Day 181

The Most Powerful Message in the World

Wisdom Psalm 78:40-41, 52–53a
New Testament Acts 20:17–24
Old Testament 2 Kings 2:7–15a

Introduction

Recently I had the privilege of interviewing Mojtaba Hosseini for our HTB services. He is a young pastor who was imprisoned, aged 20, for running house churches in Iran. He was imprisoned alongside murderers and drug dealers. He spent long periods in solitary confinement, not knowing if or when he would be released.

Mojtaba felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to share the good news of Jesus. So when the opportunity arose, he began sharing his testimony and the gospel with the other prisoners, proclaiming, ‘Jesus is alive.’

He said, ‘It doesn’t matter what situation I’m in. I can work in God’s kingdom wherever he places me. And at that time God placed me among the prisoners.’

Of one fellow prisoners that he helped lead to Christ, Mojtaba said:

‘I heard this message from God: “Mojtaba, whatever you have been through, being away from your family, all the humiliation, all the suffering, all the pain and solitary confinement and everything you will still go through… It’s worth it for this man who came to Christ.”’

The message of Jesus is the most powerful message in the world. It is good news. It changes lives. It changes cities and cultures. Yet it is also a message that provokes opposition. God equips you to pass on this message by giving you the Holy Spirit.

Wisdom

Psalm 78:40-41, 52–53a

40 How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness
 and grieved him in the wasteland!
41 Again and again they put God to the test;
 they vexed the Holy One of Israel.
52 But he brought his people out like a flock;
 he led them like sheep through the wilderness.
53 He guided them safely, so they were unafraid…

Commentary

Explain the good news of rescue from sin

You will never fully understand the good news of the gospel until you understand why you needed rescuing.

Jesus, through his life, death and resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit, has rescued us from sin. Here we get a glimpse of what we have been rescued from.

First, we see the nature of sin. Sin is rebellion against God: ‘They rebelled against him’ (v.40). It is not a single act. The psalmist writes, ‘How often… again and again’ (vv.40–41). Sin comes from not trusting in God’s character, God’s word and God’s actions (vv.41–43).

Second, we see the consequences of sin. It grieves God (v.40). It leads to anger, wrath, indignation and hostility (v.49). Ultimately it leads to death (v.50).

It was not only the Egyptians who sinned (vv.43–51) but also God’s people (vv.40–42). Nevertheless, God rescued them. He redeemed them (v.42): ‘He brought his people out like a flock; he led them like sheep through the desert’ (v.52). He guided them safely, so they were unafraid (v.53). All this was preparation for God’s great rescue plan in Jesus.

Prayer

Thank you, Lord, for rescuing and forgiving me through Jesus. Thank you that you lead me and guide me so that I do not need to be afraid.

New Testament

Acts 20:17–24

17 From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. 18 When they arrived, he said to them: ‘You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. 19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. 21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. 22 ‘And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

Commentary

Speak the good news of God’s grace

Do not waste a single day of the precious life God has given you. Whatever you are called to do, however difficult your circumstances, you can enjoy your calling and complete the task with joy.

The message of the gospel is a hugely encouraging one. Everywhere Paul went he encouraged them to ‘keep up the good work’ (v.1, MSG). As he travelled around, ‘he gave constant encouragement, lifting their spirits and charging them with fresh hope’ (v.2, MSG).

Paul felt passionately about this message. It was hard to stop him speaking about it. In Troas, he ‘kept on talking’ (v.7). As ‘Paul talked on and on’ (v.9), Eutychus fell fast asleep, fell out of the window and died. Paul raised him from the dead and then ‘went on telling stories of the faith until dawn!’ (v.11, MSG).

It takes a lot to stop a preacher once they’ve started – members of the congregation dying and rising again only causes a coffee break!

Take every opportunity to get the message out. Paul said, ‘I have not hesitated to preach to you anything that would be helpful to you… I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God’ (vv.20,27). He spoke both ‘publicly and from house to house’ (v.20).

It was hard work (v.35). Paul laid his life on the line (v.19, MSG). He was not afraid to die in the process. He did not regard himself as indispensable: ‘Neither do I esteem my life dear to myself, if only I may finish my course with joy’ (v.24, AMP).

He knew that it would not be ‘any picnic, for the Holy Spirit has let me know repeatedly and clearly that there are hard times and imprisonment ahead’ (v.23, MSG). Like Mojtaba Hosseini, he was severely tested (v.19). There were lots of tears (vv.19,31,37).

Why is it worth going through all of this? We see here three reasons:

1. Power of the words

You have the most powerful message in the world. Paul went around preaching the message ‘of God’s grace’ (v.24), the ‘incredibly extravagant generosity of God’ (MSG). It was ‘the truth’ (v.30).

It was all about Jesus. Grace is undeserved love. It is made possible through Jesus and ‘his own blood’ (v.28). It cannot be earned. It is a free gift.

How do you receive the gift? First, turn to God in repentance (v.21). Repentance is such a positive word. It means turning away from sin and to God.

Second, have faith in our Lord Jesus (v.21). You receive the gift by faith in Jesus Christ.

2. Power of the Holy Spirit

You have the Holy Spirit living in you. Everyone who repents of their sins and puts their faith in Jesus Christ receives the Holy Spirit. Paul speaks about how he is ‘compelled by the Spirit’ (v.22). The Holy Spirit speaks to us (v.23). It is the Holy Spirit who anoints and raises up leaders.

3. Power of giving

You will be blessed as you give. Paul knew that money is not the key to happiness: ‘… keep remembering that our Master said, “You’re far happier giving than getting”’ (v.35, MSG).

Paul preaches ‘the whole will of God’ (v.27). That includes a lot! In this passage we only get a glimpse. But it clearly includes the word of God (v.32), prayer (v.36), a church of overseers and shepherds (v.28), the sacraments (vv.7–11), sanctification (v.32), helping the weak (v.35), and much else besides.

Prayer

Thank you, Lord, that you have given me the power of the Holy Spirit. Give me courage to face hard work, tears and all the other obstacles in order to ‘finish the race’ and ‘complete the task’ you have given to me (v.24).

Old Testament

2 Kings 2:7–15a

7 Fifty men from the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. 8 Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground. 9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?’ ‘Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,’ Elisha replied. 10 ‘You have asked a difficult thing,’ Elijah said, ‘yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours – otherwise, it will not.’ 11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, ‘My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!’ And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two. 13 Elisha then picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 He took the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and struck the water with it. ‘Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’ he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over. 15 The company of the prophets from Jericho, who were watching, said, ‘The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha.’

Commentary

Tell the good news about Jesus

Good leaders train up successors. This is one of the examples in the Bible of where succession worked really well.

A good mentor is a great gift. Elijah was a mentor to Elisha and passed on his power to him. Elisha had asked, ‘Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit’ (2:9). He wanted to be a holy man, just like his mentor.

Elijah told him he could get what he asked for if he stuck with him to the very end: ‘If you’re watching when I’m taken from you, you’ll get what you’ve asked for. But only if you’re watching (v.10, MSG).

‘Stickability’ is so important in ministry. It is easy to start off with zeal and enthusiasm, but not everyone has the ‘stickability’ to endure hard work, difficulties and disappointments and see things through to the end in the way that Elisha did.

Elisha did indeed receive ‘a double portion’. (The book of Kings records that Elisha performed twice as many miracles as his mentor.) The mantle of Elijah fell on Elisha (v.13). It was clear to all who were watching that Elisha was the anointed successor: ‘the spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha’ (v.15).

The account of Elijah and his extraordinary power to call down fire from heaven (1:12) and to divide the waters (2:8), should be read in the light of the New Testament. Elijah prefigured John the Baptist. John ministered ‘in the spirit and power of Elijah’ (Luke 1:14), preparing the way for Jesus.

Jesus says that you are better off than Elijah or Elisha. He says, ‘Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist’ (the Elijah who was to come). Yet he goes on, ‘Whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he’ (Matthew 11:11). Every Christian is in a better position than Elijah and John the Baptist for at least two reasons.

First, you are in a better position to tell the good news about Jesus. Second, you have the gift of the Holy Spirit given on the day of Pentecost. Every Christian (‘whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven’) has the opportunity to proclaim the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit – the most powerful message in the world.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the amazing privilege you have given to me and to every Christian – being able to pass on the most powerful message in the world. Thank you that this message transforms lives, communities and cultures.

Pippa adds

Two warnings in today’s passages:

  1. Don’t be rude to bald-headed men (2 Kings 2:23–25)
  2. If the preacher is going on and on, find a comfortable (and safe!) place to doze off (Acts 20:7–12).

Verse of the Day

Acts 20:24

‘… my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace’.

Thought for the Day

The message of Jesus is the most powerful message in the world. It changes lives. It changes cities and cultures.

Action for the Day

Pray for these things: 1. For one friend to come to know Jesus 2. For strength to get through the week
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References

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers used by permission

Bible in One Year

  • HOST'S INTRO
  • INTRODUCTION
  • WISDOM BIBLE
  • WISDOM COMMENTARY
  • NEW TESTAMENT BIBLE
  • NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY
  • OLD TESTAMENT BIBLE
  • OLD TESTAMENT COMMENTARY
  • PIPPA ADDS
  • HOST'S OUTRO

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