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Divine Savior | May 24

#storychanging

Divine Savior | May 24

MONDAY— …our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit… 1 Thessalonians 1:5

Christianity lost one of its greatest defenders last week. Ravi Zacharias, 74, went home to be with the Lord he had served for 48 years. Saved on a bed of suicide at 17 in his native India, Ravi went on to challenge skeptics and atheists from Oxford to the Mormon Tabernacle with his characteristic humility and brilliance. We are fortunate to have much of his wisdom preserved in videos, books, and articles, and his legacy will live on through the lives of the talented apologists he trained. His goal was “Helping the thinker believe, and the believer think,” so who better to teach us about God’s divine message:

*Only when holiness and worship meet can evil be conquered. For that, only the Christian message has the answer.
*What is right has to win the day over what we may see as rights.
*It was not the volume of sin that sent Christ to the cross; it was the fact of sin.
*Pleasure without God, without the sacred boundaries, will actually leave you emptier than before.
*Redemption is prior to righteousness. You cannot be righteous until you are first redeemed.
*Christianity is not a political theory. It is not even a cultural theory. It is, at its root, all about changing the heart of each man and woman, boy and girl, so that we begin to think God’s thoughts and act in accordance with his character.

Final Thought: May God continue to raise up champions of the faith like Dr. Ravi Zacharias. Could you be among them?

Prayer: Lord, we can only imagine the joy Ravi is experiencing right now in your presence and we thank you for dedicated men and women who present your message in ways that impact the world. May I be one of them. In Jesus’ name, amen.
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TUESDAY— I am not ashamed of the gospel… for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes… Rom. 1:16

Buddha had a message. Mohammed had a message. The Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the followers of Hare Krishna all have messages, so what makes the Christian message different? Most people claim that sincerity is all that matters, but that is flawed reasoning. What if we applied that logic to anything other than spirituality? Your neighbor may sincerely believe that electricity is not real and that he should stick a fork in an outlet if he wants to. He will discover the hard way that sincerity is not all that matters. Truth is what matters: absolute, unwavering, uncompromising truth. And God’s truth has power behind it.

Every stream of man-made religion eventually flows into the same river. The messages may vary, but each is built on claims that cannot be substantiated and they pool together into a stagnant pond of blind acceptance. God never asks us to blindly accept Him. He carefully documented centuries of his dealings with humanity so that we have an accurate record of His message. Through miracles, prophets, divine encounters, and His own Son, God proclaimed a message like no other. But God’s message is not merely words. It comes with spiritual power that defies explanation. Those touched by this power are transformed into new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17). Our message is divine because its power changes sinners into saints.

Final Thought: The Christian message is not a parade of words, but a demonstration of the power of God in a human life.

Prayer: Father, forgive me for the times I’m ashamed of your gospel. I forget that your message is not only words, it has supernatural power. Grant me boldness to speak and live your message before a lost world. In Jesus’ name, amen.
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WEDNESDAY— So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Romans 10:17

What if George Washington or Socrates showed up at your door and you had to explain television and radio? Imagine showing your great-great-grandpa the internet or describing traffic rules to Queen Victoria. They would be stunned and leery because they have no basis for understanding modern advancements. Picture Abe Lincoln getting into a sports car for the first time or Betsy Ross stepping into an elevator. What would motivate them to try something far outside their experiences? Words. Explanations. Demonstrations. Assurances. They need to hear about it before they will trust it. The same thing happens when many people hear about God for the first time. People must see, hear, and understand before they can believe.
Betsy Ross may be skeptical of the elevator until she watches you get on it, disappear, and come back in one piece. Lincoln may refuse to slide into the passenger seat of your car until he watches you drive it. When we expose people to the gospel for the first time, they are understandably skeptical until they watch our lives. No one appreciates a Savior until they realize they are lost. No one cares about forgiveness until they understand the greatness of the One they’ve offended. Hypocrisy is deadly because it destroys an unbeliever’s ability trust our words. If Lincoln watched you crash the car, he wouldn’t get in it. And when unbelievers watch us defy God’s commands, they resist placing their faith in the Christ we proclaimed.

Final Thought: Do both your words and your life choices deliver an accurate message about Jesus to those around you?

Prayer: Father, search my heart. Do my actions line up with the message I speak? Forgive me of hypocrisy. You’ve commanded me to proclaim the message that saved me. So may my life not dishonor that message. In Jesus’ name, amen.
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THURSDAY— And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them… Mark 16:20

That new guy at work. The old lady across the street. Those pesky kids that run across your lawn. Do we really see them or do we see only intrusions? Irritations. Background noise. Jesus’ disciples saw the same thing and He spent three years changing that. Slowly, they began to see people like He did but it was still terrifying to preach His message to a hostile audience. Who would choose persecution, ridicule, and eventually death just to deliver a message? No one volunteers for that on their own. Yet, they did. Every last one of them. What made them abandon comfort and choose suffering? The Lord worked with them.

Jesus in the flesh had gone back into heaven, so it wasn’t His physical presence that went with them. He had left clear instructions that they were not to utter a peep until He sent the Holy Spirit to empower them. Jesus and the Holy Spirit must work as a tag team. Maybe they high-fived as Jesus went up and the Holy Spirit came down. But when He came, the Holy Spirit transformed doubters into evangelists. He cultivated love in unloving men, kindness in unkind men, and boldness in frightened men. Knowing Jesus was with them gave them courage to preach a message some crowds didn’t want to hear. That same Spirit empowers us too, or we couldn’t do it. God’s message has not changed. His instructions to us have not changed and people have not changed. We can only proclaim truth with boldness when the Lord works with us.

Final Thought: When your heart is set to proclaim God’s message, His Spirit will empower you to do it.

Prayer: Jesus, I forget that it’s not up to me to reach the world. You will do it through me as I submit to you. Here I am. Amen.
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FRIDAY— When Priscilla and Aquila heard (Apollos) preaching boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately. Acts 18:26

“Oh my word! Did you hear what he said?” Magda’s stage whisper could have been heard a block away. Priscilla shushed her friend and shot a grimace at her husband Aquila who was listening to the young evangelist with interest. Apollos was an up-and-coming star on the preaching circuit. Passionate, handsome, dedicated: he had all the markings of a world-changer except for one thing. His doctrine needed some doctoring. He had the cart before the horse and the tail wagging the dog. Priscilla and Aquila didn’t want to put out his fire, just keep it from burning down the city. So this wise couple took him under their wing.

Since the first century, teachers have been proclaiming different versions of a message that is supposed to be the gospel but something is off. Eye glasses may look fine on the outside, but if they are the wrong prescription you are better off not wearing them. So it is with God’s message. Man-tainted versions of God’s message strip it of its divine origins. In ancient times, the Judaizers and the Gnostics were confusing everyone. In our day, prosperity preachers and universalists are twisting the message until its unrecognizable. Some mean well, but need more instruction. Others, as in New Testament times, are in it for the fame and fortune. Purity of our message matters, and we must know it ourselves before we can spot dangerous errors.

Final Thought: Do you know God’s message well enough to spot error when you hear it?

Prayer: Father, I recommit myself to being a student of your word. I need to know your message before I can help other people believe it. Zeal is fine, but it must be paired with knowledge. Teach me more of your message. In Jesus’ name, Amen.