He also said to the one who had invited Him, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, don’t invite your friends, your brothers, your relatives, or your rich neighbors, because they might invite you back, and you would be repaid. On the contrary, when you host a banquet, invite those who are poor, maimed, lame, or blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
(Luke 14:12-14 Holman Christian Standard Bible ®©)
Some of the people we serve show no signs of being influenced by the blessings we make sacrifices to offer them. They may be greedy, deceitful, demanding, unbelieving, and have no intentions of changing. Some will be changed, though, in spite of their hardness.
Don’t be discouraged or angry if you don’t know it until after your death. If we only serve the thankful or the growing or the loving people around us, we will miss opportunities to work with the Lord of the harvest as He brings it into His storehouse.
In fact, picking the most unlike Him in the crowd might be the best way to decide which people to invite. How very good it was that Ananias was obedient when the Holy Spirit sent him to baptize Saul of Tarsus. That has even blessed you, not just Saul.
On the night that He was betrayed, after the meal and the hymn, Jesus led His congregation out of the city, across the valley to a garden. There, He asked them to pray. The inner circle of James, John, and Peter, He called closer to where He was going to pray, and asked them to pray.
When they went to sleep, He woke them up, and again asked them to pray. No human in the earth offered Him comfort or encouragement or love or blessing when He asked for it. His Father therefore sent spirits from Heaven to strengthen Him.
You won’t guess what He would like to have from you today. You can know it though. Ask Him. Listen. Obey.
The impossibilities of being able to see Christ revealed in the believers around us and of being able to see Him revealed in ourselves should be yoked together in our minds. We should expect Him to be able to do things through us all that are beyond our abilities, our qualifications, and our worthiness. We should expect Him to be revealed even in the poor or uneducated or annoying, just as He did in His first round of apostles.
Discerning His body in the believers around us is seeing in the Spirit the presence of the Head of the church in each body part of the church over which He is the Head. It requires faith and love and patience and forgiveness being accomplished in our hearts and minds by His Spirit for us to see what He sees when He looks at a group of us.
Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy way will be guilty of sin against the body and blood of the Lord. So a man should examine himself; in this way he should eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For whoever eats and drinks without recognizing the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. This is why many are sick and ill among you, and many have fallen asleep.
(1 Corinthians 11:27-31 Holman Christian Standard Bible ®©)
The instructions Jesus gave His disciples included what to be searching for in life. At one point, He told them, “So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. ”
(Matthew 6:31-33 Holman Christian Standard Bible ®©)
We don’t need to search for provision or protection or fellowship or anything else before we look for and find His throne and His righteousness. When we find those things, we will be able to appropriately search for and find anything else that we need.
The government of the newly formed United States of America was founded on a document that outlined and detailed what constituted its identity and its powers. The document is a descriptive “constitution,” or list of ingredients for its recipe.
The early church’s government did not have such a document. It had Spirit-led leaders who gathered to discuss things in the presence of the Holy One and listen for His advice and directions.
This government was the manifestation of the King’s domain – His Kingdom. In Acts 15, Luke recorded a letter written by that government to new believers in Jesus who had been Gentiles. One line of that letter is very telling regarding the perception the leaders had of their Leader’s influence on their leadership:
“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things:”
(Acts 15:28 New King James Version)
…If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a mature man who is also able to control his whole body.
Now when we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide the whole animal. And consider ships: though very large and driven by fierce winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites. And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among the parts of our bodies; it pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by hell.
For every creature—animal or bird, reptile or fish—is tamed and has been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who are made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things should not be this way. Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening? Can a fig tree produce olives, my brothers, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a saltwater spring yield fresh water.
(James 3:2b-12 Holman Christian Standard Bible ®©)
We should be very intentional about speaking life and freshness and very cautious about speaking death and rottenness. Some of the things that we say are going to be used by Yahweh to reveal Himself to people, or to draw some people to Himself. The ministry of condemnation is over. We bring the ministry of life: “For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness overflows with even more glory.”
“Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not give up. Instead, we have renounced shameful secret things, not walking in deceit or distorting God’s message, but in God’s sight we commend ourselves to every person’s conscience by an open display of the truth.”
(2 Corinthians 3:9;4:1-2 Holman Christian Standard Bible ®©)
Then He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In My name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages; they will pick up snakes; if they should drink anything deadly, it will never harm them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will get well.”
Then after speaking to them, the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the accompanying signs.
(Mark 16:15-20 Holman Christian Standard Bible ®©)
How patient are we with people who are different from us, and therefore, do not trust us? What lengths are we willing to go to in order to develop a relationship with someone who is different? How easily offended are we when someone doesn’t trust us or believe our testimony?
What is the contrast in the way Jesus responded to these challenges? What about believers after Pentecost?
We must learn to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, because we have no other means of verifying the wisdom and power of our God from a counterfeit.
Your eyes will see your Teacher, and whenever you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear this command behind you: “This is the way. Walk in it.”
(Isaiah30:20b-21 Holman Christian Standard Bible ®©)
For to those who are perishing the message of the cross is foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is God’s power. 19 For it is written:
I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and I will set aside the understanding of the experts.
Where is the philosopher? Where is the scholar? Where is the debater of this age? Hasn’t God made the world’s wisdom foolish? For since, in God’s wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of the message preached. For the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom, because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
(1 Corinthians 1:18-25 Holman Christian Standard Bible ®©)