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Uncontainable | Commissioned

#storychanging

Uncontainable | Commissioned

Monday… and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem…in Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8

You’re standing on a hill with Jesus’ apostles and friends. You’re listening to His last words before He ascends into heaven. What had He said about Samaria? You agreed with Him when He mentioned Jerusalem. And Judea. Of course you will spread the gospel to your own people. But Samaria? Those half-breed idolaters? And the “ends of the earth?” Did He mean Gentiles? Unkosher, pagan, foreigners? Now Jesus is gone and the disciples are murmuring to each other. They’d heard Him too. Was He serious? He was a Jew. He was Israel’s Savior? God’s promised one. Wasn’t salvation for the Jews only?

To understand why Jesus had to be so specific in His instructions, we need to get inside a disciple’s head. What had they heard when He told them to take the message to Samaria and the ends of the earth? He was telling them to end prejudice—even prejudice that was deserved. He let them glimpse the heart of God, who despises partiality. We all have bias, whether we admit it or not. We gain some from family, some from experience, and we nod along with stereotypes (That’s how those people are). We justify not reaching out because, well, they’re not like us. Whether it be race, nation, lifestyle, or status, Jesus’ message to us is this: “My salvation is not for you only. I’m counting on you to let the world know. ALL of them.”

Final Thought:  Who, where, or what is your Samaria?

Prayer: Jesus, if I’d been on the hilltop that day, what would you be saying to me? Who do I consider unworthy to hear your message? Expose my bias and destroy it. Give me love and courage as I go to Samaria. In your holy name, amen. 

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Tuesday You did not choose Me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit…  John 15:16

“I love being on the team,” Chris told Ronnie as they jogged toward the dugout. “Today I’m gonna tell Coach I’ll sit this practice out. Not in the mood. Tomorrow, I can’t come because my uniforms need washed and this heat bothers me.” Ronnie gave his teammate a look. “Oh yeah? Good luck with that. Why do you think Coach chose you? To sit in the dugout? Our pitching staff has spent a lot of time on you and you’re a great pitcher, but what good is it if you won’t get in the game?”

Jesus told His disciples that they hadn’t chosen Him; He chose them. They were rough, uneducated kids when Jesus pointed at each and said, “Follow me.” It was not about building their self-esteem, not so people would admire them or because He needed friends. He chose them to bear fruit. That’s why He chose us. If you’ve obeyed His call to follow, He has further directions for you. He entrusted the world’s most important message to a band of rough, uneducated kids, and it changed history. You’re part of that band. He’s chosen you to bear fruit, lasting fruit. He didn’t call any of us to sit in the dugout and make excuses. He’s gifted us and given us a message, but what good is it if we won’t get in the game?

Final Thought:  You may love being on Team Christian, but are you getting in the game?

Prayer: Father, I’m so grateful that you’ve saved me. You made me your child and promised eternal life. But you didn’t do it so I could sit on the sidelines while other people go to hell. Show me how to get in the game. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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WednesdayThe Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”   Acts 8:29

Imagine that the Spirit gave that instruction to a few others who claimed to be followers:

“I would, Lord,” said Annie Analytical. “But that chariot’s going too fast, I don’t know that guy, and he wouldn’t listen.”

“Which chariot, Lord?” asked Dense Denny. “There are a lot of chariots…I’m all confused…I guess I’m too late…”

“Oh, that guy?” said Pat Prejudice. “But he’s Ethiopian, Lord, and a eunuch besides. Those kinds of people creep me out.”

“Oh sigh, woe is me,” mumbled Donna Depression. “I’m too bummed about my life. Nothing going right. I need ME time.”

“Can’t, Lord!” cried Busy Buz. “Got two meetings and a lunch in five! Kids have practice, wife’s bowling, car’s in the shop…”

If the Spirit had come to you with the order, how would you have responded? How do you respond now? God had a far bigger agenda that day than Philip’s personal schedule. Notice that He never asked if Philip would LIKE to catch up with the chariot. He didn’t give 24-hour notice or assemble a focus group first. In fact, the Spirit never ASKED Philip at all. It was a command. There are lots of those packed into God’s 66-book instruction manual. But we prefer to treat them like options. “Feed the hungry. Defend the orphans. Visit the oppressed. Make disciples of every nation.” Those aren’t questions; they’re mandates.

Final Thought:  Practice writing out your response to the Spirit’s command. How uncontainable is your message?

Prayer: Lord, I might have responded like one of those excuse-makers. I do that now and I’m ashamed of it. Pease forgive me and help me change. I want to be sensitive to your voice and obey the first time I hear it. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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Thursday  …and the Holy Spirit said…” (Acts 4:8, 13:2, 8:29, 9:15).

“The Holy Spirit said that you should quit your job and live in a cave for His glory,” shouted Reed.

“The Holy Spirit said to blow up this clinic and shoot the abortion doctor,” announced Elroy.

“The Holy Spirit said…Holy Spirit said…” The Holy Spirit of God gets blamed for a lot of our emotion-fueled nonsense. Many of those claiming to have heard Him are well-intentioned, but wrong. So does that mean the Holy Spirit never speaks to us today like He did in Bible times? Absolutely not! God is God and He doesn’t change. He still speaks; we need to learn how to listen.

Every time the Holy Spirit spoke in the New Testament it was accurate. It was in accordance with God’s stated will. And it was to further God’s plan. But not everyone ran around with a tambourine declaring the Holy Spirit gave them words for everybody else. He spoke through His designated messengers for His purposes. Spirit-controlled believers knew how to listen and they never declared, “Thus sayeth the Lord…” unless He really did. The 2020 Presidential election exposed a lot of self-identified “prophets” who had announced, “The Holy Spirit said…” when He had not. So how do we know when we’re getting a Spirit nudge? If it’s a command in scripture, it’s a Spirit nudge. If it is in someone’s best interest, it’s a Spirit nudge. If someone will be born again, blessed, encouraged, or delivered from sin, it’s a Spirit nudge. The Holy Sprit says to all of us: “Obey Jesus.”

Final Thought:  You can develop sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s voice when you practice obeying what He says.

Prayer: Lord, I’ve let noise and busyness drown out your voice. I want to be sensitive to your instruction, but I have to start in your word or I will be deceived by my own ideas and emotions. Help me learn to listen for your voice. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Friday This is a faithful saying…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. 1 Timothy 1:15

Chief of sinners. What would it take for someone to self-identify as “chief of sinners?” We picture dictators and terrorists.   When we think of terrible people, we compare their actions against our standard of good and evil. For example, we view Hitler’s slaughter of innocent civilians as barbaric, but millions of upstanding Germans thought it righteous. In the first century, a bloodthirsty era of gladiators and public crucifixions, contenders for the title “chief of sinners” included madmen like Nero and Domitian who burned Christians like human torches. “Nope. It’s not them,” says Paul. “I am chief of sinners.

Why would he write that? He did some bad things before he met Jesus, but he was clearly not the worst. Paul took that attitude   because that’s the posture of a true Christian. Without a recognition of our own unworthiness, we can’t be saved. We become Pharisees who pray, “Thank you, God, that I’m not like these sinners” (Luke 18:11). Evil people may be lost causes, but compared to them, we’re not so bad. God can’t do much with us when we have that attitude. And the people we want to reach smell arrogance a mile away. To bring people to Christ, we must identify with their sinfulness and God’s grace in saving us. A soul-winner is one starving person showing another starving person where to find bread. Each of us is the chief of sinners.

Final Thought:  Unless we realize our own darkness, we can’t lead anyone else to the light.

Prayer: Father, I’m ashamed of a lot of the things I’ve done, but I don’t think I’m the worst.  Maybe that’s why I’m not as effective for your kingdom as I’d like to be. Open my eyes to see my own unworthiness.  In Jesus’ name, amen.