This week, the words of my pastor (Joby Martin) came back to mind.
When you read the Bible, it reads you.
That is most certainly the case. I haven’t heard this truth expressed as succinctly before. Reading in Acts has made me realize how contrary the Gospel is to my human, self-serving nature. On one hand, I am ashamed of my humanity and yet, this only contrasts the glorious, transforming work which occurs from the Lord through the Gospel.
The inner man conflicts drastically with the reality of the Gospel. It is as if they collide, where one will HAVE to give way to the other because they cannot possibly co-exist equally. That is the rub.When you read the Bible, it reads you. Joby Martin #bible #gospel #testimony #followinghard Click To Tweet
We know of stories where “self” is chosen over what the invitation from the Gospel implies- dying to our own will. Mark 10:17-27 is a perfect example. When the rich man is challenged by Jesus to lay down his self-serving nature, he is unable to do so. Instead, he chooses to continue to live his life for himself rather than for Christ.
I know I have countless stories of my own selfish nature presiding over the will of Christ so it’s not like the rich man is unique. If anything, he is all too relatable. And yet, when the Gospel IS chosen over the self-centered will of man, what a testimony that creates.
The Choice That Is Contrary
There have already been several instances in Acts 4-6 where I am finding those willing to choose contrary to their own personal comfort or well-being. You can’t help noticing because these choices fly in the face of normal human reasoning.
- Acts 4 describes how Peter and John are called to give account to those who had previously set in motion the execution of Christ. Whereas Peter had just recently denied knowing Jesus 3 times, now he boldly proclaims Him.
- When Peter and John go back to tell the other believers of the threats of the religious leaders, instead of praying for protection and safety, they pray for boldness to continue proclaiming the Word.
- In Acts 5, Peter and the other apostles are arrested for disobeying the orders to discontinue teaching in Jesus’ name. When the angel of the Lord miraculously opens the doors of their prison cells for their freedom, they go straight back to the temple courts in full view of everyone to continue teaching. This choice quickly leads their flogging.
- Acts 6 describes how Stephen is a man full of faith, the Holy Spirit, God’s grace, power, and wisdom. He did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. With all of these qualities, on the heels of such volatility among the religious leaders, he uses the opportunity of being seized and falsely accused by a mob to rebuke them in the name of Christ. The crowd became furious and ultimately stoned Stephen to death.
In all of these examples, these men made choices that were contrary to human nature for one reason alone- Jesus.When we make choices contrary to human nature for one reason alone, Jesus, our testimony becomes magnified and irrefutable. Click To Tweet
The Testimony That Is Irrefutable
Because of these choices, something happened that was extraordinary. A testimony was proclaimed loud and clear! Even when the teaching of Jesus was thought to have been silenced, what replaced it was even more powerful and unmistakable.
It is one thing to believe in something we hold dear. It is quite another to suffer for it. Therein lies the power of the Gospel. What began with our beloved Savior willingly suffering for the redemption of sinners, now those same people are choosing to suffer for Him.
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. Acts 4:13
His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. Acts 5:40-42
First of all, I don’t know of a single time where I have rejoiced because I was worthy enough to suffer. That just goes against every human inclination I have! My natural, human response is to run from suffering if at all possible. Yet these men chose otherwise and their testimony of Christ was WORLD-CHANGING.
What I learn from the Gospel is applicable to a magazine cover seen in the checkout line at the grocery recently. As I saw this, the words from my pastor rang in my ears. “Dude, it ain’t about you! God is for you, He just isn’t about you.”
The Gospel is about Jesus! He came to save us from our sin and to sanctify us from that moment forward till He takes us home. Our salvation AND sanctification depend upon the Gospel. It isn’t about us but it is for us.
As we live our lives for Christ and NOT ourselves, we boldly proclaim a testimony that changes lives as it changes the world.
Now can this be done easily? Absolutely not!!
It echoes back to the words Jesus gave in response to the rich man’s inability to choose contrary to his self-serving nature. He acknowledged how difficult it is but He responded to His disciples with words of hope.The Gospel is about Jesus! Not me! #gospel #faith #freedom #christianliving Click To Tweet
Mark 10:21-27 says,
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
As impossible as it feels to tame the wild beast of our selfish nature, we are reminded that thankfully it isn’t up to us through self-effort. It happens as Jesus confronts our will and progressively, over time, conforms it to His selfless one.
This moment by moment process occurs as we allow the Word to read us, convict us, and ultimately change us. The joy is that this change in our nature happens as a by-product of our relationship with Christ. No one is dragged kicking and screaming toward living a life that is contrary to our human nature. It becomes our desire to follow Him wherever He leads.
The rich man went away sad while the disciples rejoiced…….. Yes, the more I remember that the Gospel is not about ME, the more I will be able to yield to what is contrary to my will, giving God one more testimony that can change the world.