Monday, April 27, 2015, 5:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Open Your Hearts.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 27-28 (selected vv. NASB). For the Hope of Israel When we entered Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him. After three days Paul called together those who were the leading men of the Jews, and when they came together, he began saying to them, “Brethren, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. And when they had examined me, they were willing to release me because there was no ground for putting me to death. But when the Jews objected, I was forced to appeal to Caesar, not that I had any accusation against my nation. For this reason, therefore, I requested to see you and to speak with you, for I am wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel.” They said to him, “We have neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren come here and reported or spoken anything bad about you. But we desire to hear from you what your views are; for concerning this sect, it is known to us that it is spoken against everywhere.” ~ Ac. 28:16-22 The hope of Israel was/is their Messiah, promised through the prophets of old, and fulfilled in Jesus Christ, God the Son. Yet, many of the Jews rejected Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and thus they persecuted and killed his servants and messengers, just as they had done to Jesus. Just as Jesus and his message of hope had served as a threat to many of the Jewish leaders’ own positions of power, rule and control (or influence) over the people, so did his followers and their message of hope – the same message as Jesus taught - serve as a threat to the Jewish leaders and to the sovereignty of their nation, so the Jews went to great lengths to remove that threat in hopes that things could return to “normal,” and that life could go on as usual. So, not only did Paul’s life “hang in the balance,” but so did the message of the hope of our salvation, for truly it was the message that was on trial. So, what is the message that was on trial? First of all it was that Jesus Christ, God the Son, left his throne in heaven, came to earth, took on human flesh, and suffered and was tempted in like manner as we suffer and are tempted, yet without sin. During his time of ministry on the earth, he went about healing the sick and the afflicted, comforting the sorrowful, lifting up the fallen, forgiving sins, delivering from demons, and preaching repentance for the forgiveness of sins and obedience to his commands (his instructions). He said his sheep listen to him and they follow (obey) him. He said if we want to come after him, we must deny self and die daily to sin and self and follow (obey) him. He said that if we want to live, we must die to sin. He said that if we want to have eternal life with God that we must participate with him in death to sin, for that is why he died. He died that we would no longer live to please our sinful flesh but that we would live to please God. Jesus Christ, even though he was God incarnate (in bodily form), who lived and walked the face of this earth, and who brought the message of hope to us all, became the sacrificial Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. The Jews killed the “author of life” and hung him on a cross to die as though he was a common criminal. In his death he put our sins to death. When he was resurrected from the grave, he rose victorious over sin, death, hell and Satan. Through his death and resurrection we have been given the hope of eternal life with God in glory, the forgiveness of sins, freedom from slavery to sin, and the freedom to walk in the Spirit in Christ’s righteousness and holiness. Amen! All we have to do is to accept God’s invitation to his great salvation by faith. This faith, Biblically speaking, involves turning from our lives of sin, being transformed of the Spirit of God, and turning to God/Jesus to walk in his ways in the power and working of the Spirit within us. This is true hope! This is true grace, because it frees us, not only from the ultimate penalty of sin, but it frees us from the control of sin over our lives day-to-day and it gives us the power and strength to now walk in the Spirit and to live godly, upright and holy lives pleasing to God. Amen! [See: Luke 9:23-25; John 10:27-30; Ac. 26:16-18; Ro. 6-8; 2 Co. 5:15; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 2:8-10; 4:17-24; Tit. 2:11-14; 1 Pet. 2:24-25; & 1 Jn. 1-5.] Dull of Heart When they had set a day for Paul, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening. Some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe. And when they did not agree with one another, they began leaving after Paul had spoken one parting word, “The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers, saying, ‘Go to this people and say, “You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; And you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; For the heart of this people has become dull, And with their ears they scarcely hear, And they have closed their eyes; Otherwise they might see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart and return, And I would heal them.”’” ~ Ac. 28:23-27 Many people will receive the message of hope with great joy and will truly believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of their lives. They will leave their lives of sin behind them, and they will follow their Lord Jesus in obedience and in surrender to his will for their lives, not in absolute and sinless perfection, but in the power and working of the Spirit within them, daily putting off the misdeeds of the flesh and daily walking in the Spirit. They will not use their lack of perfection, though, as an excuse for willful and continued sin, while claiming that God’s grace covers it all, but they will consistently confess their sins to God, and they will choose to daily walk in fellowship with their Lord. Yet, this is not to say that genuine believers in Jesus Christ will always live like this or that they will never falter in their walks of faith and obedience to their Lord. They can, and many will, so they will need to be revived in heart and mind, renewed in the Spirit, and strengthened anew in their faith. There will be many, as well, who will reject this message of hope, and who will have nothing to do with Jesus Christ or with his gospel of salvation. Included, though, among those who reject Jesus Christ are those who make pretense of having a relationship with Christ, but who do not know him. Their faith is in form only or in lip service, but their hearts are far from God. As well, there are many who will accept what Jesus did for us in dying for our sins, but they will not have genuine saving faith for they have bought into a lie which tells them that nothing is required of them at all – no repentance and no obedience. So they claim to know Christ but they are still walking according to the flesh and are living to please themselves and their own sinful desires. God’s word teaches that if they claim to know God, to love him, or to be in fellowship with him, yet they are still living sinful lifestyles and are not walking at all in obedience to him, they are liars and they don’t truly know God at all. So, this passage may apply to those who are wandering from the faith; to those who make a pretense of faith only but whose hearts are far from God; to those who have bought into the lie that says no repentance or obedience is required of them by God; or to those who outright reject Jesus Christ as Savior and as Lord, but who have heard the message of salvation taught to them. All of these groups of people are ones who, in one way or another, are hearing the word of God with their physical ears, but they are not really listening, and they are not applying the truths they are hearing to their lives via genuine faith (continuous and consistent). Many who profess the name of Jesus have closed their eyes and their ears to the truth of the gospel as taught by Jesus and by the apostles because they want to follow a gospel that satisfies them with what their flesh desires, or else they want to ignore what they know is the truth so that they can do what their flesh tempts them to do. Yet, if they would open their eyes and their ears to hear the gospel message, as taught by Jesus and by his apostles, and they would make it their own through genuine faith in Jesus Christ, i.e. through turning from sin to walking in fellowship with their Lord, then he would heal them of their sin-sickness, he would deliver them out of bondage to (the control of) sin, and he would empower them to walk daily in obedience to their Lord, walking in his holiness and righteousness, living godly and upright lives pleasing to him. This is our reasonable service of worship to our Lord to walk in His ways and no longer according to the sinful desires of our flesh nor according to the ways of this sinful world (See: Ro. 12:1-2). Open Your Hearts / An Original Work / September 11, 2011 Open your hearts to Me. Will you not receive me? I’m your Lord and Savior, Jesus, I am King of kings. Listen to Me speaking to you. Invite Me within. Hasten to Me calling. I’ll keep you from falling. I am with you, and I will Abide with you always. Repent of your sins and Worship Jesus Christ today. Come and follow your Lord. Obey all His teachings. Witness to your neighbors, And tell them of Jesus Christ. Let them know that He provided Their sin’s sacrifice. He is your deliv’rer; Rock of your salvation; Cornerstone, rejected by men, Mighty God is He. He will give the only hope Of life eternally.