Friday, October 3, 2014

"No other name …"

Day #280:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - October 4th

Scripture Reading:  Acts 3 - 4 …

What distinguishes true biblical Christianity from any other religion is JESUS!  Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of God's promises in the Old Testament and the center of God's promises in the New Testament.  Those today who preach a Christianity without Jesus, without the cross, without the resurrection, without His rule from heaven or His return in glory know nothing of the Gospel, the good news of salvation in the Name of Jesus!  "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (4:12).

There is nothing "magical" in a name.  When the Apostles ("sent-out ones") began to preach the Gospel and do miracles to confirm that the message was from God, they pointed not to their own power, but to the power of Jesus:  "It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through Him that has given this complete healing to him (the crippled man), as you can all see" (3:16).  In the name of Jesus the power of Jesus was available, and in the name of Jesus today people are brought from spiritual death to spiritual life.  "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (4:12).  Do you understand that?  Do you believe that?  Has your life been empowered by your relationship with Jesus?  Have you taken His name upon you?  Are your eyes set on Him?  Does your heart love Him?  Do you desire to be like Him?  Are you longing to meet Him?

It is easy to get caught up in doing things that you think you should do in order to show that you are a "good Christian," but it starts with knowing and loving Jesus.  Peter and John were ordinary men, called by Jesus, empowered by His Spirit, who boldly proclaimed the Gospel … the name of Jesus.  Peter's words to the crowd that came running to them after the healing of the crippled man are almost amusing:  "Men of Israel, why does this surprise you?  Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?" (3:12).  Surely Peter could understand why the people would be amazed.  Something like this didn't happen every day.  But Peter had been with Jesus for several years.  He had seen things like this all the time and now, because he had seen the risen Jesus and been empowered by His Spirit, he expected things like this to happen.

His words of explanation are important:  "The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus … You killed the Author of life, but God raised Him from the dead" (3:13,15).  The entire Bible points to the one true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  This is HIS revelation and He sent His Son, Jesus, the Christ, to testify to HIS power.  Peter calls them to repent so their sins could be forgiven and then points to the future promise of God … "that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that He may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you - even Jesus.  He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as He promised long ago through His holy prophets" (3:19-21).

Once again the beauty of the Bible is seen in the continuity from the Old Testament to the New Testament.  The coming of Jesus was not "out-of-the-blue," but was the fulfillment of all that the prophets had foretold … and there's more to come!!  Peter boldly proclaims that "all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days" (3:24), and points back to God's promise to Abraham, "Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed" (3:25; Genesis 12:3), so the prophets also point to the future reign of God's anointed King, as Peter points out in his prayer after his and John's release from jail:  "Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against His Anointed One" (4:25-26; Psalm 2:1-2).

In our day, as we read of wars in the Middle East and elsewhere, how we need to remember that Jesus Christ rules on His throne and though the nations rage against the truth of His Word and His promises to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, both physical (Israel) and spiritual (the Church), Jesus WILL return and gather His people and establish His kingdom on the earth.  "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (4:12).  Everything the Bible predicts will happen, just as God says it will, and only those who repent and believe, who are born again by the Spirit and given new hearts and minds, will inherit the kingdom of God!

Some today have their eyes set on the signs and miracles done by the apostles, so it is important to point out that no one else was doing miracles.  Those who look for signs and miracles today are often misled by impostors.  When Paul spoke about these things in I Corinthians 12:28-31, he made it clear that these were specific gifts of the Spirit given to specific people for a specific purpose.  We read in II Corinthians 12:12:  "The things that mark an apostle - signs, wonders and miracles - were done among you with great perseverance."  He was addressing those who did not accept him, Paul, as an apostle, so he was comparing what Jesus empowered him to do with the marks of the other apostles.  Why did Paul care if they considered him to be a messenger sent from God?  Because he wanted them to believe the Gospel - the message God had given him to take to the Jews AND the Gentiles.

It was to confirm that message as being from God that God empowered the apostles to perform them:  "This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard Him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Spirit distributed according to His will" (Hebrews 2:3-4).  GOD is in control of the gifts He gives and when, where and to whom He gives them.  But always the purpose is the same:  to exalt the name of Jesus and to confirm the message of the Gospel.  The miracles were done as a testimony to the power of Jesus Christ to save those who believed in Him, never for the sake of the miracle itself.  Those who long for signs and miracles today need to hear the Gospel and to give thanks to God for His grace in forgiving our sins through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross and for the gift of His Spirit who empowers us to repent and believe.  The calling of the Church today is to proclaim this Gospel, for the Gospel, the message of Christ, is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe!

This is what Satan wants to stop:  the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus.  Even signs and miracles can mislead people, but the Gospel always points to Jesus.  When they told Peter and John to stop speaking to anyone in Jesus' name, they replied as we must today:  "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God.  For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard" (4:19-20).  People through the centuries and people today are still willing to die before they will deny Jesus Christ.  Are you ready and willing to do that?  Am I??  We need to read God's Word and be empowered to be His witnesses.

As the believers prayed together they were empowered by the Spirit and "after they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly" (4:31).  They didn't all go out and do miracles, but they boldly proclaimed the Gospel!  They were all "one in heart and mind … With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all" (4:33).  While "grace" is often defined as "undeserved favor," (which it IS!) … it is also "the empowering presence of God, present in every believer, that enables us to be what He calls us to be and to do what He calls us to do."  He calls us to be disciples of Jesus Christ and He calls us to proclaim the Gospel to every creature under heaven.

It is to that task that we must dedicate ourselves as we work together as one body.  We proclaim the name of Jesus because "salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (4:12).  This verse alone, along with many, many others - indeed, the whole Bible - should put an end to all the talk of an "interfaith movement," and the "ecumenical movement" that seeks to unite all those who claim to be Christians, but who do not believe the Bible to be the Word of God or that Jesus is the only way of salvation, and then to unite all religions together in the worship of some "god" who is NOT the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

How can those who claim to be Christians so quickly give up the Name that is above every name, the Name of Jesus, that alone has the power to save because it points us to the cross and His shed blood?!  Stand firm, my brothers and sisters in Christ.  When they tell us to stop speaking in this name, may we reply as Peter and John did:  "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God.  For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard!" (4:19-20).

"Almighty God, my Father in heaven, I approach Your throne of grace in the name of Your Son Jesus Christ.  I confess that there is no other name, no other way by which I can draw near to You in all Your glory!  I rest in the shed blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of my sins and testify that I am His witness, willing to lay down my life for the sake of His Name.  Empower me, Father, with the filling of Your Spirit, that I may boldly declare the Name of Jesus to those who have not yet heard and to those who need to hear it again.  I offer You, my God, all that I am and all that I have, in Jesus' name, Amen"

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