Acts 9-12; Pride and Humility

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Acts of the Apostles Chapters 14 and 15.

These chapters are based on Acts 9-12

As I read these two chapters here is what jumped out at me. First we see a man who has come to Peter to learn more about Jesus. Here is what happens, “And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped [him]. But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.”  Acts 10:25-26 While the pope and many other religious leaders for that matter will accept worship and homage from others, not Peter! He realizes he is just a man and refuses to let anyone worship him. According to Catholic church tradition Peter was the first pope but Peter would never assume the title Vicar of Christ and would never allow himself to be worshiped. Peter realized worshiping humans in the place of God is blasphemy.

Later in Acts 12 let’s look at what happened, “And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, [saying, It is] the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost. But the word of God grew and multiplied.  Acts 12:21-24.

 

Unlike Peter, Herod accepts being worshiped as a god and we see what happened. Here is the thing that is so ironic to me. Peter was a lot closer to being like God than Herod was and yet, Peter refused to be put on that pedestal while Herod who was nothing like God at all accepts the praises of the people. My point is, the closer we are to being like Christ the less boastful we will be. Pride is a sure sign that we are nowhere close to Jesus.

I have seen this contrast between Peter and Herod many times, on a much smaller scale of course. One such incident really amuses me to this day. My father had been the church treasure for many years and people loved the job that he did. One year though a long long time ago, my dad decides to take a break and made them pick someone else. When they asked this someone else of course they had no idea they were only being asked because my dad refused the position for that year. This someone then goes to my parents and tells them the reason they were picked instead of my dad (which they weren’t my dad was asked first and turned it down) was because they had formal training and a degree. Before the year was up this someone had made such a mess of the books that my dad had to take back over to straighten everything out. My dad is not one to brag but I will. My dad was the humble one in this story but doing the better job, while this someone had all the pride but could not do the job. That is just human nature though, and so much like all of us. On an magnificantly larger scale, we have Herod who was proud for no reason, while Peter who was very close to Jesus practiced humility. Reminds you of Lucifer who wanted to exalt himself above God, and then God who became a man and a servant to die for us all.

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light of The Cross.

Acts 8;The Gospel in Samaria

Christina who was 15 at the time of this picture last Summer, was one of several young people who made presentations in our evangelism seminars at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church. Our evangelism force goes way beyond the pastors and Bible Worker. Many of our members are active in soul winning, like Christina who went on to preach two regular Sabbath sermons at Tampa First. She has gone on to preach at other churches as well. She, like the other members here, loves Jesus with all her heart and does not let the pastor and Bible Worker do all the work. Christina is sharing Jesus at home and school during the week and at church on Sabbaths.

Acts of the Apostles Chapter 11

This chapter is based on Acts 8.

The unselfish labor of Christians in the past should be to us an object lesson and an inspiration. The members of God’s church are to be zealous of good works, separating from worldly ambition and walking in the footsteps of Him
who went about doing good. With hearts filled with sympathy and compassion, they are to minister to those in need of help, bringing to sinners a knowledge of the Saviour’s love. Such work calls for laborious effort, but it brings a rich reward. Those who engage in it with sincerity of purpose will see souls won to the Saviour, for the influence that attends the practical carrying out of the divine commission is irresistible.  {AA 109.4} 
     Not upon the ordained minister only rests the responsibility of going forth to fulfill this commission. Everyone who has received Christ is called to work for the salvation of his fellow men. “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come.” Revelation 22:17. The charge to give this invitation includes the entire church. Everyone who has heard the invitation is to echo the message from hill and valley, saying, “Come.”  {AA 110.1} 
     It is fatal mistake to suppose that the work of soul-saving depends alone upon the ministry. The humble, consecrated believer upon whom the Master of the vineyard places a burden for souls is to be given encouragement by the men upon whom the Lord has laid larger responsibilities. Those who stand as leaders in the church of God are to realize that the Saviour’s commission is given to all who believe in His name. God will send forth into His vineyard many who have not been dedicated to the ministry by the laying on of hands.  {AA 110.2} 
     Hundreds, yea, thousands, who have heard the message of salvation are still idlers in the market place, when they might be engaged in some line of active service. To these Christ is saying, “Why stand ye here all the day idle?” and He adds, “Go ye also into the vineyard.” Matthew 20:6, 7. Why is it that many more do not respond to the call? Is it because they think themselves excused in that they do not stand in the pulpit? Let them understand that there is a large work to be done outside the pulpit by thousands of consecrated lay members.  {AA 110.3} 
     Long has God waited for the spirit of service to take possession of the whole church so that everyone shall be working for Him according to his ability. When the members of the church of God do their appointed work in the needy fields at home and abroad, in fulfillment of the gospel commission, the whole world will soon be warned and the Lord Jesus will return to this earth with power and great glory. “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Matthew 24:14.  {AA 111.1} 

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light Of The Cross.

Acts 6; The Seven Deacons

A recent deacon ordination at the Tampa First Sventh-day Adventist Church where I am writing from today.

Acts of the Apostles Chapter 9

This chapter is based on Acts 6:1-7.

The appointment of the seven to take the oversight of special lines of work, proved a great blessing to the church. These officers gave careful consideration to individual needs as well as to the general financial interests of the church, and by their prudent management and their godly example they were an important aid to their fellow officers in binding together the various interests of the church into a united whole.  {AA 89.2} 
     That this step was in the order of God, is revealed in the immediate results for good that were seen. “The word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests  were obedient to the faith.” This ingathering of souls was due both to the greater freedom secured by the apostles and to the zeal and power shown by the seven deacons. The fact that these brethren had been ordained for the special work of looking after the needs of the poor, did not exclude them from teaching the faith. On the contrary, they were fully qualified to instruct others in the truth, and they engaged in the work with great earnestness and success.  {AA 89.3} 
     To the early church had been entrusted a constantly enlarging work–that of establishing centers of light and blessing wherever there were honest souls willing to give themselves to the service of Christ. The proclamation of the gospel was to be world-wide in its extent, and the messengers of the cross could not hope to fulfill their important mission unless they should remain united in the bonds of Christian unity, and thus reveal to the world that they were one with Christ in God. Had not their divine Leader prayed to the Father, “Keep through Thine own name those whom Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, as We are”? And had He not declared of His disciples, “The world hath hated them, because they are not of the world”? Had He not pleaded with the Father that they might be “made perfect in one,” “that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me”? John 17:11, 14, 23, 21. Their spiritual life and power was dependent on a close connection with the One by whom they had been commissioned to preach the gospel.  {AA 90.1} 
     Only as they were united with Christ could the disciples hope to have the accompanying power of the Holy Spirit and the co-operation of angels of heaven. With the help of these divine agencies they would present before the world a united front and would be victorious in the conflict they were compelled to wage unceasingly against the powers of darkness. As they should continue to labor unitedly, heavenly messengers would go before them, opening the way; hearts would be prepared for the reception of truth, and many would be won to Christ. So long as they remained united, the church would go forth “fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.” Song of Solomon 6:10. Nothing could withstand her onward progress. The church would advance from victory to victory, gloriously fulfilling her divine mission of proclaiming the gospel to the world.  {AA 90.2} 

Does the New Testament give us an example of all the churches acting alone or in unity with each other?

 The order that was maintained in the early Christian church made it possible for them to move forward solidly as a well-disciplined army clad with the armor of God. The companies of believers, though scattered over a large territory, were all members of one body; all moved in concert and in harmony with one another. When dissension arose in a local church, as later it did arise in Antioch and elsewhere, and the believers were unable to come to an agreement among themselves, such matters were not permitted to create a division in the church, but were referred to a general council of the entire body of believers, made up of appointed delegates from the various local churches, with the apostles and elders in positions of leading responsibility. Thus the efforts of Satan to attack the church in isolated places were met by concerted action on the part of all, and the plans of the enemy to disrupt and destroy were thwarted.  {AA 95.3} 
     “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” 1 Corinthians 14:33. He requires that order and system be observed in the conduct of church affairs today no less than in the days of old. He desires His work to be carried forward with thoroughness and exactness so that He may place upon it the seal of His approval. Christian is to be united with Christian, church with church, the human instrumentality co-operating with the divine, every agency subordinate to the Holy Spirit, and all combined in giving to the world the good tidings of the grace of God.  {AA 96.1}

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light of The Cross.

Acts of The Apostles-Before The Sanhedrin

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Acts of the Apostles Chapter 8

This chapter was based on Acts 5:12-42.

The priests and rulers saw that Christ was extolled above them. As the Sadducees, who did not believe in a resurrection, heard the apostles declaring that Christ had risen from the dead, they were enraged, realizing that if the apostles were allowed to preach a risen Saviour, and to work miracles in His name, the doctrine that there would be no resurrection would be rejected by all, and the sect of the Sadducees would soon become extinct. The Pharisees were angry as they perceived that the tendency of the disciples’ teaching was to undermine the Jewish ceremonies, and make the sacrificial offerings of no effect.  {AA 78.1} 

Looks to me like the religous leader’s may have been victims of something I learned about in a college communications class, called “Group Think.” They were more interested in preserving their group than they were in preserving or finding truth. Self preservation was more important than doing the right thing or preaching the right thing. Here is what I learned in my class almost ten years ago now.

The greatest want of the world is the want of men– men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.  {Ed 57.3}

                                      Group Think

Group Think: 

Where being a part of the group is actually more important then the mission or beliefs and values of the group itself.

 When you do not want to disagree with the group for fear of being separated from the group.

Symptoms of group Think:

Group overestimates its power and authority. 

Group becomes closed minded.

Group members experience pressure to conform.

Membership in group becomes more important than solving problems.

Examples of Group Think:

 

Joab complies with King David and puts Uriah on the front line of battle even though he knew it was murder.

Jews all agree to crucify Jesus and release Barabbas because that’s what the leaders wanted. 

In Watergate all the President’s men agree to bug the democratic headquarters. Later many confessed they knew it was wrong but they complied for fear of no longer being able to work next to the President. 

In 1986 NASA sends up the Space Challenger even though they knew it was too cold. They did not want to delay it any longer as they wanted it to go up before the President’s State of the Union Address. Seven people were killed.

Cure for Group Think: 

Then Peter and the [other] apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.   Acts 5:29

  When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked [man] shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.   Ezekiel 3:18

 The greatest want of the world is the want of men– men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.  {Ed 57.3}

Acts of the Apostles-The Training Of The Twelve

I am writing tonight from the beauiful Tampa Bay area.

Acts of the Apostles Chapter 2

For the carrying on of His work, Christ did not choose the learning or eloquence of the Jewish Sanhedrin or the power of Rome. Passing by the self-righteous Jewish teachers, the Master Worker chose humble, unlearned men to proclaim the truths that were to move the world. These men He purposed to train and educate as the leaders of His church. They in turn were to educate others and send them out with the gospel message. That they might have success in their work they were to be given the power of the Holy Spirit. Not by human might or human wisdom was the gospel to be proclaimed, but by the power of God.  {AA 17.1} 

An education and a degree are two separate things. Not everyone who is educated has a degree, and not everyone who has a degree is educated. Jesus wanted his disciples to be educated and they were, just not by the self righteous Pharisees. So today, Jesus uses men and women whom He educates not by the might and power of the world but by His Spirit.

As it was with the early church, so it will be in the last days. ” In the last solemn work few great men will be engaged. . . . God will work a work in our day that but few anticipate. He will raise up and exalt among us those who are taught rather by the unction of His Spirit than by the outward training of scientific institutions. These facilities are not to be despised or condemned; they are ordained of God, but they can furnish only the exterior qualifications. God will manifest that He is not dependent on learned, self-important mortals.–Testimonies Vol. 5  p. 80, 82 (1882). 

Thus the message of the third angel will be proclaimed. As the time comes for it to be given with greatest power, the Lord will work through humble instruments, leading the minds of those who consecrate themselves to His service. The laborers will be qualified rather by the unction of His Spirit than by the training of literary institutions. -The Great Controversy, p. 606

There is much to be said for education both in the classroom and in the field. Many have educated themselves by reading books, who were not able to attend a school. Still, they have book knowledge. However, book knowledge is not everything. The best example I can think of is several years ago when I was a lay pastor in Fort Worth. I had a friend who was a student pastor at Southwestern Adventist University in Keene, near Fort Worth. He and his wife had recently had a baby when I called one evening. My friend was quick to get off the phone that night which did not bother me. I had no clue anything was amiss until he called me back the following day. He said, “I am sorry I got off the phone so quick yesterday but my wife and I were having an argument and she was upset with me. She was trying to breastfeed the baby and it was not working for her so I started telling her how to do it and she became very angry with me.” I asked him how in the world he thought he could instruct his wife on nursing a baby. He responded defiantly, “I read it in a book!” Well guess what my friend? Book knowledge is not everything. I think this is a prime example on how we sometimes put too much emphasis on book knowledge instead of practical training.

I have spent my whole life reading and studying about Jesus and theology. Yet what I have woven into my ministry over the years has not all come from books. I have learned letters from books, but I have learned love and compassion from seeing it manifested in the lives of my self sacrificing family and friends. It was caught not taught. I still have a long ways to go though.

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light of The Cross.