Why people flocked to John

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Then people from Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the vicinity of the Jordan were flocking to [John], and they were baptized by him in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins.  (Matthew 3:5-6)

Why did people flock to John?  Some came out of curiosity, to be sure, perhaps even many or most of them.  Yet, even they were drawn by something deeper, because their visit resulted in repentance.  Surely this can only be the result of the supernatural hand of God, stirring hearts in need of repentance towards a desire for repentance!

After all, John is not portrayed as a particularly eloquent or crowd-pleasing speaker, so the delivery wasn’t the key.  He was in the wilderness, not a lovely temple, so the environment wasn’t the draw.  He was dressed in rough garments, not in fine clothes that signified authority or appeal, so that wasn’t it, either.

No, it was simply a Spirit thing.

John served as a focal point for something God already wanted to do.  He was not the cause, only a catalyst, and even that was not because of his own noble choice.  It was because God called him.

So, here is the deep question for us today: if we want to see people come to faith in Christ and rally to repentance, what should we do?

Here are three suggestions…

  1. We should “Make every effort to make [our] calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10) by focusing on our personal walk with God.  It is doubtful John thought of making the desert his home base on his own.  Surely this must have been revealed through his intimate relationship with God.  This is why prayer is vital.
  2. We should pay attention to the times and seasons of the world around us.  What is God already doing?  How is He already stirring hearts and preparing them to respond to a catalyst?
  3. We must obey God when He tells us what to do, no matter how uncomfortable or unorthodox the instruction may seem.  I doubt locusts, wild honey, desert life and came-hair clothing would have been at the top of John’s list of goals for his life, but there he was, being faithful…

And God responded in amazing ways.

–Pastor Phillip

Jesus’ first ministry: the WONDERS (Luke 4:42)

When it was day, [Jesus] went out and made His way to a deserted place.  But the crowds were searching for Him.  They came to Him and tried to keep Him from leaving them.  (Luke 4:42)

The people were astounded at the miracles Jesus did.  When He healed, it was authentic.  When He cast out demons, it was dramatic.  The people simply couldn’t get enough of it.

Those same people would feel very differently later on when Jesus began to call them to repent of their sins and selfishness and follow Him instead, but for now, they were transfixed and hungry for more.

Perhaps one reason we don’t see more people flocking to church gatherings is because we’ve emphasized the second part of Jesus’ ministry but nearly forgotten the first.

What do you think?

–Pastor Phillip

Defending Jesus (Luke 4:29-30)

[The people] got up, drove Him out of town and brought Him to the edge of the hill their town was built on, intending to hurl Him over the cliff.  But He passed right through the crowd and went on His way.  (Luke 4:29-30)

Jesus has no need of a bodyguard.  He is not helpless and fragile, hoping someone comes along to bail Him out.

Neither has He any need of a Public Relations team to make Him cool, a Brand Strategist to make Him relevant, or a Salesperson to make Him desirable to the disinterested masses.

He wants witnesses who tell the truth about what they’ve seen and heard and experienced.  That’s it.

Apologetics certainly have their place, but if you really want to help the cause of Christ, don’t worry about defending Him.  Instead, focus on developing a vibrant relationship with Him that actually gives you something to say.

–Pastor Phillip

Prepare the Way (Luke 3:4b)

Prepare the way for the Lord; make His paths straight.  (Luke 3:4b)

John’s job was to ready the masses to receive the Messiah.  His task was to “make His paths straight,” not because Jesus wasn’t able to find His own way into people’s hearts, but because people always have barriers that prevent a clear view of who Jesus really is.

John’s job was to clear away any obstacles that might have kept people from seeing and responding to Jesus.

Now, that job belongs to you and me.

–Pastor Phillip

God has put his trust in you

God’s Hope for Your Heart from 1 Thessalonians 2


Just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.  (1 Thessalonians 2:4)

It is the richest treasure in all creation, the greatest gift God could offer mankind.  It is life and peace and power, freedom and strength and love both in this life and the next.  It was purchased at infinite cost, yet is offered freely to all who believe.

It is the Gospel of salvation, the Good News of Jesus Christ, and it literally transforms the world.

With such a treasure, what sort of care must God want to take with it!  What importance He must place on keeping it safe and pure so that the gift is stewarded rightly. How highly He must value those whom He would call to receive and distribute this precious power!

If you’re in Christ, then, how highly He must value you.

Don’t miss this profound truth about how deeply God loves you in Christ.  If you’ve been changed by the Gospel, then not only have your sins been forgiven and your place in heaven secured, but there is another gift Jesus has given you by grace.

God has put His trust in you.

-Pastor Phillip

Jesus trusts you to be His witness

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Acts 26


“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.”  (Acts 26:16)

Paul’s conversion was rather unique.  Most people don’t get a blinding light, a booming voice from heaven and a personal appearance from Jesus.  Yet, in some ways, the call Paul received to follow Christ was exactly the same as God’s call to you and me.

Be a witness.

Jesus wanted Paul to tell as many people as possible about Him.  It was even more specific, though.  Paul’s call wasn’t to testify to mere intellectual belief.  It wasn’t to argue for the merits of a religious system or moral code.  Paul’s call was first to see Jesus, and then to share Him.

Jesus told Paul to give testimony about, “the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you.”  Before Paul could let the world know about Jesus, he had to look for himself.

How about you?

The call of God is the same for each of us, to see Jesus for who He is, and then share Him with others.  This means one of our greatest needs is not greater discipline or self-control, nor greater understanding or commitment.  Those things are important, but what we need even more is greater vision; open eyes to see Jesus in our everyday life.

Here’s good news, then.  If you are looking for Jesus, you will find Him, because Jesus wants to show Himself to you!  He wants you to experience Him in your life, not just because He loves you, but because that’s the only way you’ll have anything to share with others.

Not only that, but whether or not you believe you’re qualified or able to share Jesus with others, He believes in you!  He never asks you to do anything He won’t also equip you to accomplish, and if you’re in Christ, then you already have everything you need.

Look for “Jesus moments” today, and look for opportunities to share them with others.  As you do, may you find hope in this truth: Jesus trusts you to be His witness.

-Pastor Phillip

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God has given you a story to share

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Acts 22


And [Ananias] said [to Paul], “The God of our fathers appointed you to know His will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from His mouth; for you will be a witness for Him to everyone of what you have seen and heard.  (Acts 22:14-15)

God saves people for a purpose.  Yes, He saves because He loves, but one of the greatest evidences of His love is that He doesn’t just save you FROM your sin.  He saves you TO a mission so that you have a purpose for your life!

Not only that, but the mission is a simple one that anyone can do.

All Jesus wants you to do is tell others who He is and what He’s done for you.  You don’t have to be an orator or theologian, a preacher or professional evangelist.  Just be the person God made you, and tell others how God saved you.

Do you want to know the will of God?  It’s simple.  God wants you to share your story.

You may not feel your story is anything special.  You may not feel very qualified to share.  Yet, the reality is no one is more qualified to tell your story than you!

And that’s all God asks of you.

Open your eyes today to the opportunities God has given you to show His love and truth to those around you.  As you respond with faith-driven action, you’ll discover the hope found in this truth: God has given you a story to share.

-Pastor Phillip

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God has prepared a harvest for you

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Acts 18


And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”  (Acts 18:9-10)

Jesus said the harvest was plentiful so workers were needed.  It turns out He could say that because He is the one who prepares the harvest in advance!

When God called Paul to share the Gospel, it wasn’t a mission with only a possibility of success.  It was a calling to a certain victory!

Now, God has called you to share, and here’s the great news: the same truth applies.  Jesus has prepared people to receive and respond to the Gospel, now, if you’re willing to take a step of faith to reach out and share, you get to see it happen.

God’s done the hard work already.  Now you can do your part with confident hope because of this truth: God has prepared a harvest for you.

-Pastor Phillip

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God chose you to be a deliverer

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Acts 16


About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken.  And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.  When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped.  But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.”  And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas.  Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”  (Acts 16:25-31)

It would have been so easy for Paul and Silas to keep silent while the jailer killed himself.  With him out of the way, they and all the other prisoners could have simply walked out free.  They could have even told everyone how great it was that God sent an earthquake to deliver them.

Yes, they could have done that, but if they had they would have failed at their greater mission.

Rather than look out for their own needs, Paul and Silas knew the jailer had a far greater need—salvation.  They were willing to trade their chance at freedom for the opportunity to give their captor a chance for eternal life.

That decision was incredibly worth it, because not only were the jailer and his whole family saved, but God worked out Paul and Silas’s freedom anyway!  He even ensured that their wounds were taken care of in the meantime.

God loves to deliver His people in creative ways, but that’s not all.  If you’re in Christ, He also wants to let you be a part of extending the blessing to others!

Don’t miss the opportunities He brings for you to join Him in His work of redemption.  Open your eyes and your heart to see the needs of the world around you, and as you respond to them in the power of Christ, you’ll find hope in this truth: God chose you to be a deliverer.

-Pastor Phillip

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The Holy Spirit is your boldness

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Acts 14


But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead.  But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe.  When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch…  (Acts 14:19-21)

Paul and Barnabas had been rejected at Antioch, kicked out of Iconium, and Paul had just been stoned by the people of Lystra and only survived by the grace of God.  Now, after a brief stop in another city, here they are going back.

What’s the deal with that!?

You’d think they would have learned the first time.  You’d think they would have gotten the hint that there was high opposition to the Gospel in those cities.  You’d think they would have looked for other places to minister where the work wasn’t quite so challenging.

However, in this passage we see that Paul and Barnabas don’t think that way.  They don’t feel that way.  They don’t work that way, because they have something that is working in and through them that is far more powerful than any opposition they may face.  That something is a someone, the person of the Holy Spirit.

Because they are empowered by the Spirit, they are emboldened for the Gospel.  Because they follow His command, they are filled with His courage and nothing can hold them back from spreading the Good News.

You know what’s even more exciting?  If you’re in Christ, that same power is available to you.

Don’t let the world’s resistance hold you back from the wonderful things God has planned for you.  Don’t let fear and uncertainty cripple the faith and confidence God wants to give you.  Trust Him today, follow His leading where ever it may take you, and as you do, you’ll be filled with hope as you walk in this truth: The Holy Spirit is your boldness.

-Pastor Phillip

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