Jesus Contact 24

Are You Kicking Against the Goads?

Shortly after Jesus ascended to His Father, the early Christian church fell under persecution by the non-Christian Jews. One such oppressor leading this charge was a man named Saul of Tarsus, (who would later become the apostle Paul):

…Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Acts 8:3 ESV

Indeed, Paul himself later described his motivations and actions:

“…according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived a Pharisee.” Acts 26:5 NKJV

“…I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it.” Gal. 1:13 NKJV

Saul knew nothing of the gospel:

“For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it…” Gal. 1:12 NKJV

Well, Saul and his henchmen were riding towards Damascus to hunt down more Christians, when suddenly a blinding light from heaven shone all about him:

Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are you Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, who you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” Acts 9:4, 5. NKJV

Saul knew that he was in the presence of a Divine manifestation, but I’ll bet when he realized it was Jesus, his knees commenced to knocking!

(A ‘goad’ is a pointed stick used to drive oxen. ‘Kicking against the goads,’ is a Syriac (western Semitic) proverb describing an attempt to do something that will only bring pain. Here, Jesus was implying that Saul was going to experience pain if he continued to oppose the will of God.)

“But rise and stand on your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles – to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” Acts 26:16 – 18. ESV

Only Jesus would transform His greatest earthly enemy into His mightiest champion. Paul would even go on to write (by the Spirit) the majority of the New Testament.

Similarly, there is no one else whom Jesus would not enlist to serve Him if they make the free-will choice to do so. He makes it pretty clear that the choice is either black or white:

“He who is not with Me is against Me…” Mt. 12:30 NKJV

I would venture to say then, anyone who is not with Jesus is ‘kicking against the goads.’  Why would someone do that? Perhaps they have not head the gospel message. That’s why it is so paramount that we spread the good news to everyone we can, because it is a life or death matter. (Dt. 30:15 – 20.)

There are others who have heard the message but suppress their spiritual pain in order to indulge in their desire for worldly things – effectively turning their backs on God:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 Jn. 2:15 – 17. ESV

“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory…all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on HIs right, ‘Come you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’…”Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels…” Mt. 25:31 – 34 & 41. NASB

The outcome is not a good one for the ‘goats.’ But a goat can be saved right up until the time of his or her death. That’s why we never give up on those who love their sins. It is our duty. (Ezek. 33:1 – 9.)

Finally, there are people who have committed some infraction(s) in their past that they believe disqualifies them from salvation. But that clearly runs contrary to the love, kindness and mercy that characterizes our Savior:

“…every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Mt. 12:31 ESV

So, if you approach your Father with confession and repentance, your pardon is assured, and you can get on with the business of living your godly life. We know that unrepentant sin brings death. (Rm. 6:23)

That ‘unpardonable sin’ Jesus talks about above consists of denying the Holy Spirit’s message of salvation through Christ, which will close the door on your redemption:

…you will die in (under the curse of) your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He [Whom I claim to be – if you do not adhere to, trust in, and rely on Me], you will die in your sins. Jn. 8:24 AMP

Thankfully, we have a loving eternal alternative:

“Repent, and turn from all your transgression, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die…? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord GOD. “Therefore turn and live!” Ezek. 18:29 – 32. NKJV

Besides, those goads are sharp! But they fall away when we make our Jesus contact…

Goodnight and God bless.

Jesus Is Our Hope: The Book of Hebrews – part 3

In the first two parts of this three-part series, the Holy Spirit-inspired author of the book of Hebrews has gone into great detail about who Jesus is, why we should place our hope in Him, what had to happen before Jesus could fulfill His purpose, and about the awe-inspiring power that He wields for us as both King and High Priest – in order to reveal just how much we are sealed in the salvation of Christ for our eternal reward.

The author then goes on to tell us why all of these revelations should build up our faith: Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our heart sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. Heb. 10:19 – 23. NKJV

Thus, we have a plethora of joyful reasons to place our faith in Christ. Moreover, God warns us in earnest of what awaits those who refuse to exercise that faith:

For if we sin willingly after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Heb. 10:26 NKJV

Jesus has already shed His blood for everyone who will ever live on this earth – whether or not they accept Him as their Savior. If, once you’ve heard the gospel, decide to reject it, there won’t be any room for you in God’s eternal love plan.

[It should be noted that it is those that rebel against God and behave as they see fit (‘sin willingly’) regardless of His statutes, who will be condemned. Followers of Christ are still human, and will sin due to the nature of the flesh, (unwilling slips) but only they have the option of confession > repentance > restoration.]

So, the Holy Spirit-inspired author is pleading with us, for the sake of our salvation, to cling doggedly to our faith: …do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what is promised. Heb. 10:35, 36. ESV

Furthermore, the author goes on to tell you exactly what faith is – so that you know when you have it:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, for the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made of things that are visible. Heb. 11:1 – 3. ESV

Nothing existed before God spoke it into existence. There were no primordial building blocks. God transformed His own thoughts into things material.

Now, God tells us the most important reason to have faith: …without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Heb. 11:6 NKJV

If you don’t believe in God, there is nothing everlastingly good coming your way.

The author then cites some of the Old Testament characters of faith as examples. (Remember, the author is pleading God’s case to Jewish converts who are waffling in their faith in Christ.)

He begins by telling of the faith of Abel, which led him to worship God His way, as opposed to the rebellious Cain, who did not. He also holds up the faith of Abraham – both his faith that led him to follow God’s instructions and leave his family, and his unswerving faith in God’s promise of eternal life: …for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. Heb. 11:10 NASB

The author then paints a picture of the common trait of all of the biblical paragons of faith:

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Heb. 11:13 NKJV

They all had faith in their eternal destination. They knew that their earthly time was only the beginning of their journey. They looked forward to their ‘graduation’ with joy because they had faith in the fact that God Himself is faithful to His word:

But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. Heb. 11:16 NKJV

The author also includes the faith of Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, and others – again, holding them up for their acts of faith:

…through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions…Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Heb. 11:33 & 35. NKJV

And all of these, though they won divine approval by [means of] their faith, did not receive the fulfillment of what was promised, because God had something better and greater for us, so that they [these heroes and heroines of faith] should not come to perfection apart from us [before we could join them]. Heb. 11:39, 40. AMP

They stood up against all persecution – empowered by God, waiting for the day their spirits would join with Him. But the big party won’t start until the resurrection of every faith-filled follower’s glorified bodies.

We see then the tenacity of the faithful of old, and they didn’t have Jesus in person to inspire them. We do! So how can we be empowered by their examples?

…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God. Heb. 12:1, 2. NKJV

Jesus foresaw His joy in connecting with you for all of eternity and decided that it was worth paying the price of His crucifixion; and, the price that you pay for faithful endurance (setting aside earthly ways for those that are heavenly) will be more than worth it as well:

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? Heb. 12:7 ESV

…He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful, yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Heb. 12:10, 11. NASB

So, you have a choice. When you make the choice for Jesus, you are immediately placed at the doorstep of heaven:

…you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood sprinkling that speaks of better things than that of Abel. Heb. 12:22 – 24. NKJV

Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe. Heb. 12:28 NASB

You too can be a firstborn that is registered in heaven – not by accepting the blood of Abel that cried out to God for vengeance, but by the miraculous work of the blood of Jesus that completely transforms you, preparing you for your date with eternal Love…

Now at this point, like the apostle Paul, (and who knows, the author just might be Paul) the author leaves us with some godly behaviors to engage in, in order to remain in readiness for our heavenly call: Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some have unwittingly entertained angels.

Remember the prisoners as if chained with them… Heb. 13:1 – 3. NKJV

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

Keep your life free from the love of money and be content with what you have. Heb. 13:4, 5. ESV

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried away with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them. Heb. 13:8, 9. NKJV

For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come. Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. Heb. 13:14, 15. NASB

Amen. I think that the case for Jesus has been thoroughly made…

Good night and God bless.