The Good News and the Bad News – Luke 3:15-17

good-news-bad-news“As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, ‘I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire’” (Luke 3:15-17, ESV).

The good news about Jesus is always accompanied by what some might consider “bad news.”

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I’ve Got a Secret – Mark 4:10-11

“When He was alone with the Twelve, those who were around Him asked Him about the parables. He answered them, ‘The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to those outside, everything comes in parables” (Mark 4:10-11. HCSB).

Jesus made this statement to the twelve apostles after telling the all-familiar parable of the sower.

Now, a secret is usually some knowledge or information that one keeps hidden from others. But sometimes a secret is knowledge or information that is unknown to others but should be revealed.

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Be the Gospel – Acts 26:27-29

“King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you believe. Then Agrippa said to Paul, Are you going to persuade me to become a Christian so easily? I wish before God, replied Paul, that whether easily or with difficulty, not only you but all who listen to me today might become as I am—except for these chains” (Acts 26:27-29, HCSB).

In the book, The King Jesus Gospel, Scot McKnight contrasted how the gospel was presented and what was the message preached by the apostles with how we present the gospel and what we preach today.

The Apostle Paul’s presentation of the gospel to King Agrippa in these verses provides a good example of this contrast.

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Fuzzy Faith – Acts 18:25-26

“This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught the things about Jesus accurately, although he knew only John’s baptism. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. After Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him home and explained the way of God to him more accurately. (Acts 18:25-26, HCSB)

Apollos was from Alexandria, Egypt, a city of great learning. However, his knowledge of the gospel of Jesus was deficient since he apparently was a disciple of John the Baptist.

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Youth Ministry for the Mature – Psalm 71:17-18

“God, You have taught me from my youth, and I still proclaim Your wonderful works. Even when I am old and gray, God, do not abandon me. Then I will proclaim Your power to another generation, Your strength to all who are to come” (Psalm 71:17-18, HCSB)


That’s the message contained in these verses. The Psalmist exclaims that God needs him for youth ministry even though he is an old man.

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The Power of Integrity – Acts 5:32

“We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.” (Acts 5:32, NLT)

After a first wave of persecution by the Jewish religious leaders, the early Church flourished because it had been empowered by God: “Yet more and more people believed and were brought to the Lord—crowds of both men and women.” (Acts 5:14, NLT).

Acts 5:1-11 records the events that precipitated this great demonstration of the power of God in the Church.

A man named Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold some property and brought a portion of the proceeds to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount.

The Apostle Peter, by the power of the Holy Spirit, recognized their deception and told them they had embezzled the money from God: “You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!” (vs. 3-4).

Both Ananias and Sapphira fell dead when Peter confronted them with their sin!

Their lack of integrity had the potential to compromise the Church  and so they fell under the direct judgment of God.

The sudden judgment on Ananias and Sapphira had a sobering effect on both the believers and others who heard about the incident.  

A believer’s integrity is critical to the effectiveness of his or her witness to others.

The power of the Holy Spirit is not hindered when believers live and act with integrity.

To engage in deception and somehow think that God doesn’t know is a fundamental misconception of one’s faith (or lack of faith). That sort of behavior would certainly call into question whether the deceiver really knows Christ and has the indwelling Holy Spirit.

For the Church to thrive and effectively (and powerfully) declare the gospel, Christ’s followers must be people of the highest integrity.

“The way of the Lord is a stronghold to those with integrity.” (Provers 10:29, NLT).

Lighting the Way – Psalm 43:3-4

“Send out your light and your truth; let them guide me. Let them lead me to your holy mountain, to the place where you live. There I will go to the altar of God, to God—the source of all my joy” (Psalm 43:3-4, NLT).

In this prayer for God’s redemption, light and truth are viewed as guides and the Temple on the mountain in Jerusalem symbolized God’s holy presence among his people.

So the psalmist prayed for God’s light and truth to lead him into God’s presence where he could find happiness.

This verse is a Messianic promise because it ultimately finds fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the light that leads us to the truth of God, where we can live in His presence and the joy He gives us through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

On several occasions during His earthly ministry Jesus explained that He was the fulfillment of this Messianic promise.

Jesus said that He was the light of God and, as such, He would drive out darkness and bring truth to people’s lives so they would do what is right and be a light to others: “But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants” (John 3:21, NLT).

Jesus told His disciples that He was the light of the world and if you follow Him you will find God’s truth: “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life” (John 8:12, NLT).

When Jesus told His disciples that He was going to die, they were anxious and He reassured them by telling them that He Himself was the way to God: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NLT).

Remember, God sends His light to you to illuminate the way to Him so that you can guide others to Jesus, God’s Light, so they also can find their way to God!

Bold! – Acts 4:31

“When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak God’s message with boldness” (Acts 4:31, HCSB).

Because Peter and John had healed a man who was lame from birth by the power of God and “were teaching the people and proclaiming the resurrection from the dead, using Jesus as the example” (vs. 2), the Sadducees became provoked.

These religious authorities did not believe in resurrection because they did not think it was taught in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, which was the only portion of Scripture they believed authoritative.

So they had Peter and John arrested!

When Peter and John appeared before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish religious tribunal, Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and boldly, passionately and persuasively proclaimed the gospel of Jesus to save and heal to these religious leaders.

The members of the Sanhedrin were amazed by the boldness of Peter and John, knowing they were not formally educated in the Jewish law. So, the Sanhedrin turned them loose but forbid them to preach and teach in the name of Jesus.

Peter and John answered that they could not stop telling the story of Jesus.

The boldness of Peter in this situation stands in contrast to his denial of Christ on the night of His arrest before He was crucified.

Boldness is referenced three times in Acts 4:1-31 (vs. 13, 29, 31):

  1. The boldness of Peter and John was observed by the Jewish religious leaders (vs. 13);
  2. the Church in Jerusalem prayed for boldness to proclaim the gospel (vs. 29); and
  3. the Church was filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak God’s message with boldness (vs. 31).

Being bold is both a desired and essential behavior for Christians. Boldness was needed by the disciples in the early Church. Boldness is needed in the Church today!

Besides helping us speak the right words at the right time, boldness helps us persuade people about the truth of the gospel because they can see that we actually believe what we say they should believe.

We should pray and ask God for boldness and then expect God to empower us with boldness to speak and live righteously as a convincing witness and testimony to the gospel of Jesus in our lives.

“Therefore, having such a hope, we use great boldness.” (2 Corinthians 3:12, HCSB)

Be a Blessing, Share the Gospel – Genesis 48:20

“So Jacob blessed the boys that day with this blessing: The people of Israel will use your names when they give a blessing” (Genesis 48:20, NLT)

Before Jacob (Israel) died, he blessed Joseph and his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.

First, he adopted Joseph’s sons, which entitled them to part of the inheritance of the promised land. Then he gave Ephraim, the younger of Joseph’s son, the right-hand blessing, which was the right to inheritance entitled to the eldest son.

Centuries later when God delivered the Israelites from Egyptian slavery and they possessed the land of Canaan, the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh each received a portion of the land distribution.

Ephraim eventually became the leading tribe in the northern kingdom of Israel and the Old Testament prophets sometimes referred to the entire northern kingdom as Ephraim.

Blessing was used in the Old Testament to describe the conditions of covenantal relationships.

God, who is the ultimate Grantor of blessing, uses people to channel or convey His blessings. Thus, Abraham’s call by God to be a blessing was a missionary calling meant to convey God’s blessings to all the nations of the earth (Genesis 12:2-3).

When Jacob blessed Ephraim and Manesseh (and his other sons in vs. 49:3-28), he was conveying God’s blessing to the nation of Israel.

The nation of Israel, which was the successor to the Abrahamic covenant, was intended to be the channel for God’s blessing to all nations.

Declaring the gospel is the New Testament expression of the Old Testament blessing.

When Jesus commissioned His followers to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20), theirs was a missionary calling under the new covenant.

Just as God called Abraham to be a blessing to all nations, Jesus called His disciples to be a blessing to all nations by proclaiming the gospel.

So, be a blessing, share the gospel!

“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16, NLT)

In the Good Ole Days of the Church – Acts 4:24,31

“When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God…After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness.” Peter and John were taken into custody by the Temple guard and thrown into jail for healing a man at the Temple. Then they were taken to a hearing before the council of elders, which included the high priest and the priestly family. Peter and John testified before the council how and why the man was healed. Predictably, the council didn’t like their explanation and ordered them to quit teaching and preaching (and healing) in the name of Jesus. Peter and John’s response to the council’s order was predictable as well: “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard” (vs. 19-20). Peter and John were released by the council and went back to the other believers to report what had happened. The believers reacted to this persecution from the Jewish religious leaders by praying for God’s empowerment to help them accomplish His plans and purposes according to His Word in the Scriptures: “You spoke long ago by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant, saying, Why were the nations so angry? Why did they waste their time with futile plans? The kings of the earth prepared for battle; the rulers gathered together against the Lord and against his Messiah. In fact, this has happened here in this very city….And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus” (vs. 25-27, 29-30 quoting Psalm 2:1-2). In today’s church we would address persecution by devising a program or ministry. But the apostolic church didn’t form a persecution support group or organize a persecution outreach ministry. Back in those days they just prayed for God’s help. They prayed for God to help them confront the threat of persecution by empowering them to keep on preaching and healing in the name of Jesus. They prayed vehemently and with unity and they kept on praying until God answered them. They prayed until they were filled with the power and presence of the Holy Spirit and, thus, enabled to preach the gospel with boldness and miraculous signs. Oh, how I long for the good ole days of the church!