Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Paul: Jesus is the Only Lord

Background Check:
Israel in the first century was extremely complicated. The Jewish people were those who lived in Israel and they were very strict about their religion. They believed that God was coming to change the world and to put his righteous people in charge. But there were different ideas of who these righteous people were: Some thought that they were people who made sacrifices in the Jewish temple. Others thought that it was those who followed certain commands of Moses strictly—such as not working on the Sabbath and following certain festivals. Then Jesus came and his followers were named Christians. The Christians believed that they needed to simply follow and obey Jesus and to take up his cross and that they would be righteous before God. But many people disagreed with the Christians and hated them for their teaching.

His Story:
Saul was a man who hated Christians. He despised them because he believed that they were teaching things that were tearing down his belief, Judaism—believing in the temples and in the commands of God from Moses. He hated Christians so badly that he got permission from the rulers of Judaism to arrest Christians and have them killed by the authorities in a town called Damascus. On his way to Damascus, Paul was stopped by a vision from God. There was a great spiritual power in his vision who said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul didn’t know who this great power was so he asked, “Who are you, Lord?” And the power answered, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” The vision stopped, but Saul couldn’t see. His servants took him to Damascus and there a Christian named Annias healed him and baptized him. Saul renamed himself Paul and began to teach that Jesus was the Son of God, especially to the Gentiles, those who were not born under Judaism.

Paul went all over Asia Minor and Europe teaching that Jesus is the way to God for everyone—Jew and Gentile. Sometimes teachers would follow him and say, “You obey the commands of Moses to follow Jesus.” Paul spoke very strongly—“Don’t return back under the slavery of the Law of Moses! Jesus set us free to follow him alone!” Sometimes people would be angry or act in sin and Paul would say to them, “Don’t think the way you did before you were a Christian! Jesus set you free—don’t act like a slave of other gods who don’t love!” Paul wanted every Christian to have faith and to act like Jesus. To act like someone else is to be under their authority.

Because of his teaching, Paul was often arrested and beat up. He was arrested in the temple of God and held as a prisoner for many years. Eventually Paul proclaimed the gospel to the ruler of the world, Nero. Nero had Paul beheaded for teaching about Jesus.

A Word From Our Sponsor:
The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. Matthew 6:22-24

In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him."
 John 14:6-7

Helpful Hint: Nothing But Jesus
These faithful were faithful simply because they had dedicated themselves to Jesus and nothing would stand in their way. They wanted what God wanted to give them and knew that only following Jesus would get it for them. They wanted God’s truth, God’s life, God’s joy, God’s blessing—and all of that came through living in Jesus. Everything else seemed like garbage to them—all the earthly popularity, wealth, comforts. They could have had anything they wanted and they chose Jesus. Francis ran his father’s business, but gave it all away for Jesus. Paul was an important rabbi, but he gave it all up for Jesus. Ignatius was gaining glory in the court, but he determined it was pointless without Jesus. Jim Elliot could have done anything he wanted—but he wanted nothing but Jesus. All of these people were great, not because of what they achieved but because they achieved nothing but Jesus.

Check It Out:
The Acts Of the Apostles by Luke
Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free by F.F. Bruce

No comments: