This program aired on KIUN 1400 AM in Pecos, TX on February 15, 2017.
In a recent article the owner of a prominent Christian magazine reflected on his own journey of faith. He likened himself to the Roman Centurion Cornelius, about whom we read in Acts 10. Like Cornelius, this man was a good man, and a religious man who believed he was doing what the Lord wanted him to do. Like Cornelius, he came into contact with someone who helped him complete his understanding of what the Lord requires for salvation and faithful living. The story of Cornelius is an inspiring story of an honest seeker finding the truth and bowing the knee to the Lord in obedience to it.
This story is especially important in the New Testament records of conversion that we find in the book of Acts. It is important for several reasons. First, Cornelius was the first Gentile convert to Christ. Up until his conversion, the gospel had only been preached to the Jews, and to their cousins the Samaritans. With Cornelius the gospel truly became international in scope as the Lord intended. Second, his conversion was marked by miraculous interventions in order to facilitate it. The only other conversion that contained such was that of Saul of Tarsus. Third, Cornelius was not a typical convert to Christ. He was not a wicked man whose life openly declared his need for salvation.
Regarding the first aspect, the significance of Cornelius’ conversion is not in him personally, but in his nationality. God had intended for Gentiles to be saved, just like the Jews, from before the beginning of time. Cornelius was simply the man that the Lord chose to be the first among his class of people to be saved. Regarding the second aspect, it is important to notice that the miraculous events surrounding his conversion are not what saved Cornelius. It was his obedience to the gospel by being baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of his sins that saved him and his household. This message is the same throughout the book of Acts (cf. Acts 2:38-41; 22:16; et al).
Regarding the third aspect, Cornelius’ conversion is important because of who he was before he was saved. In Acts 10:2 Luke describes him as, “a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually.” The significance of this statement is seen in the common belief today that all good, sincere, honest, religious people will be saved. By all human standards Cornelius was an exemplary individual. He was a godly man. He was a religious man. He was a devout practitioner of the Jewish faith. But, he was not saved by any of this. Not even the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on him and his household saved him (Acts 10:44-48). Cornelius was not saved until he was baptized for the forgiveness of his sins, just like every other person whose conversion is recorded in Acts.
This is what makes the story of Cornelius timeless. Salvation is the gift of God for all those who believe in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8-9). But this gift is given only when we obey the command to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). We receive salvation only when we have been baptized and washed away our sins (Acts 22:16). The significance of Cornelius is that he did not let his devout nature and good conduct keep him from obeying the command to be baptized (Acts 10:48), and neither must we.
What we need so desperately today are people who are willing to be a modern-day Cornelius. We need good people who are willing to do everything the Lord commands in order to be saved. We need good people who will not let their goodness be an obstacle to their salvation. May God grant us many more like Cornelius!
During Paul’s second missionary journey, he and Silas fled from the city of Thessalonica because the Jews in that city were threatening them. They came to a city called Berea, where they were more warmly received by the Jews in that city. Luke’s description of the people of Brea is interesting and unique. It is said of no others in all the New Testament. In Acts 17:11 the scripture says of them, “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.”
This description is interesting in the immediate context because it stands in stark contrast to the reaction of the Jews in Thessalonica. The Bereans received the word with “great eagerness”, whereas the Thessalonians apparently had not done so. Also, the Bereans listened to the preaching of Paul and Silas and then verified their message by examining the scriptures to see if it was true to God’s word. It seems that the Thessalonians were not as diligent in this regard. It is no wonder, then, that the Bereans were considered to be “more noble-minded” than those in Thessalonica.
The example of the Bereans prompts us to consider whether we today are as noble-minded as they were. How many religious people today simply accept whatever their preacher or their church leaders say, without question and without further examination? The plain truth is that far too many sincerely religious people do this very thing. We know this must be the case because of how often the doctrines of some churches change without any reaction from their members. The most extreme example of this is the number of mainline protestant churches that have recently embraced the LGBT agenda without any response from their members.
If we allow the scriptures to lead us as God intended them to, we will periodically take inventory of our attitudes in this regard. A fundamental principle of scripture is personal accountability. Paul spoke of this in Rom. 14:12, where he said, “So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” In Rev. 20:12 John wrote that the dead would be judged by the things written in the books, “according to their deeds”. The point is that we will not judged according to how well we went along with our religious leaders. We will be judged by how we responded to God’s word.
For this reason the scriptures call upon us to become personally familiar with their content. In 2 Tim. 2:15 Paul said, “Be diligent (or study) to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” This is a personal responsibility, and we will not be excused from it by saying that we trusted our religious teachers and faithfully followed their teaching. As the Lord said about the Pharisees, who often distorted God’s word, “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (Mt. 15:14).
The Bereans were more noble-minded because they would not take anyone’s word for what God’s will was, not even a well-known and respected apostle like Paul. They listened eagerly to the proclamation of God’s word, and then they took out the scriptures and verified that what they heard was the truth. This is how each of us should respond to the preaching and teaching we hear. We may fully trust our religious leaders, but we can only be certain about what they are teaching if we examine the scriptures daily to see if the things they teach are so. Our teachers and religious leaders absolutely bear personal responsibility for what they teach (Jam. 3:1; 1 Pet. 4:11; Acts 20:27, 2 Tim. 4:1-4; et al), but we bear personal responsibility for verifying that what they teach is the truth.
These things being true, how noble-minded are you?
February is the month of love. All over the country gifts of flowers, candies, and other tokens of affection are being purchased for loved ones. Romantic dinners are being planned, and young men are searching for the perfect ring so they can “pop the question” to the girl of their dreams. All of the accoutrements of the Valentine’s Day holiday are symbols of love. Red roses, special chocolates, and a diamond engagement ring are all ways of saying, “I love you,” but what about when the season of love has passed?
The more important expression of one’s love for another is how he or she treats that other person in the ordinary affairs of life. A man who lavishes gifts on his wife on Valentine’s Day, but treats her poorly the rest of the year, doesn’t truly love her, and his gifts do not make up for his bad behavior. The plain truth is that all of us want to receive expressions of love every day, not just on special occasions. This does not mean that we want roses and candy every day, but simply that we want to be treated with love and consideration all year round.
This fact of human nature is a reflection of the attitude that characterizes our Father in heaven, and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Many people openly profess their love for God, and their love for the Lord Jesus, but they tend to express it only on special occasions. This is why so many church buildings are filled to capacity on Christmas and Easter, but are sparsely filled the rest of the year. It is as though we are saying, “Lord, my devotion on these special occasions should be enough to last you throughout the year.” We do not accept this kind of devotion from our loved ones in the flesh, so why would we expect God to accept it from us?
After the Lord’s resurrection, He appeared to the eleven remaining apostles over a period of about forty days. On one of these occasions, recorded in Jn. 21:15-17, the Lord asked Peter three times, “Do you love Me?” In each case Peter responded that he did love the Lord. Then, in each instance the Lord told Peter to take care of His sheep. In other words, the Lord told Peter to demonstrate his love by doing what He commanded him to do. If Peter truly loved the Lord, he would obey Him.
This, ultimately, is the only way we can demonstrate our love for the Lord. It is, after all, what He Himself requires. On the night of His betrayal, after dismissing Judas to complete his treachery, the Lord told the other apostles, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (Jn. 14:15). A little later He added, “You are My friends if you do what I command you” (Jn. 15:14). It cannot be expressed any more simply than this. If we love the Lord, we must do what He commands us to do, not just on the special occasions, but every day of our lives.
In practical terms, this means that there are certain things we will always do, and there are certain things that we will not do. On the one hand this means we will not conform ourselves to the world, but will be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Rom. 12:1-2). On the other hand, it means that we will walk in the light, even as He Himself is in the light, so the blood of Jesus will continue to cleanse us (1 Jn. 1:5-10). It also means that we will not forsake the assembly each Lord’s Day, as the habit of some is, but that we will stimulate one another to love and good deeds, encouraging each other as we see the day of His return drawing near (Heb. 10:24-25).
The Lord asked Peter, “Do you love Me?” He asks the same question of each of us today, not just during the season of love, but every day. If we truly love Him, then we will obey Him until He calls us home to heaven.
February 5, 2017 is the fifty-first edition of the NFL Championship Game, commonly known as the Super Bowl. The first such game was played on January 15, 1967 in Los Angeles, CA, and pitted the NFL champion Green Bay Packers against the AFL champion Kansas City Chiefs. At the time of that first game no one was sure that the public would embrace it. Certainly no one could have foreseen what this annual event would become. Today, the Super Bowl is arguably the biggest sporting event of the year, and the Sunday on which it is played is called “Super Sunday.”
This game has become so popular that for many people the world stops, or at least gets put on hold, on Super Bowl Sunday. Normal activities are rescheduled to accommodate viewing the game, and Super Bowl parties are commonplace. Some business even alter their normal schedules to allow their employees to view it. In recent years some churches have rescheduled their assemblies, or even canceled them, so their members may view the game.
Those who are not fans of American football may wonder what all the fuss is about. For them, the idea of a Sunday being super because of a sporting event seems incredible. While some pundits have attributed the potential for economic growth in that year to who wins the game, we all know the outcome of this game has no real impact in the big picture of life. The day of this game is super only because of the hype surrounding it.
On the other hand, an argument can be made that every Sunday is a super Sunday. From a biblical perspective, every Sunday is super because every Sunday is the Lord’s Day. We call it the Lord’s Day because it belongs to Him. It belongs to Him because it is the day that He came forth from the tomb (Mt. 28:1-6). It is the first day of the week, and it is the day in which the church which bears His name was established (Acts 2:38-47). It is His day because this was when the first Christians met to commemorate His death on the cross (Acts 20:7). This was also the day in which He gave the great vision that we call the book of Revelation to John (Rev. 1:10).
As significant as Super Bowl Sunday is to the vast majority of people, there are some for whom it is not super at all. They do not participate in any Super Bowl-related activities, and they do not watch the game, or care how it turns out. For these, Super Sunday is no different than any other Sunday. Their lives and activities are not affected by the hype surrounding this event.
In a similar way, there are many who refuse to treat the Lord’s Day as anything other than another day. They do not take time to acknowledge and to worship the Lord who died to save them from their sins. They do not honor His sacrifice, or give thought to the great love He showed by going to the cross. Their attitude and actions declare that they see nothing super about the Lord’s Day.
If we refuse to join in the hype about the Super Bowl, it doesn’t really matter in the big picture of life. However, there are consequences if we refuse to acknowledge the Lord on His day. Heb. 10:25-31 warns that those who are willfully absent from the worship assembly have trampled under foot the Son of God, have regarded His sacrifice as unclean, have insulted the Spirit of grace, and they will incur God’s wrath. This passage ends with the chilling statement, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (v. 31). Knowing this, let’s each do our part to make every Lord’s Day a Super Sunday by honoring Him with our worship and devotion.