Acts 2:12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
Acts chapter 2 – one of the most well known chapters in the Bible. The Holy Spirit comes and the believers are baptized with His power. They start speaking in other languages, Peter preaches an incredible sermon, and many are saved. The church grows like crazy and lives are forever changed. But there’s this little verse sandwiched in between all of that. It’s the reaction of those on the outside, the non-baptized ones. It’s a reaction of amazement and wonder. And it comes in the form of a question: “what does this mean?”
Now they weren’t asking what all the different tongues meant. They weren’t reporters doing a story on the events of the day. They didn’t even work for the Pharisees, planning on reporting back to them. They weren’t searching for the meaning of life or trying to figure out if there was truly a God. No, they were everyday ordinary people – ordinary people who really wanted to know, “what does this mean?” And if we take a closer look, we will see that they were really asking, “what does this mean TO ME?”
What does this mean to me? That’s the real question humanity must ask itself when pondering the things of God. Jesus came to this earth and died for humanity. Many will talk about the significance of God coming to this earth in a human suit. They will wonder about His character, His sacrifice, and His eternity. But none of that matters unless people start asking themselves the question, “what does this mean to me?” The people that were saved at Pentecost were the ones who dared to answer that question. So what does all of this mean to you? What does it mean that Christ came to die for YOU? What does it mean that He poured out the Holy Spirit for YOU? When you dare to answer that question, your life will be forever changed.
Habakkuk 3:18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
This verse reminds me of a song we sang in church growing up. It went something like: “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice. Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice. Rejoice, rejoice, and again I say rejoice….” And so on. It was a happy clappy with simple lyrics. People would yell back the echo of rejoice or start dancing to prove that they really were rejoicing. If you were really into it you would clap on the offbeats. Is that what it means to rejoice in the Lord and to take joy in Him? Do you have to sing a cheesy song with almost no lyrics while clapping, shouting, and dancing? Let’s hope not.
So what does taking joy in the Lord look like? Well, it can look like a lot of things. It can look like dancing or happy clapping. It can look like singing from the top of your lungs. But it can also look like standing still or kneeling. It can look like silence and tranquility. It can feel like you just won the lottery but it can also feel like peace in the midst of a storm. When we think of joy, we think of happiness. We think it is a feeling to be felt or an expression made on our faces. However, joy from the Lord permeates emotion, will, mind, body, and spirit.
The joy that comes from the God of my salvation begins when I recognize Him as Savior. It comes when I make a decision to put my trust in Him. He breathes joy into my life as I take hold of Him. It doesn’t matter whether I am laying on the beaches of Maui or deep in the trenches of battle. It doesn’t matter if everyone likes me or I’ve just made 10 new enemies. His joy doesn’t rely on my feeling of happiness, but rather on His absoluteness. He is absolutely joy and peace and love. And when I choose to “take joy” in Him, I get it.
So I choose to rejoice today. I’m a little too tired to jump up and clap or shout hallelujah. Life’s not easy enough to feel like I am on top of the world. I don’t feel perfect or holy. The sun’s not shining and I’m a bit low on vitamin D. But I will rejoice. Yes, today I will take joy in the God of my salvation!
2 Kings 25:27-30 27 On the twenty-seventh day of the twelfth month of the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Judah’s King Jehoiachin, in the year Evil-merodach became king of Babylon, he pardoned King Jehoiachin of Judah and released him from prison. 28 He spoke kindly to him and set his throne over the thrones of the kings who were with him in Babylon. 29 So Jehoiachin changed his prison clothes, and he dined regularly in the presence of the king of Babylon for the rest of his life. 30 As for his allowance, a regular allowance was given to him by the king, a portion for each day, for the rest of his life.
King Jehoiachin’s life wasn’t going exactly how he had planned it. Not too long ago, he was basking in the glory of his anointing as the king of Judah. He was the boss, the guy in control. He called the shots and people followed his commands. But lately it hasn’t gone well. He found himself in prison, captured by the king of Babylon. He was nothing more than an ordinary prisoner, unable to live a real life. He was trapped, neglected, hurting, and hopeless.
Then it happened. What seemed to be completely out of the blue, the king of Babylon released him from prison. His sentence was pardoned and he was given a throne in this foreign land. It was a turn of events that would change his life. He no longer was kept in a cell under lock and key. Gone were the days of guards watching his every move. He was free! And he changed his prison clothes. Of course he changed out of his prison clothes – free people shouldn’t be wearing those.
You’ve been set free, too. Jesus paid the price and your sentence was pardoned. You are no longer under lock and key, but are free to live your life to the fullest in Him. Are you still wearing your prison clothes? Because it’s really hard to live free, when every time you look in the mirror, you see a prisoner. Change your clothes, people! Take off the old clothes of the past. Because people who are dressed like spiritual prisoners end up convincing themselves that they still are. You’re not! You are free! Clothe yourself in Christ Jesus today. Take on His identity and His righteousness today. Jehoiachin stopped dressing like a prisoner and so should you.
2 Kings 17:24-28 24 The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim and settled them in the towns of Samaria to replace the Israelites. They took over Samaria and lived in its towns. 25 When they first lived there, they did not worship the LORD; so he sent lions among them and they killed some of the people. 26 It was reported to the king of Assyria: “The people you deported and resettled in the towns of Samaria do not know what the god of that country requires. He has sent lions among them, which are killing them off, because the people do not know what he requires.” 27 Then the king of Assyria gave this order: “Have one of the priests you took captive from Samaria go back to live there and teach the people what the god of the land requires.” 28 So one of the priests who had been exiled from Samaria came to live in Bethel and taught them how to worship the LORD.
Yeehaw! Remember the Lone Ranger? I always wondered why they called him the Lone Ranger when he had Tonto. After all, he wasn’t really alone. But he fought injustice, taking out bad guys at every turn. 2 Kings 17 talks about another kind of lone ranger, a priest. After all the Israelites had been kicked out of Samaria, the king of Assyria moved in a bunch of foreigners. They had no idea how to serve God, so they didn’t. In response, God sent lions to eat some of them… which naturally freaked them out and motivated them to find out who God was. So they called on a single priest, and he became the lone ranger of the land. He was charged with teaching them the ways of the Lord.
Sometimes as a Christian, we feel like a lone ranger in the places where we live. Whether it be work, school, friendships, or neighborhoods, it can be difficult to be the only one following the Lord. So we must remember that God calls us to these places as priests. He calls us to teach others about who He is (so that they won’t get eaten by lions). And while I say that somewhat tongue-in-cheek, there is truth to it. The Bible refers to the devil as a lion, looking for those who he can devour.
Who do you know that is in the jaws of the lion? Who do you know that needs rescuing? God has sent you to these people the same way that the priest in 2 Kings 17 was sent to those people. He was sent there to rescue them by bringing them to the knowledge of the Lord. Would you be willing to be that priest? I believe that, in Christ, you can. You can be that Lone Ranger fighting injustice at every turn. You can be that priest, bringing the saving power of Jesus to your world.
Luke 19:5-7 5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’ ”
“Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord our God to see….” You gotta love a silly Bible song. I think it’s funny how the song focuses on the fact that Zacchaeus was short. No mention of the fact that he was dishonest, hated, and filthy rich – just short. As a child, were we supposed to be impressed that Jesus went to the house of a short guy? It leaves me wondering if he had to duck as he walked through the front door.
This story is not really about stature. Jesus made the conscious decision to spend time with someone who was lost rather than with those who thought they were found. This well respected Rabbi went to stay at the horrible tax collector’s house. Scandalous. Apparently Jesus wasn’t interested in media perception. He didn’t care much about popular opinion or brewing scandal. He cared about lost souls that needed saving. He cared about rescuing a lost and dying world.
To that end, he entered it and engaged it. He reached out to it, entering it’s houses and eating at it’s tables. Because of that, we can eat at his someday. His charge to us, “go into all the world.” Do we expect the world to come to us? Do we expect it to look like us? Do we avoid those who don’t? You see, we must enter and engage our world and rescue the lost. Church, we must go to them. Be like Jesus today. Engage the world, being prepared to give an answer for the hope that you have. Open your eyes and you might just find a guy in a tree waiting for an invitation.
Ruth 2:10 At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?”
This is one of the most exciting passages of scripture in the Old Testament. Well, I am sure that is up for debate but the significance of this statement IS huge. It points to the kinsman redeemer; the one who redeems the lost and the broken. That man for Ruth and Naomi was Boaz. The man for you and me is Jesus. Therefore, Boaz is a picture of Jesus. He has compassion on this foreigner and as we will find out – makes her his bride. And it all begins with this simply line in Ruth 2:10. “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me – a foreigner?”
I ask the same question of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. “Jesus, why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me – a foreigner?” Because that is what I was. I was a foreigner and He brought me in. Paul writes in Ephesians 2 that he has brought peace to those who were near and peace to those who were far away. That is what we were – far away. We were foreigners; we were the bad guys in the Old Testament. But He had compassion on us and loved us. In fact, He loved us so much that He died for us.
And our response should be the same as Ruth’s. This kind of revelation should bring us to our knees and we should bow before Him and worship Him. I, for one, don’t want to take for granted what He has done for me. I don’t want to cheapen this great gift with my religion. I want to fully embrace my adoption. For He adopted me and loved me as family. He redeemed my life. He is my kinsman redeemer!
Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
Hard Workin’ Man
I pastor a church in Orting, WA. Therefore I am obligated to say I have listened to country music. Okay, so I grew up in Buckley – that might have had something to do with it. I remember a song by Brooks and Dunn called “Hard Working Man.” I looked up the lyrics to the chorus and they are:
I’m a hard, hard workin man
I got it all on the line
For a peace of the promised land
I’m burnin’ my candle at both ends
‘Bout the only way to keep the fire goin’
Is to outrun the wind
I value hard work as much as the next guy. We should work hard. But there is one thing that we can’t work for – our salvation. If we could work for it, Paul writes, then grace would no longer be grace. It doesn’t say anywhere in the Bible that it is by your hard work that you are saved. No, it is by grace. And yet somehow we continue to think we need to work really hard to earn God’s favor. We think we need to prove to Him that we are worth His love. The truth is we are not and we could never prove that we are. On the other hand, Jesus did it for us. He did the work so we could receive the grace. Hard work cannot give me a piece of the promised land, only the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ can do that.
So why do I work hard at my relationship with him if my work doesn’t matter? Well, my work does matter – it just doesn’t save me. I work hard to know Him because He is worth knowing. I work hard to please Him because He is my Lord. I respond in obedience to Him because He knows what He is doing way more than I do. And I strive to be like Him because the character of Christ in me is what will draw the world to Him. I have this crazy urge to be contagious with the gospel. It’s not so I can earn my way to God. It is so others can experience the joy and freedom and life that He has given me. I want others to share in a insanely awesome eternity with me. And while I am deeply indebted to the grace He has given me (and continues to give me when I am lame), I will not neglect putting effort into the shaping He wants to do in me.