In Romans 8:26-30, Paul shares an amazing picture with us. He starts out by telling us that the Holy Spirit is moving in the lives of God’s people. Helping us to pray, interceding with God on our behalf, moving to shape and mold us. Paul then tells us that God is working in the lives of His people, “according to his purpose.” God has a plan for you and I. In verse 29, Paul tells us that the movement of God is all about transformation. God is changing us to fit the picture He has for us. God is conforming us into the image of His Son. With these powerful words, we are reminded that God is working in our lives every day. In fact, God is working in every moment to shape our nature and character. He wants us to think and act and reflect the attitude of Jesus. God is working in you and in me to help us look like Jesus. With God at work, what can stand in our way?
In Romans 1:16, Paul boldly proclaims, “I am not ashamed of the gospel.” His writing is a witness for this statement. This week we begin to read the Epistles. The apostle Paul wrote thirteen of these letters to churches. and each one is a call to live in the power of the gospel. For Paul, the gospel is all about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Central to Paul’s writings is the person of Jesus. Paul points to Jesus on every page. The answers to all of life’s questions are found in Jesus. Jesus is the source of life, salvation, peace, and hope. Jesus is the standard for action, thought, feeling, and motivation. Over and over, Paul calls us to live in the presence and the power of Jesus. Paul is not ashamed to be led by Christ, live in relationship with Jesus, and proclaim the love of the Savior for all mankind. Paul shares this message in order for you and I to have Christ embedded on our hearts.
Acts 22 gives us an insight into a difficult time for Paul. Having returned to Jerusalem, the apostle has been arrested. Paul is in hostile territory. The chief priest and the elders, the Sanhedrin and the ruling classes are all lined up against him. In chains, Paul stands up and tells a difficult story. It is a story of a man who sinned. A man who persecuted Jesus and His people. It is a story about a wrecked reputation and a great fear. It is Paul’s story. He tells it without trying to cover up his actions or defend his past. Why does he tell his story here? Because his story is different now than it was then. Jesus has entered Paul’s story and changed his life. Jesus has washed Paul clean and given him purpose and direction. We can experience that same change every time we embed the Bible in our hearts. We are called to see who we were without Jesus, and who we are now that Jesus is in control. Our stories can sometimes be difficult, but Jesus can change everything.
Men search for God in strange places. In Acts 17, Paul is walking the streets of Athens. He sees temples, idols, and places of worship everywhere that he looks. There is even an altar with the inscription, “To an Unknown God.” Evidence that people are looking for answers and direction in life. It is no different today. We all want to know the answers to life’s biggest questions. What is amazing is that we don’t have to look far to find out that God wants us to know the answers to life’s most important questions. The Bible is God’s perfect revelation to mankind. In the pages of the Bible are the answers to life, salvation, eternity, hope, peace, and joy. The Bible is the story of God intersecting the lives of men. The Bible is an invitation to have God live in our hearts and our lives.
“Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” – Acts 17:11
Want to be different? Do you want to live in the world in such a way that people see Jesus shining through you? Then watch closely as the Bereans show us how to be changed. They listen eagerly to the story of Jesus. They are intent on knowing who Jesus is and how Jesus works. They listen to the story of love on the edge of their seats. And then they search the Scriptures to see what is true. They carefully examine what God has to say. Not to gain a head knowledge alone of Jesus, but to receive a change in their character. They search to become more than what the world can offer. They seek to be noble. They seek to look like Jesus.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is found in Acts 11:23. It was a time of great persecution for the church, but also a time of great hope. The stoning of Stephen had scattered people far and wide. As Christians settled in various places, they shared their faith and people believed in Jesus and were changed. News of this change reached the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to investigate. Upon arriving in Antioch, the Bible says about Barnabas, “When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God…” What does the grace of God look like? How is it evident? In the love that the church has for one another. In the way the church relates to those around them. In the way they study. In the way they talk, act, and feel. The grace of God is evident in all those who are shaped by Him. Embedding the Bible is an open invitation to be shaped by God and to become evidence of His grace.
Acts 8:26-40 records the encounter between Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. It is the story of a man who is searching for Jesus. He picks up a copy of the Scriptures and begins to read. When Philip comes alongside him, they read together and Philip uses the passages of Scripture to share the good news of Jesus with him. It is another example of how the Bible is all about Jesus. No matter where you turn, no matter what you read, you can see Jesus shining out of the pages of the Bible, inviting you to walk with Him. From Creation, through the kings of Israel, on into the prophets, and then the New Testament, Jesus calls for us to walk with Him. He calls us to open our hearts and allow Him to embed Himself in our lives. As you read this week, keep an open heart and expect amazing transformation.
In Acts 2:42-47, the first church in Jerusalem is described as “devoted.” Dictionary.com defines the word devoted as, “to concentrate on a particular pursuit, occupation, purpose, cause.” Luke says that the early believers concentrated on the teaching of the apostles, that same teaching we have today in the pages of the Bible. They concentrated on fellowship or sharing life together as the family of God. They pursued worship and prayer. They devoted themselves to living the life of Jesus in a world that needs to see the Savior. Embedding the Bible is about devotion. It is about learning to concentrate on the things that are important to the heart of God. When we embed the Bible in our lives, we embrace the importance of sharing life, seeking God, serving others, and studying the Bible. We concentrate on aligning our hearts with His heart. This week as you embed the Bible in your heart, take a moment to check your alignment. What needs more devotion? What is shining in your life that invites those around you to walk closer to Jesus?
As the Gospel of John comes to a close, John says in chapter 21, verse 25, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Where every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” We have spent the first five months of 2017 walking through the Gospels, the written accounts of the life of Jesus. And John closes by telling us there is too much to write. There are not enough books in the whole world that could contain the scope and events of the life of Jesus. We are reading to embed the Bible in our lives. The promise of Jesus is the promise to fill us with His presence and with His purpose. There is more than enough of Jesus to fill us to overflowing. We are books that carry the word of God written large on our days and in our moments. The world should be able to see the story of Jesus in the lives we lead.
If you have attended Spring Creek for a while, you have seen a baptism. It you have seen a baptism at Spring Creek, you have had a chance to stand in a Welcome Circle. The Welcome Circle is a time when we honor a family, group, or individual who has just been born again through the blood of Jesus in baptism. It is a time when we sing together, pray together, and make promises together. We promise to pray for, encourage, hold accountable, and love our new brothers and sisters in Christ. It is a time to affirm the family relationship we share with each other. It is a time to express the joy felt in heaven and all across the globe as someone surrenders their life to Christ. It is a time to say “I love you. Welcome to the family of God.” In John 13:35, Jesus says that the world knows we are His because of the love we share for each other. When we look like Jesus, the world knows our identity, our allegiances, and the love that is embedded in our hearts.