“Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:11)
The Apostle Paul said that these men in Berea were more noble-minded because they examined the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. What things? The things that the Apostle Paul was teaching. My dear friends, we are being challenged daily but do we seek Him to give us truth? Do we take what we hear in our churches, on TV programs, on radio broadcasts, in books or on internet sites and line it up with the Word of God?
Especially in our day of being exposed to so many venues of information do we stop and really listen and go back to Scripture and research more than the one verse used in the teaching to see if it lines up with ALL of Scripture? Anyone can make a doctrine out of one verse, and many have. That’s how Satan works and leads us astray.
I hear over and over again that the “old way” is no longer valid or useful! They say that society has changed and we must change in order to reach the lost. My dear friends, Jesus did not change Himself or His message to reach the lost. He is the same yesterday, today and forevermore! (Hebrews 13:8)
God’s love is sufficient for every person, just as His grace is sufficient. “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) We all focus on Paul’s prayers for God to deliver him from his afflictions, which were many, so we are not going to try and figure out which one he wanted delivered from the most because his prayer, and our prayer, are the same in God’s eyes. They are important to Him who has called us! “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10) Notice that it doesn’t say God will deliver us! We never become who God called us to be by walking on the mountain tops and never suffering for His name. It is only in the difficult situations that we learn to lean on the One who can strengthen us and lead us THROUGH the trials and tribulations. The victory may not be what we expect but when we are in God’s hands, His will is accomplished. (Remember that we do NOT know the mind of God! “'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' declares the LORD." (Isaiah 55:8)) ”So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)
There was something very different in the apostles teachings and the Apostle Paul so eloquently tells us what it was, “and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5) Read this verse again slowly. I might guess that the focal point to you may have been “but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,” and I agree that this is very significant and set the apostles apart from anyone else preaching the gospel. But do not neglect the next portion of that Scripture, it is a life-changing truth that we need to understand so that we do not become deceived and be lead astray by the false teachers, prophets and apostles. “so that your faith would NOT rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;” (2 Corinthians 4:7)
We were all born in sin. While we may have been taught moral right and wrong we still had a sin problem and we were separated from God. “in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” (Ephesians 2:2) Even these Bereans had the sin problem. They knew God and loved Him and were eagerly looking for the Messiah but they were still separated. But when the Apostle Paul came to them, it was the Spirit of God (Holy Spirit) which was the power or breath of life that was spoken. When they searched the Scriptures their eyes beheld the words of God through His written Word and it came alive and they believed in the Messiah and were saved. Notice that they listened carefully then verified what they heard spoken with the WRITTEN Word and the Holy Spirit gave them rhema revelation. The power of God convicted them of their sin and the Word washed them clean. That is salvation! It is of God and not of man; man is only the vessel which God chooses to speak through.
But we cannot stop at salvation. Scripture exhorts us to grow in the knowledge and grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18) We are to grow, to mature, to move toward completion (perfection) in our walk with Jesus Christ! “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.” (Proverbs 4:18) Since we know that we cannot attain perfection in our fleshly bodies while on this earth, the Holy Spirit is teaching us that we must continue to grow continually in our relationship with the Lord. “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.” (Revelation 3:18)
We cannot become stagnant. When we neglect the Word of God we open ourselves up to the enemy. While we can be our own enemy oftentimes, we also open up opportunities for Satan to move in and begin to deceive us in so many ways and we quickly get led astray and move out of relationship with the Lord and place ourselves in situations outside of God’s protection. A human analogy would be that when it rains we use an umbrella so that we do not get wet. But if we neglect to use the umbrella we no longer have a covering or protection from the elements. That is exactly what happens when we separate ourselves from intimacy with the Lord!
When this happens we become vulnerable to much danger. Jesus warns us, “but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” (Mark 4:19) Why is that so critical in our walk with the Lord? Keeping this verse in mind let us now read Jesus’ parable of the branches. “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:1-2) What does God do with the branches He takes away? “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” (John 15:6) He casts them into the fire, the Lake of Fire! There they will spend eternity separated from Him.
We are being faced with God’s truth. What will you do with it? If you are being led by the Holy Spirit you will be convicted of anything in your life that is not pleasing to God. The Holy Spirit will challenge you to seek truth. His desire is for you to follow God’s plan. God’s plan begins with us and in us and not with our focusing on someone else. There may be people in your life who are very difficult and may be causing you much difficulty. But we need to remember that if we are truly in God’s will He will be with us in every moment. If we are facing difficulties because of our own choices and disobedience we first need to confess and ask for forgiveness. We then ASK GOD what to do. We do not make a knee jerk decision here! We wait. And while we wait, we enter into His Word. The Holy Scriptures will begin to take the scales from our eyes and we will begin to receive insight, God speaks to us through His Word. If you are in a situation where God placed you, as difficult as this may sound, He has allowed these things to occur in your life and you MUST seek Him and ask Him what you are to see and learn in this situation. Do not run from the situation, God will take you through it. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.” (Isaiah 43:2) “‘FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.’ It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.” (Hebrews 12:6-8) This next verse takes it one step further, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.” (Revelation 3:19) Repent? Yes, repent. Our fleshly natures do not tolerate opposition and discomfort. Our natural response is to retaliate. Even when we do not verbally or physically retaliate we have a running tape in our minds of what we think of the situation and those involved in it. Oh, we might be praying but often it is asking God to either fix the other person or to get us out of the situation. Jesus asks us a very difficult question, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.” (Luke 6:32) “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,” (Luke 6:27) There is no other way to learn to be like Christ than to walk in His shoes!
Let me ask you a question, are you in the Word? The question isn’t meant to condemn but go back to our opening Scripture, the truth and answers to all of our questions and concerns are in the Word! And it is only by the Holy Spirit’s revelation (rhema) will we receive that truth. When that truth is received it changes us.
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.” (Romans 6:1-10)
In order to receive salvation the first thing we had to do was to repent of our sin. That is not just “feeling bad” about the things which we had done but a conviction from the Holy Spirit (who drew us to Him at that moment) that opens our eyes to the darkness and deception in our lives. Our eyes are opened to see the corruption of our soul and to acknowledge (not with emotions only but with the intellect, the truth of who we are) that it should have been us on that cross. This revelation should shake every fiber of our being. It is this revelation where our pride is destroyed. In humility we understand that we don’t deserve this free gift of redemption! But the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ wraps us in His robes of salvation and washes us clean! It is as if a boulder is lifted off of us and we have freedom for the first time in our lives. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)
At this point if we are not like the Bereans and sink into the written Word to teach us and reveal truth, we will continue on with our lives in the same manner in which we have always lived, thinking we are safe (we have a “Go to Heaven card”). Oh, maybe we begin to attend church regularly and depend on whatever may be spoken of that day to be our “teaching” for the week. We might even buy a Bible and carry it to church but hardly ever open it at home to spend time with the Lord. As situations occur in our lives we continue to deal with them on our own or with the help of friends. I can attest, my dear friends, this is the road to destruction! Let me share a bit. When I was 11 years old I asked God to use me as He saw fit, I wanted to walk with Him and be a shining light in this dark world. But in my home we never read the Bible even though we went to church. We had a family Bible but it wasn’t even in view. We were involved in church activities and were “good church folks”. I never got in trouble but I pushed the limits and then went off to college. I wanted to serve God but the temptations were all around me and I couldn’t resist many of them. I married someone who I knew wasn’t the man I was to marry and caused myself much heartache and pain.
It was many years before I finally began reading the Scriptures and learning who God really was and what He was like. This began my real journey to a strong faith and relationship with the Lord. It was at this point that I submitted to an immersion baptism and revelation became my constant companion! It was at this point that God began giving me relationships with people in my life to encourage me and challenge me in my walk. He was preparing me for a great test that was waiting for me. It was a long difficult period in my life. I had a choice of either doing my own will or following God’s leading. I chose God’s way but that didn’t change the situation overnight, it was years. But in those years my relationship with the Lord grew so intimate that nothing else mattered. Major decisions were made according to the Holy Spirit’s leading and my life changed completely.
My dear friends, it is so critical to be in His Word and depend not on man. The church we attended when growing up was not a strong teaching church. I often wonder if I had even been saved during those difficult years. I can testify that God was there putting people in my life during those years that helped me greatly. I didn’t realize completely that it was God at the time, I suspected but because I was not in a relationship with Him I accepted the help of man and just continued on without any change in my life, I didn’t know any better and was too focused on my misery and emptiness to actually even look up and accept Him!
This verse in Scripture pretty much sums up my life, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) I share this with all of you to, hopefully, save you from wasting so many years wandering in the desert lands without the Lord. Friends, time is short, the Lord will be returning soon to take His bride home. A bride who is prepared. “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he *said to me, ‘Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he *said to me, ‘These are true words of God.’” (Revelation 19:7-9)
Remember the parable of the ten virgins? I encourage you to research devotions on this site because there are a few that are very detailed regarding this parable. But today I want us to focus on the five who were not prepared. By appearance they looked exactly like the other five virgins. They had lamps like the other virgins but what they lacked was oil. Oil signifies the Holy Spirit, the Word of Truth, illumination of the Word, rhema, revelation which guides us into the place where we need to be. The five foolish virgins were counterfeits. Let us have the Word teach us what happened, “And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’” (Matthew 25:10-12)
Let us now allow the Holy Spirit to remove the veil from our eyes and hearts as we read the words of our Lord, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’” (Matthew 7:13-23)
There is only one way to avoid having the Lord speak these dreadful words to us. That is to become a builder! We can only build upon the foundation which the Lord has laid. The only way we know what that foundation consists of is through the Word. The five foolish virgins tried to take a shortcut, they were imitators, not the real thing. They never walked on the narrow way. They didn’t have any fruit either. Unless we become like Christ in character and are walking in the Spirit we will never follow on the narrow path nor will we enter through the narrow gate. “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:27)
The first step in our journey is surrender. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” (John 12:24-26) Unless we surrender our will we will never grow to maturity. My prayer is that you would join us on this journey to our eternal home, following the path that God has laid out for you. “Jesus *said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.’” (John 4:34) Your journey will look somewhat different from mine in servant opportunities but it will be the same as mine as long as we continue to allow the Holy Spirit to continually renew our minds “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)
Abba Father, I thank You for Your warning to us this day. The road which many of us travel on is filled with so many activities and often more than one job so that we can purchase more material things. Father, forgive us. Forgive me Father for so often wanting the comfort of this world when it is so misleading and leaves me feeling more empty. You are the only One who can fill my soul with the peace which surpasses all understanding. I thank You, Abba, for sending Your Holy Spirit and speaking truth to us today. Open the eyes of our hearts and may each one reading these words receive rhema knowledge and truly be transformed by them. Bind us together as one, just as You, Your Son and the Holy Spirit are one. May those who have received Your truth and begun to leave the dead churches begin to seek the companionship of others filled with Your Spirit and encourage one another and grow together in love as You command. All these things I pray in the blessed name of Jesus Christ, the Sent One, amen!