Monday, July 24, 2017

Acts 29: "hope is a fact"

The Word for today:
Acts 26:19-32
The book of Acts stops at chapter 28, verse 31.  But the reader is left hanging in mid-air, with the definite impression that Acts may have stopped there, but it doesn't end there:
The book of Acts is still being written.  Like the Gospel of Luke, the book of Acts is yet another record of the things Jesus ‘began both to do and to teach.’  Jesus isn’t finished yet.  He began His ministry in His human body, as recorded in the Gospels.  He continued in His body, the church, through the book of Acts.  He continues His ministry today through you and me and every other believer on the planet.  The book of Acts will be completed someday.  And when it is completed, you and I will have a chance to read it in glory, in eternity, when the plan of God has been fulfilled.  When we read it, what will my part be in that great story?   And what will yours be?   – Ray Stedman, Adventuring Through the Bible
Stand in the Rain is taking a long look at various aspects of believers' testimonies--the stories, in-the-making right now, that will someday appear in "Acts 29."
As we speak of these stories in general, we encourage you to think, in particular, about the tale your own life is telling--and to "edit" (where necessary) before publication!
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15)
"Rhyme" and "reason" are both part of the Christian experience.  So as you live out the story to be published in Acts 29, make sure that it resonates in the heart and communicates to the head.
As we discussed in yesterday's article, the subjective elements--the rhyme of your story--are up to you.  You can choose the words, the colors, the chronology, the graphics, the special effects, the sound track…
But the objective reasons for the hope that we have--the facts which make our faith true-- are not ours to choose.  They are only ours to cut and paste from the pages of scripture.
Just because someone says "Jesus," it doesn't mean he knows the real Jesus.  This is illustrated by a remarkable incident in the book of Acts:
A team of Jews who were traveling from town to town casting out evil spirits tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus. The incantation they used was this: "I command you by Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!" Seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest, were doing this. But when they tried it on a man possessed by an evil spirit, the spirit replied, "I know Jesus, and I know Paul. But who are you?" And he leaped on them and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and badly injured. (Acts 19:13-16)
As this passage relates, the demons would only respond to or avoid the genuine believer.  They will not answer to someone who uses the name of Jesus without really knowing who Jesus is.
Thus the name "Jesus," in and of itself, has no power.  It only has power when it points to the Person, known by that name, who is found in the Bible, the whole Bible, and nowhere but the Bible.
Many have forged their own make-believe Jesus.   These fraudulent Jesus-es are nothing more than idols, cast in the image of their fraudulent makers.  Jesus warned of false prophets.  Ironically, but not surprisingly, the most dangerous false prophets are the un-scriptural Jesus-es whom whole "Christian" eras and denominations have followed and are following.
The genuine Jesus wasn't conceived in the mind of man.  In fact he wasn't conceived at all--until he stepped out of eternity into time, when he was...
conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.  (1)
That's the only Jesus who can save.  He's the only reason for the hope that we have.
(1) from the Apostle's Creed

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