“Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45, English Standard Version).
My morning reading of the Bible has been somewhat different this week. I have read the same chapter every day. It’s fairly short, only twenty-nine verses, but I haven’t made it to the end of the chapter yet. Perhaps I will get there in a few more days. Why has it taken me so long to read a few verses? It is so rich with so much to absorb, and it’s easier to do it in small bites.
We each probably have our own way of reading the Word. You may follow a Bible reading chart, have a goal of so many chapters per day, or randomly select a passage. I like to do all of the above. I follow a chart, but I also enjoy reading random portions of Scripture. A chart gives me structure and insures I read the entire Bible through. When I’m “off the chart,” I discover interesting stories, passages that make me seek deeper meaning, or a verse that speaks to where I am at that exact moment.
How I study the Word isn’t anything profound but let me tell you a few of the things I do (or don’t do). You will no doubt develop your own study style.
I do not speed read. My goal is to understand more, not zip through so I can check off a box on a chart. If a verse seems unclear to me, I stop and read it again. And perhaps again. Sometimes reading a cross reference (printed in a center column or sometimes underneath the verse) will help.
I keep pen and paper nearby. I jot down insights, questions, or other verses related to what is being said. If I don’t have time to dig deeper right then, I can come back to my notes later and search it out.
I use a Bible app for quick research. When a passage is unclear, I often find it helpful to look at one or two other translations. A Bible app allows me to do this quickly. I can also look up the meaning of key words in the passage. Or I can do a word search to find other verses on this topic (such as: faith, patience, love, grace).
Yes, some Bible passages are difficult or (dare I say it) boring. Chapter after chapter of “begats” does not make for exciting reading, but I plunge on. Often, even in these passages I find sweet nuggets of inspiration. If nothing else, I remind myself if God knows all those names, He knows mine too. I matter to Him.
I was in a Bible class when a fellow student asked the teacher, “What translation of the Bible do you recommend?” The quick response was, “The one you will read.” We may own a stack of Bibles, but it is only when we open it and start reading that the Word goes deep into our hearts. It’s our source of instruction, hope, and encouragement.
“For whatever was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that we may have hope through endurance and through the encouragement from the Scriptures” (Romans 15:4, Christian Standard Bible).
Prayer: Lord, give me a deep, abiding love for Your Word. When I hide it in my heart, it keeps me on the right path so I do not sin. Increase my understanding and open my eyes to the wisdom it offers for my daily life.
Since the beginning of time, God has desired a close, special, intimate, personal, one on one, relationship with mankind.
Each evening God himself walked and talked with Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden – until Adam & Eve’s SIN separated them. Sin created a huge gulf or chasm between God and man. But God knew this would happen, so He set in motion His plan to bring salvation to mankind.
In the meantime, God gave the pattern and instructions for a tabernacle – a portable tent – that served as a place where God could meet with man. The people were required to bring sacrifices for their sins, and God would roll their sins ahead for a year. God would only meet with one man (the high priest) once a year.
Solomon, and later King Herod, built temples in which the people could worship God. Still, God observed their sacrifices and offerings, but did not have the personal relationship with man that He desired.
Then God “robed himself in flesh”, and became a man named JESUS. For 33 years, he lived among us – a perfect, sinless man. Now He was living “with” us, but not “within” us! He gave Himself as the sinless sacrifice for our sins when He was crucified on the cross. His death on the cross, and the blood that He shed, built a bridge across the chasm created by sin. Now, man could have his sins forgiven. Jesus was then buried, rose from the dead, and some days later, ascended back into heaven.
Fifty days later on the “Day of Pentecost”, God poured out His Spirit on the 120 believers waiting in an Upper Room in Jerusalem. NOW, God himself could live within man and commune with man – anytime, anywhere, about anything… And with anyone that would invite Him in!!
Where do we find the plan of salvation for the New Testament church?
1. The Gospels
The first four books are called “The Gospels”. In them, we find four men’s accounts of:
Jesus’ ministry and miracles
There is no mention of the church in these books.
This book documents the birth of the church on the Day of Pentecost. God poured out His Spirit on the waiting believers, and then through them, reached the world with the gospel.
These were letters written to saints (believers) and churches that had already experienced the plan of salvation.
Let’s examine the book of Acts:
Chapter 1 – Jesus told the disciples to wait in an upper room until His power would come upon them.
Chapter 2 – Here is the account of the first outpouring of the Holy Ghost. 120 people were filled with the Holy Ghost (including Jesus’ mother). Peter stood up to explain to the curious crowd what had happened. In his preaching he recounted a quick history lesson and then explained to them that they had crucified the Messiah. They were convicted, and cried out, “What shall we do?” Peter answered with a three step plan of salvation:
1. Repent, 2. and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins 3. and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
This plan of salvation was experienced by 3,000 additional believers on the day of Pentecost, and then the gospel spread to other Jews, Samaritans, and then to the Gentiles.
Let’s examine three accounts given in the book of Acts that illustrate this plan of salvation experienced by the early church:
Note in each story: How they were baptized (italicized and bold) and What happened when they received the Holy Ghost (bold)
Acts Chapter 2
1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance * * * 37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call. 40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. 41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
Acts Chapter 10
1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, 2 A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway. 3 He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. 4 And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. 5 And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: * * * 44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. 45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. 46 For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, 47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
Acts Chapter 19
1 And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, 2 He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. 3 And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. 4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.
YOU can experience your own personal Pentecost!
“Then Peter said unto them, Repent,…” (Acts 2:38)
means to turn away from sin, and turn toward God
to turn from sin…to feel regret or contrition, to change one’s mind (Webster)
to go the opposite direction – away from sin, and toward God
John preached repentance:
“…Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 3:2″
“John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” Mark 1:4
Jesus preached repentance:
“…except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” Luke 13:3
“And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his (Jesus) name among all nations…” Luke 24:47
Peter preached repentance:
“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Acts 2:38
“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” Acts 3:19
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” II Peter 3:9
“And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:” Acts 17:30
“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,…” (Acts 2:38)
Baptism is necessary for salvation:
“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; …” Mark 16:16
“The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us…” I Pet. 3:21
Baptism must be in Jesus Name:
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:12
And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” Colossians 3:17
The disciples baptized everyone in Jesus Name:
“(For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)” (Acts 8:16)
“And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.”(Acts 10:48)
“When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.“ (Acts 19:7)
“And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Acts 22:16
When you are baptized in Jesus Name, your sins are remitted, forgiven, washed away, never to be remembered against you!
“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.“ (Acts 2:38)
The Holy Ghost is for everyone:
“For the promise (of receiving the Holy Ghost) is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Acts 2:39
The Holy Ghost is a necessary part of the plan of salvation:
Jesus said “…Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). This is speaking of water baptism and the baptism of the Holy
Peter said, “…ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Acts 2:38
Paul said, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Romans 8:9
Speaking with tongues is the consistent evidence that each one received the Holy Ghost.
The Apostles & Mary (the mother of Jesus) “And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James [the son] of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas [the brother] of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren….And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts 1:13,14, 2:4
Cornelius and his household “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them…For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.” Acts 10:44,46
Disciples of John the Baptist “And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.” Acts 19:6
Paul – “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:” I Corinthians 14:18
The scripture reveals 3 facets of salvation:
Remission of sins in Jesus Name Baptism
Receiving the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues
Paul called this “the Gospel”! “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel…how that Christ died for our sins…and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day…” I Corinthians 1:1,3,4
We experience the gospel when we’ve experienced the plan of salvation:
Jesus died; We die in repentance Jesus was buried; We are “buried in baptism” Jesus rose again; We receive the Holy Ghost & new life!
When you have experienced repentance, baptism in Jesus Name and the infilling of the Holy Ghost, you have been born into the family of God. Jesus is now your Father, and you are His child.
Paul wrote it this way: “…as God hath said, I will dwell in them and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters…” II Corinthians 6:16,18
“And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:4)
“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house,” (Matthew 5:14-15)
The Word of God says that we are the light in this world and that we are to be separated and divided from the darkness. Matthew 5:16 says, “let your light shine.” Even the world recognizes light and darkness as the universal battle between all things good and all things evil.
God is telling us to let our light shine, and not just any light, but a light that is so strong it can only be compared to that of a city. With the power of the Holy Spirit living inside us, we can not only be a light, but we can radiate.
When you look up synonyms for the word radiate you will find the following list; bright, shine, light, dazzle, and illuminate. These words challenge me in so many different areas of my life.
Don’t be the typical neighbor. Be different!
Don’t be the average co-worker. Be bold!
Don’t be the every day stay-at-home mom. Stand out!
Don’t be just another sister at church. Be radiant!
The exact opposite of radiant is: darkness, blackness, dim and dull.
Two ways to radiate His light:
1. Recognition. Recognize that Jesus is our source of light. In John 8:12 and I John 1:5, we read that Jesus in the light of the world and that in Him there in no darkness. Psalm 27:1 reminds me that God is my light and my salvation. We need to recognize that all goodness and mercy comes from him. When we’re doing good, flesh likes to take credit. A radiant woman will:
Give glory to God
Radiate His goodness
2. Separation. In II Corinthians 6:14, the Bible asks a clear question, “What fellowship has light and dark?” Nature itself shows us that there is no fellowship between light and dark. A simple experiment can be done to prove that; go into a dark room and turn on the light. What happens to the dark? Like the light and dark, we are to live a life that is separated. Lines must be drawn that separate our conversations, our outings, meals, friends and choices of entertainment. “Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy ” (Leviticus 19:2).
Ask yourself: Are the boundaries I put in place that separate me from darkness, evident to nonbelievers?
Our goal as woman of radiance is to reflect Christ. Luke 11:33 makes a clear statement, “No man, when he hath lighted a candle, put it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light.” The scripture is so clear, to do anything else would lack reason.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness and into his wonderful light.” (I Peter 2:9)
Let your light shine. Be a woman of radiance!
Let’s start with defining the word devotion: love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person, activity or cause. Synonyms for the word devotion include: committed, loyal, practice, or an act of fidelity. The opposite of devotion is infidelity and unfaithfulness.
Nowhere in the definition of devotion do we see that it relates to religion. We do however see words within the definition of devotion that relate to relationship.
Devotion is not religion, it is relationship.
The greatest example we have in the natural realm of an act of devotion, is a wedding. More specifically, at the point when the marriage vows are made. We commit our lives to our spouse in front of family, friends, and God, promising to devote our lives to them. The greatest relationship you will ever have in your life is your relationship with your Savior, Jesus Christ.
There are benefits to committing your life and devoting your life to God. Proverbs 16:3 tells us, “commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.” When we choose to commit our lives to God, the Bible says that He will establish our thoughts. Our spouse will offer us comfort and support; be someone to share our joy and victories with, but only God can establish our thoughts. Only He can bring stability and clarity to our mind and give us a firm foundation allowing us to grow in our walk with Him.
Two ways to build a life devoted to God:
1. Recognition. We must give God recognition in all areas of our life – career, education, family, finances, relationships, marriage, and ministry. In the Book of Acts, Paul was in Athens and he came upon a statue that the people had erected. “For as I passed by and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD…” (Acts 17:23). If we are going to live a life of devotion to God, we must first be sure that we know who God is.
Devotion to God will require a commitment of our time. Proverbs 31 is a powerful chapter that describes a virtuous woman. Proverbs 31:27 reads, “she looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.”
You will know who you serve when you know where your time is spent.
Make a list of how and where you spend your time:
Matthew 6:19-21 tells us that where your treasure is, there is your heart also. We can also read it as a challenge to us saying, where your time is spent, there is your heart also. It is a reasonable argument that people spend time doing the things they love.
2. Separation. When you become devoted and involved in a new relationship, there is a separation from previous commitments. Acquaintances, hobbies, friends, interests and plans that once controlled your time, now begin to revolve around your new relationship. Living a life devoted to God will bring a natural separation as you grow closer to Him. Matthew 6:24 confirms that we cannot serve two masters and in II Corinthians 6:14-15, the scripture asks the question, “What does a believer and an infidel have in common?”
We devote time and self to God in the following ways:
Attending church activities
Reading the Bible
Praise and worship
Psalm 1:1-3 describes great blessing and favor when our life is devoted to God first. It describes not just a moment in time with our Savior, but a lifestyle of devotion. The greatest relationship you will ever have in your life is your relationship with your Savior, Jesus Christ!