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Friday, January 27, 2012

Worthiness, Is It Real?

As is often the case, and maybe even more so when we're talking about man's [concept of] religion versus the truths of  God's Grace and Mercy, either too much significance is attached to a persons status in the eyes of man, and/or not enough importance is placed on that same persons position before God.  So what we often end up with is people calling themselves into His ministries, and/or refusing to answer His legitimate    call(s). A point to be made here is that [God's] Truth will always prevail!  As we work our way through the Scripture(s) below,  we'll see this promise from God proven, along with several other pertinent concepts.

'But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”  When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them. Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while.  And he said to them: “Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men.  For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing.  After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed.  And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing;  but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.”  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.  And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.'  (Acts 5:29-42    NKJV)

It is interesting here that God used a well-respected Pharisee, who was also an acknowledged teacher [of the Law] to basically prove the truth of the message being preached by Peter and some of the other apostles.  Now what we have to keep in focus is that the value of any message preached or lesson taught can only be determined by it's ability to stand up to a test of it's truth, and by the worth of the information or idea or concept to the intended audience.  If this scenario had been played out in today's time, then the test of truth would be simply to ensure that the message content was not in any way contrary to Scripture. But the Bible in it's complete form didn't exist at that time, and so Peter didn't have a Bible in his hand to present as evidence as to the truthfulness of his words.  The other end of this rope, so to speak, the end having to do with the not only the worth of the message to it's intended audience, but also just who the intended audience was, was also riddled with problems just as apparent.  I know that it's kind of hard for most people to firmly grasp the idea that during that time in history that you or I could be killed for even whispering any kind of acknowledgment of the sovereignty of the triune being of God, much less declaring God the Son as your Lord and Master openly for all to hear.  Let's flash forward to the death of the first apostle to answer the call of the Lord, to the point of death.

'When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth.  But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,  and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord;  and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.  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 7:54-60    NKJV)


'Now Saul was consenting to his death.  At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.'  (Acts 8:1    NKJV)

Let's make sure that we're all on the same page here, in regards as to how the death by stoning of the apostle Stephen ties into the situation that Peter and some of the other apostles found themselves in.  Saul, who later after he'd been 'blinded by the light' (quite literally!), was known as Paul [of Tarsus].  You'll find by reading through his letters, or epistles, that later were adopted into what's commonly accepted as the 'canonical' books of the Bible, that Paul spares himself not one bit when speaking of his life and attitude towards those who were choosing to follow the teachings of Christ, and then later on, those very same teachings as they were taught by the apostles and disciples, including himself.  Look again at verse fifty-eight in chapter seven and verse one of chapter eight.  This Saul that those stoning Stephen left their clothes with, who was '....consenting to his death....' was none other than the apostle Paul, who many call the greatest of the apostles.  I felt it important to make sure we all understand just how much danger Peter and the others willingly put themselves in, and this has to be weighed in when we examine the second part of our test we were looking at earlier, that of the worthiness of the message in regards to the value to the intended audience.  Simply put, as is often the case, when people are willing to put their life on the line, the value of the message preached or lesson taught appreciates significantly, especially so in the the case of Stephen, the first of the apostles to be martyred.  It would be considered ironic if weren't so heartbreaking,  the fact that the other apostles and members of the Early Church benefited greatly by Stephens death, and keep in mind that his death occurred after this situation Peter and his bunch found themselves in.  So let's flash backwards to when Gamaliel was doing his best to give his best advice to those who basically wanted Peter and his fellow apostles dead, and they probably weren't too awful concerned about how it came about or the legality, just so long as these troublemakers were dead.  Gamaliel made reference to two earlier times when two different men, Theudas and Judas of Galilee, both came with their messages, claiming to be what they were not.  In both instances, the men were killed, and then their followers just sort of melted away, and nothing ever came of it.  So the advice Gamaliel was giving was simply to not get involved, and to let nature run it's course.  The logic in his argument was that if Peter and company were truly preaching God's Message, then they most assuredly did not want to get involved, because they didn't want to get cross ways with Him. Additionally, if these upstarts were of God, and they had them killed, then the chances are good that their message would gain credibility, or worthiness. Finally, if the preachers were not ordained with God's Message, then they would be popular for just a minute, and then just fade away.  Either way, this was a win-win for the Jewish leaders.  So the Jews followed their counselors advice, thinking that they had made their point, and without doubt secretly praying and hoping that they would hear no more about Peter and his bunch.  They were satisfied with having the apostles beaten, and ordered to not teach any more in the name of Jesus, and then sent on their way.  Now, right here we come to the whole point of every word I've put to paper today, the last part of the last verses in the Scriptures we first started with.

'So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.'  (Acts 5:41-42    NKJV)

These men had been threatened with death, and came awful close to the threat being carried out.  They'd been beaten, and that in itself would've been enough for most people to never even think the name 'Christ' again, much less preach His Message in His Name.  So what was their next step to take?  It was the only logical one for anyone who is truly a son or daughter of God, they praised Him for being counted worthy, and then the preaching began!  I know that I've gone the long way around, but I'm known to do that, but here is what we have to never loose sight of, when we're facing trials and tribulations.  Our God is a God of promises kept.  That is a simple way of saying a whole lot.  Read through the Scriptures we've referrenced today, and pay close attention to both the promises made and kept in these Scriptures, and also to the times that promises were made elsewhere in the Bible, and then kept here.  Believe it or not, every bit of my rambling today has to do with worthiness.  Not only our worthiness to be redeemed by the shed blood of Christ, but also that the constancy of our worthiness is maintained by the evidence of our very lives.

'Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.  But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance,  and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.'  (Matthew 3:5-9    NKJV) 

The only claim that man has to the worthiness necessary to claim the shed blood of Christ is that God loves  mankind.  His love alone, and again, that is God's love for man and has nothing whatsoever to do with how man felt about the Father, is what enables God to see us as worthy of the free gift of Grace, and this gift of Grace was evidenced in it's fulness by Christ's unselfish act of love.

'For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.'  (II Corinthians 5:21    NKJV)

Now don't go and make a common mistake in assuming that man's worthiness is a one shot deal.  God's declaration of man's worthiness is merely the starting point, and is the first step in process.  Next, man's continuing worthiness is or is not evidenced by what man does after he or she has accepted the shed blood of Christ as atonement for their sin. 

'Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.  For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’;   and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’  He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.  And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.'  (Matthew 10:34-38    NKJV)

Jesus is very clear here on several points.  First, becoming a Christian puts a person dead in the middle of a battleground, and the only relief in sight is when Christ comes again to end the major conflict between Christians and satan that has been ongoing since God said, 'Let there be light....'  Second, when a lot of people are counseling with someone seeking salvation, they fail to mention a promise made by God, as spoken  by His Son.  This promise is that by becomming a child of God, we will find ourselves at odds
with any and every person who is not a member of our 'Spiritual' family, including family and friends who are still living in the 'temporal.'  Yes, our moms and dads and brothers and sisters and best friends, unless they are Christians, they have to be considered as mortal enemies.  Hey, don't take my word for it, just read your bibles!  The last thing we'll look at from our Scriptures from above, is that our own worthiness will either be proven or disproven by our own actions.  This is not to be confused with the worthiness God bestowed on us because of His great love for us.  This worthiness is the worthiness that will keep us from hearing the most dreaded words any person could ever hear on that Day of Judgment coming in the near future.

'Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’  (Matthew 7:21-23    NKJV)

So there you have it.  Everything that has anything to do with man's relationship with God the Father by and through the shed blood of Christ is based on, and supported by, worthiness.  Are you worthy to claim the blood of Christ as atonement for sin?   Is Jesus Christ worthy to shed His blood for that atonement of your sins?  Now, here's the big one, have you claimed your worthiness [before God] to accept the shed blood of Christ for salvation?  Are you ready to do it right now?  Just pray this simple prayer, and do it with the knowledge that this isn't a game, or a quick fix.  This is serious business that is only for those with a truly repentent and sincer heart.  If you're ready and sincere and truly repentent, then pray this prayer, and claim your gift of Grace:

       Lord Father, I come to you now with a sincere and repentent heart,
      and I'm claiming the shed blood of Your Son as an atonement for my
      sins.  I know that without His shed blood that I'm forever under the
      the condemnation of my sins, because I am a sinner.  Accept me now
      as one of Your own, as Your child, as forgiven.     Amen

One more thing I would ask of you, and that would be to send me a note just to let me know that a decision has been made that has the angels in heaven dancing with joy.  And now, my new brother or sister in Christ, you'll remain constantly in my prayers that you may grow and prosper before the Lord, and that you'll be blessed in all that you do!


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