Paul met a young man named Timothy and recognized his potential. He had been raised to follow God, by his mother and grandmother, and was faithful to the Lord. He began to mentor him and he became a leader in the church. Paul’s plan was to go to Asia, but his plan wasn’t God’s. They followed the Lord’s leading and he blessed them greatly. Even through he ended up in prison and suffered through many trials and hardships, the gospel went out. That’s all that mattered, and that’s all that really matters today. As much as we plan and do, as long as people hear about Jesus, that’s how success is measured. Paul founded churches all along the way, like the church in Philippi. He found a rich woman who was interested in the things of God, and started a group of believers there, the church in Philippi. Even in prison, Paul preached the gospel so that even a prison guard sees the light. Proof of Paul’s message “what must I do to be saved?” all you must do is believe, and you will be saved. Then the first step of obedience, as it was for Paul, is to be baptized. They continued to Thessalonica and other towns who needed the gospel, even Athens. Rich educated and powerful. The Athenians didn’t seem to need anyone, yet Paul knew better. It wasn’t just the poor and downcast who need a savior, everyone is lost without Jesus. He preached the same message in Corinth as everywhere else. He reasoned with all people, attempting to persuade them. Even in the midst of some amazing signs and miraculous works, a riot at Ephesus, and even raising someone from the dead(!), the message was what remained important. That’s still the most important thing today. Wherever we find ourselves, we must communicate the saving message of Jesus Christ, the gospel. Whether we be in a synagogue or the temple, at the Areoptogus or along the road, preach the good news to everyone you meet. Invite them to be part of the church through your local church. It’s the same message of John the Baptist, “repent and believe the gospel.” That’s all you must do, believe, and you too will be saved.
It’s always a miracle when God reaches out from heaven and changes our hearts. Look at the example of Saul. A young up-and-coming rabbi who was on the fast track to religious success. He was self-confident and sure of himself, God stripped that away. He made him depend on a follower of Jesus for his healing and he places his faith in Jesus as Lord. He became a Christian, was filled by the Holy Spirit, and then he was baptized. That’s how salvation works. Then he preached, he went to his own people in the Synagogues. This was no small task, he was the most Jewish of Jews, and he had trusted in Jesus. It wasn’t what they wanted to hear, but it was what they needed. Unapologetically he preached Christ, until they’d kick him out of the synagogues, then he’d found a church with those who left the synagogue. Over and over, this was Paul’s pattern, sharing the gospel, failing to win over the Jews en masse, then forming a church from those who would follow Jesus. Peter had his own ministry. He was a very devout and traditional Jew, and God showed him all people are made clean through Jesus, just as all food is clean. Peter becomes a missionary to a gentile, Cornelius, and God saves them just like his Jewish brothers. Peter’s report is that anyone is able to call upon the Lord. This is not his opinion or his desire, it is simply the fact. Peter had seen him save lives. Perhaps sometimes our lack of faith comes from our lack of witness to the saving power of God through Jesus Christ. When we’ve seen him save, we have to tell the story. It’s here, at Antioch, that the disciples were first called “Christians,” because they modeled their lives after Jesus. Through all the hardship and struggle, the gospel goes out, that was God’s desire, and it still is today. As Paul went out on what would be his general route, to cities like Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, he preached the saving message of Jesus Christ as Lord. And this was for everyone, no one is excluded, if they would simply turn, as he had done. And so it still is true. Do you know Jesus?
Jesus gives sight to the blind, not just physically, but spiritually. He is the Good Shepherd who is willing to die for his sheep, and so he did. He is not only a great teacher and the best leader, he is also God, he and the Father are one in the same. He showed this by even being able to raise the dead, and he proves he can do this for us as well, he is the resurrection one day and the life for us now. This is too much for some to hear. They want a happy religion of good things to do and bad things to avoid, this is not Jesus. He is the way, this is a divisive message only relatively few are willing to receive. Mary understood, she was willing to give what was most precious to her, because Jesus had become more. Jesus must be the one we elevate in our lives, to the chief position, he came to save us all, and so we too should follow his lead and be the servant of all. Even though we do fail him, as both Judas and Peter did, we have a choice about today. Will we give up and die in our lostness like Judas, or will we give up and follow Jesus as Peter did. If we are guided by the Holy Spirit, we will have fellowship with God. Do you know Jesus, this Jesus, the real Jesus? Follow him today!
It’s not just that Jesus came and died for you, you must take action, you must be born again. The interesting thing about this interchange with Nicodemus is that the term “again” can also mean “from above.” It’s a spiritual birth which comes when you place your trust in Jesus. This is how God showed his love for the world, he sent Jesus. Have you received him? He cuts through the religious fairness that we all hide behind. The woman at the well had a hidden past she didn’t want to revel, Jesus cut through it all. He didn’t hold back and he confronted her sins, but he offered her hope. Jesus heals us regardless of the propriety and rules we set up, just like the man at the pool. How can he do this? Because Jesus is equal with God. That’s how he can walk on water and feed thousands with just a small lunch, he is God. He is our only hope, the bread of life. Jesus was, however, quite direct. He didn’t give people false hope, if they wanted to follow after him, it would cost. He didn’t offer cheap grace. That why the majority of people who had ever followed him turned away. But those who understood what he was saying stayed. That’s who Jesus was there for. His ministry may have had a big “back door” but the front door was wide-open for all to enter in. Jesus is life and this message is divisive. Not everyone wants to accept him. Nevertheless he is the only way. May we offer the light and life of Jesus to others.
Jesus died for you. He died for us all. He gave us signs like baptism and the Lord’s Supper as signposts of this New Covenant He cut for us. It’s not about which of us follow Him the best, it’s about the one who died for us. We all, just like Peter, fall away and deny Jesus with our actions, but He’s always there to reach out and restore us, why wouldn’t we confess and return to Him? Jesus prayed with fervent devotion, shouldn’t we? Can we not keep watch for an hour? Jesus was mocked and betrayed. Pilate was indifferent and unable to find fault in Jesus. Herod wouldn’t take responsibility, “let someone else deal with Him…” Don’t we do the same? Who will deal with the fact Jesus is Lord? Who will act in response to the reality that our friends and neighbors will go to Hell if they don’t receive Jesus as their Savior? We cannot be indifferent. Jesus died and rose again! He is the perfect sacrifice. The Bible clearly shows Jesus as the Messiah, God’s Anointed King from days of old come to save us from our sin. He is the Word of God, very God Himself, from before the beginning of time. John the Baptist spoke about Him, and then He came. He called people unto Himself, and so He still does today, will you follow Him? Do you look for a sign, or do you believe? We must worship Him genuinely and according to His Word. Just like the moneychangers in the temple, we must follow Him, not our own interests. Will you follow Him today?