Speaking to Felix about righteousness

As Jesus said Paul would “carry [his] name before Gentiles and kings and the people of Israel” Acts 9.15, the apostle preached righteousness to Felix, the Roman governor.

The subject of righteousness makes up part of the gospel and should be proclaimed today. See these points from the text of Acts 24.

1. Righteous and unrighteous will be resurrected

As Paul answered the false charges against him, he noted the great truth shared between him and his accusers. Continue reading “Speaking to Felix about righteousness”

Humble Mary

In the United States, we are entering the season in which we will elect a president. What this means is that for the next year and three months we will hear politicians tell us why they deserve the favor of our vote to elevate them to high office.

Before all the hubbub starts in earnest, it might be refreshing to hear another voice, the voice of Mary, the future mother of Jesus, in Luke 1:46. She so humbly said, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” This statement begins what many call the “Magnificat.” Let’s view it for what it really is: a hymn of thanksgiving, the object of which was a poor maiden’s desire to make God larger than herself. Continue reading “Humble Mary”

‘Perils in the wilderness’

“Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned’ three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren” (2 Corinthians 11:25-26, NKJV).

Paul’s list of his sufferings while preaching the Gospel are absolutely amazing. The experiences cited above are only a relatively small part of the full list found in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29. One who reads that account might well feel shame to complain about inconveniences and minor persecutions suffered today.

Yet while the extent of Paul’s experience surpasses that of most others, the fact of suffering and danger is a common, expected aspect of the Christian life. Paul promised, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Continue reading “‘Perils in the wilderness’”

We are alive in Jesus

We were dead. What a statement to make about anyone! But before Jesus entered our lives, we were dead. Notice what Paul wrote about this:

“And although you were dead in your offenses and sins, in which you formerly lived according to this world’s present path, according to the ruler of the domain of the air, the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience, among whom all of us also formerly lived out our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest” (Ephesians 2:1-3 NET)

Without Jesus, people are going the wrong way. Without Jesus we can’t end up having eternity with God. We can’t get there if we are going the wrong way. Continue reading “We are alive in Jesus”

No righteousness at all

“For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

Jesus said that a person couldn’t enter the kingdom unless their righteousness exceeded that of the scribes and Pharisees. One might be inclined to ask: What, exactly, was the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees? And how can we exceed it?

To answer the first question in a word: self-righteousness. Continue reading “No righteousness at all”

A huge hinge and the resurrection

In Nashville, Tennessee stands a full size replica of the Parthenon. Although this structure contains many noteworthy features, one of its most impressive characteristics to me are the two enormous bronze doors which stand about 30 feet high each weighing seven and a half tons. Each of these mammoth doors swing on a huge hinge which provides them with a system of counter balances making it possible for even a child to move those behemoths. Each of those doors literally depends upon its one huge hinge. Without that hinge, the door would be transformed into a useless mass of metal. But because of that hinge that enormous lifeless mass of metal becomes a magnificent door.

There is a way in which Christianity can be likened to those immense doors. For Christianity, everything depends upon whether one event is historical or not. Continue reading “A huge hinge and the resurrection”

What do Christian folk do?

In 1960 the legend of Arthur of Camelot found its way to Broadway in Lerner and Loewe’s stage production, Camelot. The second act contains a curious song entitled, “What Do Simple Folk Do?”. Burdened by sin and wearied by life, Arthur and Guenevere wonder what commoners do to alleviate such pressure. Three times Queen Guenevere asks Arthur, “What do the simple folk do” to “escape when they’re blue” or “to pluck up the heart and get through.” “They must have a system or two,” she contends. Arthur answers with simple remedies, they “whistle,” they “sing,” and they “dance.”/1

To Arthur and Guenevere, the simple folk could have easily been another species. These are people “not noblessly obliged.” They must have some “ancient native custom” for they know something the “throne folk don’t know.” Continue reading “What do Christian folk do?”

Do right

The world isn’t much concerned with doing right. It prefers to do what feels good. People look for immediate gratification rather than adhere to a standard and enjoy the fruit of righteousness. Opinions then become an individual’s guide and the arbitrator of what is good and right. This explains a major part of the mess the world is in.

Those who have decided to be right about what God’s message is, and to get right with God, can then be certain of doing right. They then have the possibility of doing right.

Being right and getting right are the framework within which any doing must possess in order for us to do right. That means that two people can perform the same actions, and one will be doing right and the other will be doing wrong. Continue reading “Do right”

Imitations

“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children” (Ephesians 5:1 NKJV).

When I first started traveling in South Asia I was impressed by the many name brands available in clothing, hiking gear, and other basic equipment and the very reasonable (cheap) prices for which they were sold. It was only after I had examined a few things and found them to be of lesser quality than I expected from the name that I realized that they were counterfeit. I wasn’t all that surprised – I had been aware that such practices existed. But I had not previously seen them on such a scale.

While many of the makers and sellers of these items are obviously intending to deceive and defraud customers, that is not true of all. Some are not actually counterfeit, but rather imitations. They copy styles and colors and other features of the highly advertised originals, but usually invent a brand name that is very similar to the original, but differing in a syllable or a letter. Of course if someone does not look closely enough and thinks it is the genuine article, the seller does not object, but there is evidence of imitation if one looks well. Continue reading “Imitations”

Sons of God

“Now I say that as long as the heir is a child, he differs in no way from a slave, though he is the owner of everything. Instead, he is under guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were in slavery under the elements of the world. When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba , Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then God has made you an heir.” (Galatians 4:1-7 CSB)

We need to keep in mind as we read Paul’s letters that those who first read this were simply reading a letter – no chapters, no verses, just a letter from Paul to them. For people reading today, we often have to go back to understand the context of what Paul is saying. He introduced being a son of God in the verses just before these verses. Continue reading “Sons of God”