“Come Holy Spirit, fill me with Your fire so that I can be more like You; help me, I trust You. Father, open my eyes so that I may see You clearly. Open my ears so that I may hear You soundly. Open my mind so that I may understand You plainly. Open my heart so that I may love You more. Open my hands so that I may give generously and receive humbly. In Jesus‘ name, Amen.“
Today‘s reading is: Acts 17-20
And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.“ And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. Acts 17:2-4
Yesterday I shared with you the idea of writing down your own gospel story of how God has worked through your life. Did you know that that‘s exactly what Luke was doing when he wrote Acts! I want you to look back at Chapter sixteen, up to this point in the story of Acts all we‘ve read is things like “they went through…“, “the next day he…“ & “As they went on their way…“ but if you take a close look at chapter sixteen you‘ll notice something special.
So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.“ And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. So setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace… (Acts 16:8-10)
Did you catch the shift? It‘s subtle, but it‘s there. It is at this point in the book of Acts that Luke himself joins the story! It‘s the part of the story where their journey became his journey. The entire Bible is a story; it‘s the story of God and His interactions with His beloved children. Today, right now, God is inviting you to join His story. He‘s inviting you to be part of His life, to be part of the journey, to be part of the family, the family of believers. And just like the believers in Casarea (in Acts 10), there is nothing required of you for you to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit in your life, you need only to hear the word that God is speaking to you today. You know, He‘s always been there for you, you may not have seen Him, He often finds Himself cast into the shadows of our lives. But He‘s there, waiting for us to turn around and notice Him. You may be thinking that you need to say a prayer to be saved, that you have to repent of all your past sins and get right with God before He will accept you into the kingdom of heaven and give you the gift of the Holy Spirit living within you, but you‘d be wrong. Just look at Acts 10:44
While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God.
While Peter was still speaking the Holy Spirit came, not when he was done, while he was still talking! And in Acts 11:15-17 when Peter is reporting to the church about what happened there we see that he wasn‘t even close to being done!
As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.‘ If then God gave the same gift to them as He gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God‘s way?
Romans 3:23 tells us that we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, we all make mistakes, we all screw up, and no one is equal to God. As humans we want to do something to earn God‘s favor and grace. But we can‘t. Period. We feel like we need to do something to make ourselves right with God that we need to spend a long time saying some prayer that goes through all the bad things we‘ve ever done in our entire lives before God will accept us. But that‘s just not the truth. Look at the proof in the word of God! The people listening to Peter‘s message in Cornelius‘ house never had an altar call, they never got down on their knees and told God they were sorry, they just listened and accepted the story that Peter was telling them. You know, Peter never even said anything about repenting in his speech. The closest he comes to that is in his introduction
“Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him.“ (Acts 10:34-35)
According to this, as long as we revere God and from this moment on make the choice to sin no more and instead do what is right then we are acceptable to God. And He can not only read our minds, He can read our hearts. He knows when we are truly repentant, He knows when we have accepted Him into our lives and He will honor that. God knows you, for better or for worse, He knows everything about you, and He adores you. Not only that, He cherishes you and He wants to spend more time with you; all day every day in fact. NO! You don‘t have to become a monk and turn to a life of prayer and study alone, to spend all day every day with God is to simply make the conscious effort to acknowledge His presence in your everyday life. Basically, you just have to pay attention to Him during the day. When the traffic light turns green just as you‘re pulling up to it, you say “Thank You Lord!“ and drive on. When you see a beautiful sunset on your way home from work, you say “Lord, thank You for painting the sky for me to enjoy! I love it!“ God doesn‘t usually call you to change your entire life overnight, although sometimes it does happen that way but usually He just wants you to make Him a part of the life that you‘re already living. He loves you and He wants to be a part of you. And when you fall in love with Him you want to become part of Him. When we get married it‘s because we want to be part of each other forever. That‘s what being a Christian is all about, getting married to God, being part of His life forever, and allowing Him to be a part of your life forever. Your two separate lives becoming one life, joined for all eternity.
Amazing things happen when you get married to Jesus, you start to change from the inside out. It‘s like I‘ve been saying, spending time with Jesus changes you! Being a Christian is so much more than simply going to church and singing pretty songs. Just like being married is so much more than simply living together and having sex. It‘s all about having a relationship with one another. It‘s about spending time with one another, talking to each other and doing things together. The beauty of being married is the promise that you‘ve made to one another. You‘ve promised that you will both make the conscious choice to fight for your marriage and never give up on one another; that you will cheer each other on and lift one another up. God does that for you. Not because He has to, but because He wants to, because He loves you.
Being married to Jesus means that you don‘t read the Bible because you want to know more about Him, but because you simply want to know Him. The Bible is the Word of God and Jesus is the Word of God, while we may not have Jesus in the flesh sitting right next to us right now, in a way, we do! Every word in that little Bible has been written down through the Spirit of Jesus (aka the Holy Spirit).
When you‘re married to Jesus you pray because you want to talk to your heavenly husband; not just because your religion tells you to. You pray because you want to spend time with Him and tell Him about your day. Sure, He went through that very same day with you and saw everything that you saw, but He still wants to hear you talk to Him about it. Did you know that God likes to hear the sound of your voice? While your earthly husband may get annoyed by your constant talking, God loves it! However, He does enjoy it when you stop talking long enough to allow Him to have a side in the conversation too. That‘s usually where the Bible reading comes in. He will speak to you through your daily Bible reading. It‘s amazing to me how I can sit down to read my Bible with my head filled with questions and somehow I‘ll read something albeit completely unrelated to my own situation and God can still use those words to speak straight to my spirit about His will for me. It‘s nothing short of miraculous to be honest! I have no clue how He does it, I just know that He does it! And not just for me, but for everyone!
Jesus is calling us to a GENUINE relationship with Him. He doesn‘t want to be our acquaintance; He wants to be our husband!