My ambitious self had intended to share ten inspirational Bible verses, not just three. But the more in depth I dove on each verse, the more I heard God reminding me that these are His words, and they deserve such attention, and maybe ten verses all at once is too much. Soooo, welcome to the first post of a new series in which I share some inspirational Bible verses in chunks of three every month! There is no theme weaving these verses together - they are just some of the ones I've noted over the past year or so and have really impacted me in various ways.
Oh, and just a fair warning - you're about to see quite a few majestic sunset pictures from my recent trip to Tahoe. You're welcome.
In this excerpt from the book of Acts (New Testament), the Holy Spirit has called Barnabas and Saul (a.k.a Paul) - two of the teachers and prophets at the church in Antioch (which, fun fact, is where Jesus' disciples were first called "Christians" and Paul's starting point on his missionary journey) - to be sent out from Antioch for ministry to various cities. As Paul preaches at the Antioch of Pisidia, the Jews and Gentiles both respond positively, so Paul continued his message on the next Sabbath. When an entire crowd came to listen, the Jews envied such attention on Paul's message and opposed it. Some scholars say this opposition was fueled by Jewish desire to maintain separation between them and the Gentiles. Paul and Barnabas continued their work, and despite the Jewish opposition, Gentiles accepted Jesus into their hearts and found salvation through Him, and the Gospel continued spreading throughout the region.
ENCOURAGEMENT: When my Pastor took us through the book of Acts, I found only a few sections discouraging. The entire book tells of Paul and other disciples and prophets spreading God's message over a vast land and array of people, especially nonbelievers like the Gentiles. To hear that two people - Paul and Barnabas - followed the Holy Spirit's calling to a city unknown to them to teach a message written on their hearts to a population of which half would harshly reject it is encouraging in and of itself. To continue reading and discover that, through their persistence and pursuit of God, the Gentiles grew to love Jesus and see him as their Savior... wow.
To me, this message speaks to days when I feel less than motivated, less than influential, less than powerful in how God has designed and equipped me. In the comfort of small(ish)-town San Luis Obispo, surrounded by rich friendships and tight-knit community, I want to be bold like Paul and Barnabas were, as they stepped out of their comfort zone to share their hearts for Jesus.
The book of Isaiah (Old Testament) is written before Jesus' coming by the prophet Isaiah as the Assyrian King Tiglath-Pileser III works to expand his kingdom into Israel and Judah. Instead of fighting against this, Judah sides with Assyria and the expansion continues into Northern Israel, only making Judah (just south of Israel) vulnerable to Assyrian conquer. Isaiah comes to warn Judah of this sin, but also a vessel of God's message that restoration will come with repentance of sin. The theme of judgement followed by salvation weaves throughout this book Jerusalem was once a united land, but under the reign of King Solomon, was divided into Israel and Judah. Both lands contained people of God because of their previous rulers (before division) - King David and then his son, King Solomon.
At this point in the passage, God is speaking through the prophet Isaiah, as he does several times throughout the book, to tell the people of Israel and Judah of the coming Redeemer - Jesus Christ (though God doesn't use that name yet). This Redeemer will come to rescue only those who turn away from their sins and recognize God as, well, God. The people of these lands struggle with idolatry of things like fine jewels and material goods, individual achievements and power, and therefore don't see God as God, but rather these other worldly idols as worthy of worship.
ENCOURAGEMENT: Here, God promises that his Spirit will come and will remain in those who accept and embrace them as truth. "My Spirit will not leave them..." and neither will this promise. I found comfort and hope in these words as I, too, struggled with the sin of idolatry: my eating disorder, pursuit of romantic relationships, pre-occupation with social media, etc. Many times, I felt like a false Christian, like I wasn't actually at the point in my relationship with God that I thought I was. But, these words opened my eyes to the fact that I am and always have been a child of God. I always will be because I have accepted Jesus as Savior.
Though our thoughts and actions can feel clouded and controlled by worldly desires, if we know, love, and pursue Jesus, we can trust that his Spirit resides in our hearts and will protect us from sin (John 15:4, Romans 8:26-27).
Paul writes the book of 2 Corinthians as a sort of "sequel" to the book of 1 Corinthians, in which he reaches out to the church of Corinth for ministry purposes. The second book came about as he was concerned that his first letter - the first book - didn't accomplish its intended purpose. And that's right about where these verses come in.
Once a passionate persecutor of Jesus, Paul (also known as Saul) met Jesus after the resurrection and became filled with the Holy Spirit, leading him on his journey throughout the lands to spread the Gospel (Acts 9). Now, Paul instructs that, as Christians, we are not preaching our own stories or our own interpretations of God's word. We serve (or should serve) as vessels of the Gospel.
Satan is who is being referred to as "the god of this age". Paul's recognition of Satan's power highlights its reality - he is of no equivalence to God, of course, but can still blind the minds of those who do not keep theirs focused on and filled with God. Only the non-believers are susceptible to such blindness by Satan. When Paul met Jesus in Acts 9, "... something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again..." (v. 18). Paul is a reminder that "Satan's work of blinding is great, but God's work of bringing light is greater" (BLB).
ENCOURAGEMENT: Reading these verses brings heavy conviction on me, I must say. When Paul emphasizes the importance of centering our messages on Christ, not ourselves, I can't help but think of all the times I've done the opposite (unintentionally so, but still). Even when intentions are whole-heartedly to share about Christ, we can sometimes lose sight/focus by Satan's attempt at blinding us from Christ. Because Paul's humble heart was fixed on God and his sole purpose in this letter was spreading the Gospel, he kept his message clear and his focus on point.
It's important to not let conviction become guilt, because like fear, guilt can inhibit worship. Take this message as inspiration to seek God, to pursue the furthering of His kingdom like Paul did - humbly and whole-heartedly.
I hope you enjoyed this post and found something(s) inspirational to leave with. Three more verses coming next month!