds of Christ-likeness. A fourth answer is that the evidence of the Holy Spirit is the blessings received through the church’s ministry according to the word of promise.While you are contemplating the answers, imagine you are renting a house. The owner of the house informs you that you must write out a big check for a down payment. The owner wants proof of your promise that you are really going to rent his house and make the monthly payments. In a few days you observe that your down-payment has been deposited into the owners escrow account. Picture your own bewilderment if the owner of the house then complained: “What evidence do I have of your down payment?” The gift of the Holy Spirit is God’s down payment, proof and evidence of God’s promise to give you the full inheritance of eternal life as a child in the family of God (2 Corinthians 1:21-22 and Ephesians 1:13-14). How our Lord must be bewildered that even a mature Christian will ask: “What is the evidence that I really have the Holy Spirit?”Since the Holy Spirit himself is evidence of God’s promise, then we must know we have him within our hearts. We must be aware and able to articulate our fellowship with Christ’s presence and the blessings of his work within our bodies, which is his holy temple. I fear that when we question how we know whether we have the Holy Spirit, that the question exposes a real inner uncertainty of our relationship with the Lord. While that explanation is likely, I believe it is more likely that we are so used to living and speaking about our lives on the basis of the flesh, that we are inexperienced and out of touch with the inner reality of God’s Spirit seeking a fuller fellowship with our spirit. We are like the half-Vulcan and half-Human Spock in the television and movie series of “Star Trek.” Spock suppressed the human side of his being in favor of expressing the Vulcan side. If we are largely material in the outlook, experiences, and descriptions of our lives; then the truly unseen, inward spiritual realities may elude us or even spook us.If you are willing to explore the implications; then for now I want to leave you with some food for thought. First, the sampling of answers in the first paragraph — however incomplete or misunderstood — shows that that the fullness of the church’s experience of the promise of the Holy Spirit is large. Congregations and Christians everywhere need enlargement in their knowledge and experience of the promise of the Holy Spirit. Why? The reason is because the scriptures make a big deal about the promise of the Holy Spirit as the Christ’s (Messiah’s) means for bringing God’s restoration of his blessings to Israel and the rest of the world (Isaiah 44 and 61, Ezekiel 36-37, Joel 2 and Acts 1-2).Second, it is completely understandable when a new or uninformed Christian asks: “How do I know I have the Holy Spirit?” There are blessings and manifestations of God’s down payment; and this question is a way of getting to the teachings that explain these truths. Thus, the question provides an opportunity to explain what the Bible teaches about the inspired word of God, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit, and the ministry of the Spirit in and by the church (1 Corinthians 2, 1Corinthians 12, Galatians 5, and Ephesians 4).Third, I think a very important question for all Christians to ask, especially those who think they are mature, is: Is Christ Jesus in me? The Apostle Paul asked this question as a test of genuine in devotion and service to Christ. Paul proved his genuineness as an apostle by sharing in the sufferings and love of Christ (2 Corinthians 10-13). Much is taught in the New Testament about the formation of Christ within us; and you may explore the deeper realization of this in the teaching of Jesus recorded in John 6. For now, I leave you with this aspiration from Galatians 2:20 (ESV): “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”Fourth, it is also critical that congregations of Christians ask: Do people and fellow Christians see the evidence of the faith, the grace of God and the fullness of the Holy Spirit in our praise and service to God? Acts 11:23-24 (ESV) beautifully expresses this thought from the example of Barnabas. It tells us: “When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.” Notice that the working of God’s grace in his church, and the fullness of the Holy Spirit and faith in a leader like Barnabas, was observable and discernible. Thus it could be described as a story; and the telling of testimony is an important way for others to learn what to expect and emulate.Finally, Jesus himself explained in John 14:15-24 his promise to give his disciples the Spirit of truth as a Helper. He promised that we would know of his Helper because he would dwell within us. Let me emphasize: We know through his indwelling. Through the indwelling both Father and Son make their home with us, and assure us of abiding fellowship, so that we are not orphans. Then Jesus explained how he would manifest his indwelling presence and fellowship to us. To manifest is to show and prove. The Lord’s purpose is that he shall manifest himself to us so that we have the comfort of his presence; the help he wills to provide to us; and fruitfulness that glorifies himself and his Father in us (See also John 15). It is so simple: Jesus promised that he would manifest himself to us if we love him by keeping his words. Isn’t that evidence enough?”
Dear Jesus,I have not sought to b aware of Your Spirit’s Presence n my life...with the fervor and sincerity I NEED to.Forgive me,& by Your Grace&Mercy lead me to know Your Spirit’s Presence n my life,& live seeking to know Your Presence n my life....change me from the inside out because of Your Presence n my life.
N Acts9:10-19,a disciple of The Lord,named Ananias, has a relationship w The Lord that enables him to hear The Lord’s voice,and that he is secure enough in The Lord’s Mercy&Grace to have a conversation w Him!The Lord says,”Ananias.”The Lord says nothing else,nor does He need to repeat Himself.Ananias KNOWS this is The Lord,& immediately responds->”Here I am Lord.”In responding this way Ananias is basically saying,”I am ready to hear from You/I am Yours Lord/my life is Yours/I trust You w my Life/I am waiting to hear from You/etc”.The Lord asks Ananias to do something that he is very very very uncomfortable with doing!N fact he is afraid that his life will b changed horrifically by this thing that The Lord is asking of him,”the ask”.Ananias doesn’t hide his trepidation nor any of his hesitancies!Ananias has a relationship w The Lord that he feels secure enough in to let The Lord know of his challenges w “the ask”.This makes it obvious that Ananias has had these types of conversations w The Lord before!He has learned that “beating around the bush” w excuses nor just ignoring The Lord is ever for Ananias’ personal best interest!He has learned that The Lord has always thought way ahead of whatever He asks,& that in the end Ananias is always blessed somehow.BUT,this doesn’t mean that he is now fearless on his own!Ananias NEEDS to b reassured by The Lord!Interesting that in His response The Lord doesn’t tell Ananias that all is going to b OK for him personally....The Lord just basically says “Trust Me”.That is not what He actually did say,but in what The Lord does says...He is calling Ananias to a level of Trust that is significant!In what The Lord says, He is confirming His Sovereignty;His Omnipresence;His Omniscience;& His Omnipotence.Ananias is reminded of these things...and his reverence for The Lord translates into ultimate Trust n The Lord,that translates into Ananias’ life following through w the instructions from The Lord(“the ask”).Ananias has obviously nurtured a personal relationship w The Lord n his heart/mind/life.A relationship that enables him to KNOW The Lord & His Voice!It is also obvious that this relationship has grown deeper by Ananias having experiences where he has trusted in all the Characteristics of The Lord,and let The Lord’s Strength lead him n responding to “the ask”.It is also clear that The Lord TRUSTS Ananias enough to come to him w “the ask”.Ananias did not get to this point without going through these types of experiences many times.And as Ananias has repeatedly responded n this way,it is obvious that his heart/mind/life has grown to have a “posture” of,”I am ready to hear from You/I am Yours Lord/my life is Yours/I trust You w my Life/I am waiting to hear from You/etc.”.This “posture” n Ananias’ life is a reason why The Lord comes to Ananias w “the ask”,and why Ananias has a heart/mind/life that is “tuned in” & ready to hear from The Lord.Dear Lord,my life does not always have the “posture” that Ananias has n these verses.N fact,I don’t want to think about how much of my life has not had this!Dear Jesus,lead me and guide me,& help me to have this “posture” n all parts of my life!And help me to always come to You as Ananias did when You come to me w “the ask” of the moment.
There is a connection between perseverance WITH persistence, and a real/sincere faith->the kind of faith that truly reveres The Lord...truly recognizes The Lord & WHO&WHAT HE IS!Whether or not a person perseveres WITH persistence also reveals whether or not that person truly has a heart that sincerely desires to know God for WHO HE IS as LORD,or if we r just seeking HIM to give us what we want.The person desiring to know GOD because of WHO HE IS will have his/her faith grown&strengthened by The Lord...and life will have eternal purpose & meaning that satisfies our heart&soul.The other person will more than likely become frustrated&disappointed by what THEIR WAY leaves them with,& ultimately have a faith based on things that fade away & do not last forever->the “fruit” of the lack of perseverance WITH persistence are things that do not last for long and always leave us unsatisfied&wanting more or something else.The centurion Cornelius in Acts10 is a person that epitomizes one that has the persistence WITH perseverance that leads to him,his family,& a BUNCH of others “finding” the only things that truly satisfy & reward the greatest desires of the human heart/spirit/soul.Cornelius was a devout man that revered God with his whole life;had a heart for the needs of the people around him,& continually sought to know The One True God(Acts10:2).The perseverance WITH persistence n this man’s life enabled him to know The Lord’s voice beyond the shadow of a doubt!When Cornelius hears The Lord call his name,Cornelius answers,”What is it Lord”!Cornelius’ seeking the Lord n perseverance WITH persistence enabled him to KNOW the Lord’s voice!Cornelius’ perseverance WITH persistence seeking The Lord had developed a Discernment that recognized The One True God!So,when God calls his name...Cornelius says,”What is it Lord?!”We also see what Cornelius has been seeking from God “in” perseverance WITH persistence.God says that Cornelius prayer has been answered,& then gives him instructions that will not only answer Cornelius’ prayer...but the same heart cry of many other people through his prayers&his perseverance WITH persistence!N Acts10:34-43 the ANSWER to Cornelius’ prayer reveals what his heart/spirit/soul had been yearning to God for! The ANSWER is The Gospel of Jesus Christ,that blesses everyone who believes in HIM with forgiveness of sins through HIS NAME!The heart cry of Cornelius had been to have a Right Relationship w The Lord...and the same for his family and loved ones....! This is The Answer to his prayer....what Cornelius had been continually praying for!This is what was above and beyond all other “needs&desires” n Cornelius’ life.”The centurion Cornelius’ life had taken him through many experiences and brushed his life up against many different people and groups and situations that must’ve left him with the questions about “what else is there...what is true & right....?”Cornelius had become aware that there must be more...he had begun a perseverant WITH persistence seeking of The Only Answer that would “satisfy”.He also knew that The God of Israel was The One...from his experiences and people he had been through and witnessed...he knew The God of Israel had to be The One with The Answer!So he prayed continually(perseverance WITH persistence)...and God Spoke with Cornelius personally!The FRUIT of seeking The Lord n “persistence WITH perseverance” is a life that finds The Answer(s) to life’s most significant questions->& has a life “BUILT” on a foundation that will provide the “basis” for eternal blessings!As Edward Mote’s hymn says-“My Hope is built on nothing less....On Christ the Solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand..”Becoming SOLID n our relationship w The Lord will require “perseverance WITH persistence”...the same thing that the Centurion Cornelius had.Dear Jesus,I fade from this in my life so much....many times my perseverance fades before it can begin to become persistent...and I don’t persevere to hear from You.Help me through the Stength of Your Word and Your Spirit to have the perseverance WITH persistence that Cornelius had....