Peter’s first sermon takes less than five minutes to recite. Sharing the gospel doesn’t need to be complicated or lengthy. In fact, Peter’s message contains a formula we can use to outline our own testimonies.
Preparation. The disciple relied heavily on the Scriptures to make his case for faith in Christ. But Peter knew there was another important element—after being miraculously enabled to proclaim the gospel in multiple languages, he must have realized the significance of the Holy Spirit. No matter how persuasive a man’s message is, only the Spirit can open the door to unbelieving hearts and minds.
The Savior’s credentials and purpose. Peter cited the “miracles and wonders and signs” that validated Jesus as the promised Messiah (Acts 2:22). Then the disciple made clear Jesus’ foreordained mission on earth: to die for mankind’s sin. Christ willingly and obediently submitted to the task assigned by His Father.
A personal invitation. Peter wasn’t shy about convicting the hearts of his audience. “This Man … you nailed to a cross,” he said (Acts 2:23). The new preacher made sure listeners knew their responsibility in the Messiah’s death, but then gave the exciting news that Christ was alive. Those who believed were invited to repent and be baptized in Jesus’ name (Acts 2:38). Any gospel message should finish by telling people how they, too, can be saved.
Witnessing to others can be intimidating. But if you are prayerful and prepared, you can trust the Holy Spirit to be with you and to handle the outcome.
Bible in One Year: 2 Corinthians 9-13
Read: Luke 1:68–75
Bible in a Year: Ezekiel 47–48; 1 John 3
Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them.—Luke 1:68
About 230 families and individuals live at MacPherson Gardens, Block 72 in my neighborhood. Each person has his or her own life story. On the tenth floor resides an elderly woman whose children have grown up, gotten married, and moved out. She lives by herself now. Just a few doors away from her is a young couple with two kids—a boy and a girl. And a few floors below lives a young man serving in the army. He has been to church before; maybe he will visit again on Christmas Day. I met these people last Christmas when our church went caroling in the neighborhood to spread Christmas cheer.
Every Christmas—as on the first Christmas—there are many people who do not know that God has entered into our world as a baby whose name is Jesus (Luke 1:68; 2:21). Or they do not know the significance of that event—it is “good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (2:10). Yes, all people! Regardless of our nationality, culture, gender, or financial status, Jesus came to die for us and offer us complete forgiveness so that we can be reconciled with Him and enjoy His love, joy, peace, and hope. All people, from the woman next door to the colleagues we have lunch with, need to hear this wonderful news!
On the first Christmas, the angels were the bearers of this joyous news. Today, God desires to work through us to take the story to others. —Poh Fang Chia
Lord, use me to touch the lives of others with the news of Your coming.
The good news of Jesus’s birth is a source of joy for all people.
INSIGHT: One of the great themes of Luke’s gospel record is that it continually affirms that the message of Jesus’s death and resurrection is for everyone—not just for Israel. Today’s devotional declares that Christ’s coming would “cause great joy for all the people” (2:10). This important message continues later in this chapter when Simeon says that salvation is prepared in the “sight of all nations” and that Israel’s Messiah is both “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel” (vv. 30-32). At the conclusion of Luke’s account, the risen Christ tells the two disciples on the Emmaus road that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (24:47). This message was not intended for Israel alone, nor are we to keep it to ourselves. The entire world is the object of God’s love.
In popular books and films, temptation is often portrayed as the dark desires for things like sex, power, or money. While those things certainly can become temptations, today’s reading shows us that at root, temptation is fundamentally about whether we trust God’s intentions for us or not.
The serpent’s underlying strategy was to raise doubt about God’s good intentions for humanity. The serpent began by calling into question God’s reasonableness: “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (v. 1). Why would God be so restrictive? Of course, God had actually said that they were “free to eat from any tree in the garden” except one (Gen. 2:16–17), but the serpent’s ploy was effective.
Eve responded by restricting God’s word, misquoting God’s command by adding the clause: “you must not touch it” (v. 3). She then minimized the consequences of disobedience. Whereas God had said that if they ate of the tree, “you will certainly die” (Gen. 2:17), Eve simply stated: “you will die” (v. 3). Thus, having produced a seed of doubt about God’s character, the serpent went for the kill: “You will not certainly die” (v. 4). The serpent depicted God as a liar who was trying to prevent humanity from attaining godlikeness.
In response, Eve looked at the fruit in a new way. It was “good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom” (v. 6). It was no longer a danger God was trying to protect her from, but rather a sinister means God was using to hide something from her. Adam and Eve’s act of disobedience, like all sin today, stemmed directly from the temptation to mistrust God’s loving relationship with us.
APPLY THE WORD
Temptation is ultimately rooted in a mistrust of God’s intentions. If you have things you struggle to trust God for in your life, these are likely the greatest areas of temptation. One way to resist the temptation to doubt God is to list those areas in which you struggle to trust the Lord. Then pray over your list, asking God to increase your trust.
Look at the proud; his soul is not straight or right within him, but the [rigidly] just and the [uncompromisingly] righteous man shall live by his faith and in his faithfulness.— Habakkuk 2:4
Faith is a word that we use a lot, but sometimes we can make it too complicated. Faith simply means “belief or absolute trust”; the word also implies loyalty and commitment.
Faith isn’t a huge, complicated concept that we have to stress over. Genuine faith in God simply acknowledges that the message of Jesus’ death and resurrection is absolutely true. It happens when we say, “Not only does it make sense to me, but I’m willing to stake my life on it.”
The Bible says that the uncompromisingly righteous shall live by faith and faithfulness. One way to think of the uncompromisingly righteous is to think of those who are made right by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.
Through faith we are made right, and God treats us as His own beloved children.
Today, I encourage you to get back to the basics of faith. Know that when you put your faith in Him, you are made right. Live by your trust in the God who reaches out to you with loving and open arms, ready to receive you and love you just as you are.
“Even when we are too weak to have any faith left, He remains faithful to us and will help us, for He cannot disown us who are part of Himself, and He will always carry out His promises to us” (2 Timothy 2:13).
Have you ever run out of faith? I have – in times of great testing and trial, especially in earlier years as a young Christian. But as I have learned more and more about the many attributes of God, I have come to understand why the apostle Paul was so convinced of the faithfulness of God – that He still remains faithful to us and will help us, even when we are our weakest.
The meaning seems clear, though perhaps controversial to some. If we have truly been born again by the Spirit of God, and thus have become “part of Himself,” Paul asserts that He cannot disown us. We need not argue or discuss the point of eternal security, for God’s Holy Spirit, that great Teacher of spiritual truths, will reveal true meanings to each one of us individually.
We can be more certain of unanimous agreement on the latter part of the verse: “He will always carry out His promises to us.” At least we all believe that theoretically, if not experientially.
Have you, for example, laid hold of one of God’s promises, and not yet having seen the answer, begun to wonder and even doubt if He is indeed carrying out His promise? It might help each one of us to remind ourselves constantly that God has His own time-table. He need not be bound by ours.
Someone has well said, “God’s timing is always perfect.” Let us not try to improve on that perfection.
Bible Reading: Romans 3:3,4; Numbers 23:19
TODAY’S ACTION POINT: “Dear Lord, because You are always faithful despite my faithlessness at times, I will depend on You to fulfill your promises.”
The God of the Universe was born into the poverty of a peasant and spent his first night in the cow’s feed trough. He left the glory of heaven and moved into our neighborhood.
Who could have imagined he would do such a thing? What a world he left. Our classiest mansion would be a tree trunk to him. God became a one-celled embryo and entered the womb of Mary. He became like us. Just look at the places he was willing to go: feed troughs, carpentry shops, badlands, and cemeteries. The places he went to reach us show how far he will go to touch us. He loves to be with the ones he loves!
Read more In the Manger
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It was a strange weekend in the news.
Astronauts on the International Space Station made headlines after making pizza in space. Back on earth, the Pontiac Superdome survived implosion due to a wiring error. The first and only full supermoon of 2017 was last night. And college football fans are still debating the decision to include Alabama rather than Ohio State in this year’s tournament.
Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about an event over the weekend that drew no news coverage whatsoever. My wife and I were watching one of the plethora of Christmas specials on television when a musical group presented a rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” The now-famous lyrics begin:
Imagine there is no heaven / It’s easy if you try / No hell below us / Above us only sky / Imagine all the people living for today.
I never imagined that I would hear “Imagine” performed as a Christmas song. But that’s how secular the holidays have become.
According to Gallup, 95 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas, but only 51 percent describe the holiday as “strongly religious” for them. One in four American adults say December 25 is simply a cultural holiday, not a religious holy day. Only 49 percent of those who celebrate Christmas believe that the Virgin birth is historically accurate.
How should we respond to the escalating secularity of this season?
Using a pagan ship to witness to Caesar