Friday, March 24, 2017

Called, even when I don't feel qualified (Quiet Time Reflections)

I'm a few days behind on my daily schedule for quiet time with God. So, it was especially good, in the midst of what's been a busy period, to have that time with Him this morning. You'll find an explanation of my quiet time with God includes here.

Suffice it to say that with quiet time, I stop to confess my sins and pray; look at a chapter of Scripture; listen for what God is telling me in the passage (God generally seems to draw my attention to one or two verses), some new truth, some old truth underscored, some new insight about God or my faith; and respond to what God has told me. Again, the explanation linked above will tell you a bit more.

This morning, I read Galatians 1. Here's where God led me:
Look: “I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:12)

In this passage, which comes early in his letter to the Galatian Christians, Paul is establishing his status as an apostle of Christ’s Church. Apostles were part of a unique and time-bound group disciples. An apostle is, considering the Greek New Testament from which the word comes to us, literally, a called out one, a disciple from among the disciples as leaders within the Church and evangelists to the world. To be an apostle, a disciple had to have experienced personal contact with Jesus (Acts 1:21-22) and to have personally seen the resurrected Jesus. Paul, earlier called Saul, came to fit this bill belatedly on the road to Damascus, where as a zealous Pharisee looking for the excommunication or death of believers in Jesus, He was encountered and called by the risen and ascended Jesus to apostleship (1 Corinthians 15:8; Acts 9:1-19).

Because of the apostles’ personal knowledge of Jesus and their call to apostleship by Jesus, buttressed by the understanding of Him they gained through their knowledge of God’s Old Testament Word, the teaching of the apostles about the life, office, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus has always been considered normative by the Church. The Holy Spirit has used the apostles to assure us of the truth of God’s Word in Christ and the truthful witness of both the Old Testament and New Testament.

So, in this verse, Paul is making an important assertion to the first century church at Galatia: Their drift toward “another gospel,” one that doesn’t conform to the revealed truth about God personally witnessed by the apostles, including Paul, and affirmed by the Old Testament (and today by the New Testament that measures up to the apostles’ teaching) puts the Galatian Christians’ salvation at risk.

To take hope in any false gospel is to follow a false god, even if those who have wandered from Jesus carelessly refer to their false deity as Jesus.

Paul is trying to get their attention: I didn’t make up the gospel you once confessed believing; it’s from Jesus, God enfleshed, Himself.

Listen: The era of the apostles is ended, of course. But the Church (and that includes me) is still called to teach the truth about Jesus.

We’re to share the gospel, the good news, that out of love for our fallen, sinful human race, God entered our world as a perfect human being, true God and true man, then, although sinless, made Himself the perfect sacrifice for our sin (Acts 1:8).

To confirm Jesus’ power over sin and death and to show that His promise of new and everlasting life for those who repent and believe in Him can be counted on, Jesus was raised by God the Father.

Jesus then spent forty days on the earth giving further instruction to the disciples, His Church.

Then, ascending to heaven, He went to the throne room of the Father, sitting at His right hand in order to intercede for those who believe in Him and offer prayers in His name and to be at the ready for the moment when the Father will say that it’s time for Jesus to return to the earth in order to consummate history.

We know all of these things, not just because we’ve heard them from preachers, theologians, Sunday School teachers, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, or friends. We know them because because of the revelation from Jesus Christ we receive when we hear and read God’s definitive Word, certified by the apostles like Paul, that we encounter in the Bible.

AND, we can point others to knowing these truths, receive salvation, and be disciples when we, like the apostle Paul, live like disciples of Jesus with a message and a way of life others need. This is urgent business because, it’s as true today as it was the day this statement was first made by the apostle Peter when speaking of Jesus: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Respond: Help me and all the disciples of Your church who seek to build our lives on the true gospel of Jesus to be bold in sharing Christ, Your Word, and making disciples (Acts 4:29).

Help me to say, believe, and live out of the truth that Paul talks about in Romans: “...I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16).

Today, Lord, help me not to hide the light of life with You that I’m privileged to have with Jesus. Help me to shine it everywhere I go and give Your light away to everyone I can. (Luke 11:33)

Forgive me for too often slinking by in the world. Today, help me to share Your message or to position myself relationally to earn the right to share Your gospel with others. In Jesus’ name.
[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio. ]

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