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Thursday, December 8, 2016, 7:28 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Gift of God.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 28:17-29 (NIV).

After Paul gave his testimony to King Agrippa, the king told Festus that Paul could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar. And, yet, I believe it was by God’s divine appointment that Paul should go to Rome, because Jesus spoke to him one night and told him to take courage, because just as he had testified about Jesus in Jerusalem, so he must also testify in Rome (See Acts 23:11). And, this happened at least two years prior to Paul appealing to Caesar. So, to Rome Paul did go. And, in Rome Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.

Israel’s Hope (vv. 17-22)

Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: “My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people. For this reason, I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.”

They replied, “We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of our people who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.”​

Paul said that it was because of “the hope of Israel” that he was bound with a chain. The Pulpit Commentary says this on this subject:

“The force of this saying seems to be this, ‘I have asked you to come to me because this chain which binds me is not a token of a renegade Israelite who has come to Rome to accuse his nation before the heathen master, but of a faithful Israelite, who has endured bondage rather than forsake the hope of his fathers.’"​

So, what is (or was) the hope of Israel? Of his fathers? In response to this question, Gill’s Exposition of the Bible has this to say:

“… that the Messiah the tribes of Israel were hoping and waiting for, and who is the only solid foundation of the hope of eternal life and salvation, was already come; and that he had suffered and died, and rose again from the dead, and that Jesus of Nazareth was he.”​

So, Paul had been imprisoned for years, not because he was betraying the faith of his fathers, but because he believed it, and he embraced it. And, it was the people who proclaimed to be of the same faith as him who were his fiercest opponents, and were the ones who falsely accused him so that he would be arrested and put on trial for a crime he did not commit. What the Jews called “a sect,” was really a group of people (both Jew and Gentile) who actually took God at his Word, who believed what the Prophets told them would happen, and when they saw the prophecies fulfilled in Jesus Christ, put their faith and trust in Jesus as their Lord and Messiah.

And, things are not much different today. In much of today’s Christian (institutional) church, at least here in America, but also in Rome, we who hold to the scriptures, and who take God at his Word, and who believe the prophets, and Jesus, and his NT apostles - with regard to our Savior and his salvation - have become the enemy. We are under attack. The gospel is under attack by those who claim to be followers of Christ, but who do not take God at his word. They do not accept the “whole counsel of God,” but only the parts which fit with their lifestyles, or which bring comfort and ease to the people of this sinful world. And, so they have turned the gospel into something illegal and those who believe it into criminals.

At first they just diluted the gospel to make it more appealing and acceptable to the people of the world, as if that was not bad enough. Now they are crying “hate,” “bigotry,” and the like concerning those of us who actually believe what God said (what Jesus said). It is now becoming criminal to confront sin, as God calls sin, and to call for repentance and faith in Christ alone.

According to many, “division” is now bad, in the sense that we are divided saved and unsaved; Christian and non-Christian. “Exclusion” is also bad, in the sense that there are people who will be excluded from heaven. Their exclusion, though, is based on lack of genuine faith in Jesus Christ via repentance (turning from sin) and turning to God to follow him in his ways (in obedience). Instead, they are calling for unity of all people of all walks of life and of all religions. They want us to be united in heart, mind, voice, purpose and objective, i.e. they want a one-world religion which includes everyone singing together “Kumbaya.” But, God did not call us to be one with the world. He called us out, to be separate, set apart to him alone.

This Jesus (vv. 23-29)

They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:

“‘Go to this people and say,
“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”
For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’

“Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”​

God is confronting his people (his church) and the people of the world with “this Jesus” who is the hope of Israel (spiritual Israel). He is addressing many (or all) the lies and deceptions going on within the institutional church, and within many of our governments, by exposing the deceptions and by countering the lies with the truth of his Word. And, he is doing this through many of his servants and messengers who he has called to this specific task. And, I know that many of these messengers have now gone on to be with the Lord. Two names come to mind, in particular. One is A.W. Tozer and another is David Wilkerson. I am certain there are others.

Yet, there are many people within the institutional church who are not listening to the truth, but who have gathered around themselves those who preach messages which tickle itching ears – feel good messages that make people feel good about themselves even in their sin. And, even if they are confronted with the truth, they ignore it, or they fight against it and its messengers using lies they have heard and have come to believe, which fit better with their lifestyles. So, this prophecy of Isaiah’s fits them, as well.

Yet, not everyone has closed minds and hearts to the truth of the gospel. There are those who are listening, and who are responding positively to the truth, and who are willing to accept and embrace the truth of God’s Word. They have trusted in Jesus Christ to be their Lord (owner-master) and Savior, and they have been crucified with Christ in death to sin, and have been resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Although they are not yet perfect, while they live in these flesh bodies, they also do not use “I am not perfect” as an excuse for willful sin against God. They are no longer conducting their lives according to their sinful flesh, but they now walk according to the Spirit, to please God in living holy and godly lives unto Him. And, they will hold fast to the Word of Truth as it comes under much scrutiny and objection, and even in the face of great opposition, persecution, and even death for the sake of Jesus’ name.

Gift of God / An Original Work / October 25, 2016
Based off Various Scriptures

Jesus Christ, Son of God,
Died for us on a cross;
Conquered death, sin, and hell,
So, with Him, we would dwell.

For, by His grace, we are saved.
He set us free from all sin.
Thanks be to God for His Gift.
Through faith in Him, we’re forgiven.

Holy Spirit of God,
Given to us who believe,
Gives us new life in Christ;
Made to be just like Him.

We died with Christ to our sin.
New lives in Him we begin,
Walking with Christ day by day.
We read His Word, and we pray.

Jesus, He is our Lord.
Follow Him where He leads.
Tell the world of His grace.
We’ll see Christ face to face.

Soon He is coming again.
We’ll be forever with Him.
He’ll wipe our tears all away.
Oh, what a wonderful day!