Life’s Little Lessons XXVI
Greatest Need, Greatest Gift
“Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31) “Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38) “If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator. If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist. If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist. But since our greatest need was forgiveness, God sent us a Savior.” (Author Unknown) Speaking of Christ, Eph. 1:7 says, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace…”
Harsh Conditions; Faithful Christians
“And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” (Acts 5:40-41) The story is told of a distinguished Botanist who was exiled from his native land and obtained a job as a gardener in the United States. On a cold winter day, his employer received a valuable plant. Unfamiliar with the plant and its needs, he placed it in the greenhouse under the glare of the sun. When the plant began to die, the man asked the gardener to look at it. Quickly identifying its origin, he explained, “This is a plant which thrives in cold weather.” He immediately took it outside and exposed it to the frost, heaping pieces of ice around the flowerpot. Before long the plant became healthy and flourished again. (From Bible Illustrator) Just as some plants thrive under harsh conditions, faithful Christians rejoice when they are required to suffer hardship and persecution for the name of Christ.
“You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.” (Acts 7:51) In ancient cultures, the ox was commonly used to plow fields and pull carts. These animals were hard to handle under the best of circumstances. When an angry ox stiffened the muscles of his powerful neck, it was difficult or impossible to guide him Those ancient people began to use the term “stiff-necked” to refer to people who were stubborn and self-willed like the oxen. It is so used in the word of God. Let us not be stubborn or self-willed, but humbly yield to the revelation of the Holy Spirit.
“And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 6:59-60) The above verse says that when Stephen was stoned, he “fell asleep.” Our English word “cemetery” comes from this same Greek word which means “the sleeping of the dead.” To label “death” as “falling asleep” is a wholesome thought about death rather than the usual harshness men associate with it. Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.” Rev. 14:13 says, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.'” There have been many unjust killings since the beginning of the world as was Stephen’s. The thing, however, that made Stephen great was not that he was unjustly murdered, but that he died in the Lord. Let us proclaim along with the prophet of old: “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my end be like his!” (Num. 23:10)
“And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord. Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.” (Acts 11:21-23) Patients who undergo organ transplants are routinely taken to the intensive care unit after surgery. There they are classified as being in critical, but stable, condition, even if the operation went well. The doctors and nurses keep a constant watch over them until they become strong enough to be transferred to a less intensive state of care. New believers in Christ have undergone a serious organ transplant: they have received new hearts. They need careful follow-up and nurture if they are to make it. Leading people to a new life in Christ is a cause for celebration. But let’s remember they are in critical, but stable, condition. (From Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, p. 154)
Something in a Name
“And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” (Acts 11:26) “Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?” (James 2:6-7) Until the year 1100, most people in Europe had only one name. However, with an increase in the population, surnames were added so people could be more easily identified. These came from four primary sources: an occupation, such as “Cook” or “Miller”; a location, such as “Overhill” or “Brook”; an ancestor, such as John’s son (“Johnson”); and a personal characteristic, such as “Small,” “Short,” or “Longfellow.” God placed special significance on names. For example, He changed Abram’s name to “Abraham,” Sarai’s name to “Sarah,” and Jacob’s name to “Israel.” (Gen. 17:5,15; 32:24-28) Let us wear only the name “Christian.” It is the honorable name by which the people of God are called.