Not an Easy Path (Part Two)


Acts 16:16-24

Bringing them before the chief magistrates, they said, “These men are seriously disturbing our city. They are Jews and are promoting customs that are not legal for us as Romans to adopt or practice.” The crowd joined in the attack against them, and the chief magistrates stripped off their clothes and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had severely flogged them, they threw them in jail, ordering the jailer to guard them carefully (16:20-23 CSB).

True Christianity can expect evil people to oppose it (16:19-21). Often, the opponents, like the people in this account, are motivated by greed, which they think will provide them with happiness. They don’t like to hear about truly loving and caring for others, since they seek to get ahead of everyone else.

  • Apart from God’s common grace, the worldly-minded person runs by this formula: “cultural position or wealth equals power that yields happiness.” Many seem to succeed quite nicely by this formula, until you consider their eternal destiny (cf. Psalm 73:17).
  • Apart from God’s restraint, they will not hesitate to use their power to attack those who interfere with their desires.

Wicked people will use distortion and deceit to ruin their godly opponents (16:20-21). Error uses some truth to gain plausibility, but about the only truth they uttered was that Paul and Silas were Jews. Even that would have been used to arouse prejudice. Most public debate is carried out in this way. Name-calling to arouse fears and prejudice to incite hate are favorite tools. The rest of their charge was a lie. Without a belief in absolute truth, telling lies is a very easy activity. We must remember this as we face other religions, and especially people ruled in their thinking by Postmodernism, which denies the existence of truth and absolutes. In order to face strong opposition, we must pray for strength and our integrity.

True Christianity may lead to terrible suffering (16:22-24). This is impossible to accept, if you think that spiritual success is measured by personal ease and prosperity. Too often we see professing Christians mesmerized by worldly success: “A growing church is a successful church.” Christians fail to consider that growing attendance might only mean that their services are more comfortable to worldly-minded people. Paul performed a great miracle through Christ’s power, but church attendance at Philippi did not zoom to one thousand. “Wow! We’re going to have to start a second service!” By the way, let’s read all the New Testament Scriptures! Yes, sometimes churches might see thousands added to their numbers. But it is just as true that sincere, godly people of faith in God might have little to show for their labors.

This is impossible to accept if you listen to lies claiming that God doesn’t want people, especially his people, to suffer. Paul and Silas, two men of faith yet severely flogged and locked in prison, are a painful refutation of such lies. But the Lord Jesus predicted suffering, for the whole church (Matthew 10:16-39; 24:9), and for the apostle Paul (Acts 9:15-16). And the Lord blessed those who are persecuted because of righteousness (cf. Matthew 5:10-12).

True Christianity is not an easy path. Let us remember what Paul wrote (1 Corinthians 15:19-20). I really don’t know what God will do in our present situation. Hatred grows daily. As Christ’s ambassador, if you trust Him as your Lord and Savior, all I can offer you is a cross in this world—and eternal glory in the world to come! Should we quit? Never! What did Paul and Silas do as they suffered horribly? They prayed and worshiped (16:25)! We will be very wise to follow their good example.

Grace and peace, David

Exploring Matthew 10

And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’ (Matthew 10:7 ESV).

In the Gospel of Matthew, we encounter five great discourses or teaching sections of Jesus. Each of these contains essential lessons from the Teacher to his learners (disciples). The first, third and last in the list below bear the names usually attached to them:

  • The Sermon on the Mount (5-7)
  • The Instructions for Mission (10)
  • The Kingdom Parables (13)
  • The Community of the King (18-20)
  • The Olivet Discourse (24-25)

If you want an easier list to remember, think: life (5-7), mission (10), kingdom (13), community (18-20), and outlook (24-25). Starting with your thumb, visualize a word written on each fingerprint and memorize the list. Now to chapter ten itself.

Matthew 10 is linked to the end of the previous chapter (9:35-38). In it we observe Jesus involved in the work the Father gave him to do and his prayer request for laborers for the harvest. Matthew 10:1-4 reveals a partial answer to that request. From his learners, Jesus chose twelve to form a special group in which they are also called apostles (“sent ones” – this is the only time that Matthew uses the term). These twelve disciples are listed in pairs, which is suggestive for the way others would be sent out to minister (cf. Luke 10:1).

The remainder of the chapter develops the concept of mission in three ways:

  • The short-term mission of the Twelve (10:5-15) — The instructions to the twelve disciples are part of the narrative. In God’s plan, Jesus had work for them to do to extend the impact of Jesus’ earthly ministry. While some matters clearly for the Twelve on their first “mission trip” (like their restricted location and ability to perform miracles), there are general principles that apply to missional living for all disciples. We are to serve people in their need, trust God for provision, and look for a “person of peace” and extend a local ministry from that person. Notice that even on this short-term trip, there was the possibility of opposition (10:14-15).
  • The long-term mission to the whole world (10:16-23) — Developing the idea of opposition, Jesus wants us to be aware of several matters: He knows the dangerous situation that he sends us into; he tells us that danger will come because of our relationship to him and the witness we give for him; he provides the Spirit as our Helper; and tells us to persevere for him in spite of persecution, even from our own families.
  • The response of disciples to the world’s opposition (10:24-42) — First, the Lord knows our hearts and talks to us about fear. The idea is to replace fear with trust in the Father’s care (10:26-33). Second, he counsels us about his agenda. He does not intend to bring peace but a sword, and so we should not think that something has gone wrong. We must maintain a proper Christ-focus at all times (10:34-39). Third, the response of people to us depends on their response to Christ. He will reward those who care for his followers (10:40-42).

Hopefully, this will give you an overview as you explore this chapter. Read it many times, because it presents attitudes that we need as we join Christ on his mission. Take many notes. Hide this passage in your heart. How can we expect to follow Christ faithfully in this world unless we know his will?

Grace and peace, David

Confidence in God

DSCN2717Psalm 4

In Psalm 3, we saw how David the king turned to the Lord during a painful time of his life, which was the rebellion of his son Absalom against his kingly authority. Psalm 4 doesn’t give us any information about when David wrote these words. Most Psalms lack this information. We do not need to panic that we don’t have it. The Holy Spirit led the Psalm writers to record their experience with God and life, and so we are able to profit in whatever situation we might be in. As we read, let us remember that this is a song, intended for the benefit of God’s people as they sing together. Notice that the superscription tells us that it was written for the director of music, and that David intended that stringed instruments be used when it was sung. God loves artistic expression, and he desires that we use such abilities as we possess in worship and instruction of one another.

  • David sang about his need to receive an answer from the Lord (4:1). It is obvious that he sought a positive answer, as we all do. The Lord wants us to make our requests to him. He doesn’t not tell us to simply state the situation without making known the result we desire. Imagine saying to your wife or husband, “I’m thirsty.” Would you want to hear, “Thanks for the information”? No, usually when we make known our need, we specify what we want. In this example, “I’m going to get something to drink; would you like something, too?” I mention this because some people are of the erroneous opinion that you shouldn’t tell God what you desire. But the Lord wants you to use your mind and emotions and to ask him. With respect (“O my righteous God”), David made clear that he longed for relief from distress and mercy in the form of answered prayer.
  • David sang about the opposition that he endured from other people (4:2-3). The songs of our lives will have melancholy and even dark stanzas. This opposition was of a religious character. David had the task of leading Israel back to the Lord, because the reign of Saul had been a time of spiritual decline. David magnified the Lord, but others did not. His confidence in God was to them a matter of shame. We face the same kind of opposition from the ungodly today. Their attitude involved that they made the “evil exchange”. They turned from God to idols (cf. Romans 1:21-25). Notice that David openly rejected their course of action. He asserted the truth of the Lord’s covenant relationship with his people. Those who know the Lord have been set apart for him. God wants us to share our lives with him. We have become a people for his possession. This means that the Lord will hear us when we call to him. “O beloved, when you are on your knees, the fact of your being set apart as God’s own peculiar treasure, should give you courage and inspire your fervency and faith” (Spurgeon, Treasury of David, Vol. 1, p.38).
  • David sang about the way of life for God’s people (4:4-5). Though anger is a part of our lives, we must avoid sin in our anger, which is extremely difficult, because our thoughts, ideas, and emotions are easily twisted by sin. This requires self-examination of our ways. We need to consider what motivates our hearts and our actions. Since David wanted to lead his people back to the Lord, he pointed out the need to offer the sacrifices that God required in the law covenant. We live in the new covenant and have a perfect and finished sacrifice, the blood of Christ. So for us, the new covenant application is always and only to approach God our Father through Jesus Christ and his sacrifice.
  • David sang about his hope or confident expectation (4:6-7). He pointed out what his people could expect as they sought the Lord. He told them there would be doubters about God’s concern for them. In response to those who questioned, David boldly restated the source of blessing. Then he gave a personal testimony of the greater joy that the Lord had given to him. His joy was greater than what the doubters experienced in their material prosperity. True, joyful humanity is experienced when we rejoice in the true and living God, our family relationship with him, and contentment with the material provisions that he has given for our joy.
  • David sang about the rest that the Lord had brought to him (4:8). Yes, his situation had been one of distress. But now, through believing confidence in the Lord, he was able to “sleep in peace”. This confidence does not come simply through the exercise of prayer. We must not only pray but also rely on the Lord’s goodness, wisdom, and power as we wait calmly for what he will do.

While you and I do not know the tune of Psalm 4, we still may sing it in our souls. Let its truth resonate through your heart. Meditate on it. “Sing it” with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Seek the Lord through it. Your Father in heaven does want you to have “greater joy”.

Grace and peace, David