In our society, a small group seems to be leading the changes that are happening in our culture, and they are very enraged. The whole situation reminds me of the large crowd who stormed into Ephesus’s stadium in protest of Paul’s ministry. In Acts 19:21-41, the people leading the riot were the idol-makers, but for the thousands of other people in the stadium, scripture doesn’t use the word “enraged.” It uses the word “confused” for them.
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that show where the television reporter goes to college campuses and asks protestors questions about why they believe what they believe or why they have a placard “Pro-this” or “Anti-this.”
The reporter asks them why they’re there, and they say, “Well, because it’s right. It’s a movement. This is correcting an injustice.”
They’re just spouting off what professors, society, the media or friends are trying to tell them is “cool” or “relevant.” If you’re not supportive, you’re a hater. Who, as a teenager or young adult, wants to be an outcast? They have no idea what they’re actually doing there. No idea at all. They don’t know the history of the movement they’re supporting. They don’t know why they believe what they believe. They’re not standing on any real moral fiber of their own.
A large percentage of people are confused. I would even go so far as the estimate that probably as many as 90 percent of people don’t know why they believe what they believe when it comes to major cultural issues. They’ve heard that ‘enlightened’ people think this particular way; they read an article; they saw something on the news, and so they began to believe it. Most aren’t really enraged about the issues; they’re just confused. Similar to the Ephesians in Acts 19:29-32, most of them do not know why they’ve come together.
Our response should be the same as Paul’s after the riot. “After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia. When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece” (Acts 20:1-2, ESV).
We need to stand up and not be discouraged. We ought to encourage one another and continue to live as witnesses. We must live as hope and light for our society.
Fruit in the Bible can mean a lot of things; it can mean fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, meekness, kindness; but it can also mean fruit of ministry. As we see in the New Testament, certain men from Cyprus and Cyrene went to Antioch, and the hand of the Lord was with them, and multitudes turned to the Lord (see Acts 11:19-26).
How did they do that with most of the New Testament unwritten still, no public buildings available for preaching, with Caesar Caligula or Caesar Nero who claimed to be a god on the throne? How did they do this with no complaining about the culture or the environment and how hard it was with all these pagan gods? They just got on with the work.
A long time ago when I was making excuses for a lack of fruit, God hit me upside the head and brought me down to some important realities. The only way to bear fruit is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Most people have heard of the famous D. L. Moody, one of the greatest evangelists of the 19th century who was also responsible for founding the Moody Bible Institute. Four years before he died, Moody wrote a letter without any capitals or punctuation. Words were misspelled. The guy would have been laughed out of the building today with our emphasis on slickness and presentation. However, he bore fruit. People heard him and turned to the Lord.
As scripture says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:7-8, ESV).
The work of God is carried on by faith! “The just shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:17, KJV). We just have to share the Word because when we do that, the Spirit comes in and then change is possible.
Don’t blend that pure, good news in with legalism, church culture, our own cleverness or ‘creative’ additions as a way to express our own egos. We’re going to have to give an answer one day for the quality of our work (see 2 Corinthians 13:5-7). Who’s going to be measuring us? Not our peers! We will be measured by the Word of God.
We are called to be ambassadors, and ambassadors only convey the message that they’ve been told to deliver. No more, no less.
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.
As followers of Christ, we are to take God at his word and accept as true what he says about us. This means our ‘old man’ represents someone who still seeks to be seen as right before God because of his own works. Such a man’s conscience continually brings him under guilt, but instead of repenting, he pledges to overcome his sin problem himself. “I’m going to change! I’ll start fighting my besetting sin today, no matter what the cost. I want God to see how hard I’m trying.”
Such a man brings much sweat and many tears to the Lord. He prays and fasts to prove that he has a good heart and to satisfy his own pride. He’s able to resist sin for days at a time, and so he tells himself, “If I can go for two days, then why not four? Why not a week?” By the end of the month, he feels good about himself, convinced he’s working himself free.
Then his old sin resurfaces, and down he goes into deep despair. That starts the cycle all over again. Such a man is on a treadmill, and he will never get off.
Paul tells us that the old man was pronounced dead at the cross. His old man was crucified along with Christ, killed in the eyes of God. Jesus took that old man into the grave with him, where he was forgotten. The Lord says of our old man, “I won’t recognize or deal with such a one. There is only one man I recognize now, one with whom I’ll deal. That is my Son, Jesus, and all who are in him by faith.”
The new man is the one who has given up all hope of pleasing God by any effort of the flesh. He has died to the old ways of the flesh.
This new man leans on the truth of this verse: “Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” (Galatians 3:11, ESV). He believes, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). He may not always feel it or even comprehend it fully, but he won’t argue with his loving Father’s Word. He accepts it on faith, trusting the Lord is faithful to his Word.
As Jesus stood at the highest point of the temple, Satan whispered to him, “Go ahead. Jump! If you’re really God’s son, he’ll save you.”
“[The devil] said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: “He shall give his angels charge over you,” and, “In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.”’” (Matthew 4:6, NKJV).
Do you see Satan’s deviousness in this? He isolated a single promise from scripture, and he tempted Jesus to cast his whole life upon it. He was suggesting, “You say that God is with you. Well, show me the proof. Your Father has already allowed me to harass you. Where was his presence in that? You can prove he’s with you right now by jumping. If God is with you, he’ll provide a soft landing. You can base your confidence on that. If not, you might as well die rather than go on wondering if you’re on your own. You need a miracle to prove the Father is with you.”
How did the Savior respond? “Jesus said to him, ‘It is written again, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.”’” (Matthew 4:7). What exactly does Jesus mean here by ‘tempting God’?
The Old Testament provides us with our answer. Over and over the Lord had proved himself faithful to the Israelites. God’s people received visible proof that their Lord was with them, and yet they fell into the same question time after time: “Is God among us or not?” God calls this ‘tempting him.’ Jesus uses this same phrase in his reply to Satan.
As with Israel, God has already given us an entire body of evidence for his presence. First, we have in his Word that contains multiple promises of his closeness to us. Second, we have our own personal history with God that is a testimony of his many past deliverances in our lives. Third, we have a Bible full of witnesses to God’s presence in past centuries.
What does this tell us? It shows us it is a grave sin to doubt God’s presence; we’re not to question whether he’s with us. The Bible is clear: We’re to walk with God by faith and not by sight.
Consider Israel’s miraculous deliverance from Egypt in the Bible. As God’s people crossed over on dry land, they saw the waves crash down on their enemy behind them. It was a glorious moment, and they held a mighty praise meeting with dancing, singing and thanksgiving. “We’re free! God has delivered us from the hand of oppression.”
Israel’s story represents our own deliverance from the bondage and guilt of sin. We know that Satan was defeated at the cross and that we were immediately set free from his iron grip. However, there is more to God’s purpose in saving and delivering us. God never meant for Israel to camp there on the victory side of the Red Sea. His greater purpose in bringing them out of Egypt was to take them into Canaan, his land of fullness. In short, he brought them out of slavery in order to bring them into his heart and into his love. He wanted a people who were totally dependent on his mercy, grace and love. The same is still true for his people today.
Israel’s first test came just a few days later, and they ended up murmuring and complaining, totally dissatisfied. Why? They had known God’s deliverance, but they hadn’t understood his great love for them.
Here is the key to this teaching: You cannot come into joy and peace—indeed, you cannot know how to serve the Lord properly—until you see his delight in your deliverance…until you see the joy of his heart over his communion with you…until you see that every wall has been removed at the cross…until you know that everything in your past has been judged and wiped away. God says, “I want you to move on into fullness that awaits you in my presence!”
Multitudes today rejoice in the wonderful benefits of the cross. They have moved out of Egypt, and they are standing on the “victory side” of their Red Sea trial. They enjoy freedom, and they thank God continually for casting their oppressor into the sea.
Many of these same believers miss God’s greater purpose and benefit to them. They miss why the Lord has brought them out, which is to bring them in to himself. He is where the ultimate joy, satisfaction and purpose of our lives may be found.