Gracekillers: Bitterness

Bitterness 

Daily Reading: (Hebrews 12:15):

“See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

How do we make sure that no bitter root grows up in us? Because what this verse is telling us is that a bitter root will cause trouble not just for the individual that it grows from, it will also negatively impact many.

The answer to this question and also how do we “see to it that o one falls short of the grace of God”, is in the text. We just have to break it down and I am excited to do that with you today.

“See to it” in the Greek means to look upon or be aware “that no one falls short of the grace of God”. This is a message for church leaders that those who are saved might continue and not fail to receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What makes bitter roots grow from a person’s life is trying to live under the Law. We will see this as we progress in the text. In fact, someone who tries to live under the Law will cause trouble and defile many by trying to get others to do the same. The word defile is a word picture (miainō): to stain. It is like taking a single drop of ink and letting it go into a bucket of water. You cannot mix grace with the law.

This is why Paul wrote to the Galatians: “You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5:4).

So how do we make sure individuals don’t fall short of the grace of God?  Another way to say it is, “how do you spot a counterfeit?”  You know what experts in currency do so they can detect a counterfeit bill,they study the original. They know the original so well, that they can easily spot when something is not supposed to be there.

One year I was gardening and I had planted a lot of new perennial flowers.  The next year when the perennials started to return, I didn’t know what the original was supposed to look like. So, I faithfully was watering one plant that was actually a giant weed. Thanks to a gardening friend, I was told I was cultivating a weed. Long before someone becomes bitter, that person fell short of the grace of God. That is why the example of a root and growing up is such a marvelous illustration for us. If you don’t receive the grace God gives through Jesus Christ, then the seed is set for the root of bitterness to grow. 

How do people fall short from the grace of God?  

When you fall from grace, Christ becomes of no effect.

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). This is not a threat but describing a fact. And when the New Testament writers exhort us to “be holy,” they are calling us to live out our true Christ-borne identity. When Jesus said, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48), the word for “perfect” means complete or full grown. He was calling us to the life that is His.” But there is more in the progression of the text that will take us to an Old Testament figure in the Bible.

See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son” (Hebrews 12:16).

We have a contrast of what receiving grace produces versus what it looks like for a person who lives apart from grace.

  • The person develops a deep-rooted issue with bitterness
  • The person is challenged in the area of sexual immorality, e.g. lust, porn addictions, affairs.
  • Their speech is profane.

Whereas the grace of God produces:

  • Peace with all men
  • Holiness which is wholeness, health in soul, body, mind.

How do you know you have fallen short of grace?

You are law-conscious meaning performance-conscious. The story of the prodigal son teaches us that as soon as we turn back to grace (Luke 15:24), we become “a full-grown son with privileges,” able to access the abundant life that God has prepared for us.

Whenever life’s demands flood your mind, see Jesus’ supply of grace upon grace instead. Receive all that you need from Him.

Equipped

Equipped

Daily Reading: (Ephesians 4:12):

“to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”

It is easy to have moments where we feel that we are lacking something we need in order to accomplish something in our life. When it comes to making disciples, the truth is that you have everything you need to be successful in helping others grow in their faith. We are equipped with spiritual gifts to be used for growing the Kingdom.

“Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12 NLT).

I believe one of the first words that might grab your attention is the words “their responsibility”. It is true that Paul is talking about apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, it’s their responsibility to equip God’s people. But did you know that God’s people are tied into this equipping for something specific and there is something special God has given each and every believer for this?

Let’s back up a few verses and we will discover something about how God works to equip us to be effective at our mission to go and make disciples and also how important it is what ministry you come under.

“However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ. That is why the Scriptures say,

‘“When he ascended to the heights, He led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to His people’” (Ephesians 4:7-8).

Paul is writing to the church at Ephesus and he quotes Psalm 68:18 to say that every believer in Jesus has been given a very special gift and the gift you have been given is for you to do God’s work, building up the Body of Christ.

Gift is “charis” in the Greek meaning a gift of grace. In the very giftings you have they are from God. None of us should boast in our abilities because they are God-given and their purpose is to be used to honor God, and build up other people in the Kingdom.

“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11).

Jesus gave the church exactly what the church needed so that the church would be fully equipped which is what verse twelve tells us.So what is interesting is that Jesus has fully equipped the church to fully equip you so that you might “go and make disciples”.You’d be wise to belong to a church that equips you. However, there are many churches that don’t equip God’s people and therefore many churches are not sharing the good news of Jesus with the world.Your responsibility is to receive equipping and then be involved in doing God’s work.

“However, He has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7). Who did God give a special gift to? Each one of us through Christ. Every believer has been given a spiritual gift. God’s grace is given out personally. 1 Peter 4:10 says, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” If you are in Christ, you have been equipped with a spiritual gift (Ephesians 4:7), and that gifting can be further built up (Ephesians 4:12), to help others grow in their faith (make disciples).

“He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (Ephesians 4:16).

The church is vital to you and you are vital to the church but the “special work” you will do is not your own work. The special work that Paul mentions in verse sixteen is a supernatural power, a power that comes only from God. So, even the amazing things you will be a part of for the building of the body, it is God’s supernatural working power through you.

Saved But Not Seen

Saved and Not Seen

Daily Reading: (Acts 8:34-35,38-39):

“The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?”Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.”

“And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.”

We tend to think of discipleship as on ongoing journey with helping another believer grow in their faith, but did you know that discipleship can actually be the way someone becomes saved? Today’s story serves to reinforce the fact that salvation is a work of God and that teaching someone about Scripture can be what leads to their salvation. A God-led opportunity took Philip down the least likely path which led to the least likely person to receive salvation.

“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:1).

This is an important verse. Because if it had not been for the persecution, Philip would not be in the proper place to proclaim the Gospel to a man whose heart was ready to receive it (Acts 8:1). The trials and tribulations that we go through prepare us for Gospel prosperity (people being saved).

The Holy Spirit came but God’s people hadn’t yet moved out of Jerusalem- but now because of persecution there is movement. “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.”

“Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza” (Acts 8:26).

So, we have divine direction where to go (the desert road) without knowing why. Be obedient to what you do know and then the why will eventually be revealed.

“So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship” (Acts 8:27).

We find that this man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, (His race Gentile/ Ethiopian, along with his physical deformity (eunuch), it would have kept him from approaching God in the Old Testament Law, but in the New Covenant God approached him. God through Philip sought him out in the desert, making it clear that this is the New Covenant where even a deformed Gentile can become a true saint, and member of the family of God in Jesus Christ. Did you know this moment in history between Philip and the eunuch is known as the Ethiopian prophesy being fulfilled? Psalm 68:31: ”Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.” There is another prophecy about this moment too. Isaiah 56:4-5 foresees a time when eunuchs would be included among the people of God. “For thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.” We have a double prophecy being fulfilled at the same time.

“The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it” (Acts 8:29). There was a particular verse the Lord wanted the eunuch to read and wonder about because God was sending Him his answer, Jesus Christ. Did you know that God still does this today and you can be someone else’s Philip in this story revealing Jesus to them?

“Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35). The Gospel can be shared in a variety of ways but it is always about leading other people to the good news about Jesus (Acts 8:35).

“As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized” (Acts 8:36)? So, obviously somewhere in the sharing of the Gospel Philip must have mentioned baptism. We learn here what the qualification of baptism is through the eunuch. Some manuscripts include the following text: “Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” The eunuch answered, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” There is only one qualification for baptism: Believe in Jesus.

And then in verse 38b-39 “Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.”

God prepared Philip in Jerusalem for Samaria, He prepared him in Samaria for Gaza. God uses everything we go through for our good and the good of others. Your Jerusalem hardship might be and probably is the very thing you need to lead you to the success He is leading you too in Samaria and then Gaza. Philip’s obedience to the Lord’s leading lead to the Gospel reaching Ethiopia. After salvation, it would have been so other believers who would continue to disciple the Ethiopian, helping him grow in his faith.

As You Follow You Will Fish

As You Follow You Will Fish

Daily Reading: (Matthew 4:19):

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”

“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen” (Matthew 4:18).  The most ordinary thing that you would see if you were out walking the Sea of Galilee, would be fishermen at work. There was nothing special about Peter and Andrew. They were regular guys doing an ordinary everyday job, and Jesus reached out to them with an invitation that would change their entire lives. Come, follow me,” Jesus said,“and I will send you out to fish for people” (Matthew 4:19).

“Come, follow me,” and then the promise comes. If you will do this, if you will follow me, I will send you out to fish for people. So, as you follow you will fish.

What is interesting is that Jesus doesn’t use this fishing line (pun intended) with all the disciples that He called. Remember he doesn’t just call fisherman to fish for men, He calls a tax collector, a physician, and others, but the invitation is always the same, “follow me.”

“Follow me, and I will take who you are and what you do (fisherman, tax collector, doesn’t matter), and I will put it to Kingdom use, resulting in people being saved.God gave us varying gifts to be used for His glory and also for our enjoyment. And now Peter and Andrew,instead of using your gifts and passions and marketplace skills for your own sole benefit, I will help you use those gifts to bless others in the greatest way possible, to extend an invitation for others to follow Jesus.

One of the greatest things I have learned about going out and fishing for people is that it is all about following Jesus.The word Jesus used when He says“I will send you out to fish for people,” is (poieō). Poieō means to be the authors of a thing (to cause, bring about), to make ready, to prepare, to produce, bear, shoot forth, to make a thing out of something. Fishing for people happens as a result of following Jesus. This is what Christ does in me.  Yes, He uses our talents and abilities quite often to do this, but even out our God-given abilities, it is Christ producing the success of fishing for people.  This is freeing because this is a promise to us, that as we spend time with our Savior, He will prepare us, make us ready and cause us to fish. He sets up the divine appointments bringing people across our path, the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see the opportunities before us and He even gives us the words to say when we are presented with the opportunity to let the light of Christ shine. Fishing for people is not formulaic it is organic and it comes by way of the Spirit’s leading.

Now let’s see what transpires after the calling of these two fishermen and the promise of making them into fishers of men.

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about Him spread all over Syria, and people brought to Him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and He healed them.Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed Him.” (Matthew 4:23-25). When He was on earth, Jesus, God’s perfect will in action, healed all who were brought to Him (Matthew 4:23–24). Jesus demonstrated how fishing was done by teaching, preaching, and healing.

Let’s fast forward in time when Jesus has already been crucified and He is about to appear to the disciples who are called to be fishers of men not fishermen. You catch my drift? The fishing puns continue. So, in John 21 verse 3 we pick this up:

 “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, (he was going back to his life before his calling of fishing for men) and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So, they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. There is a bruise to the ego. That night they caught nothing. The disciples’ self-effort did not produce the desired catch they were looking for (John 21:3). Their emptiness is an opportunity for an over abundant filling from Jesus (John 21:3 & 6). As they follow (“throw your net on the right side”) then they will have a successful catch.

“Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish” I love Jesus’ question because is really isn’t about fish, it is really about people which we will see moving forward.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” We have some serious symbolism going on here. The right side represented believers or those who would come to believe. “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 (believers), and the goats on the left (Matthew 25:33-34). 

The ship the disciples were on was an emblem of the church; the right side is symbolic of hauling in those who will enter into the Kingdom, the casting of the net to catch the fish signifies the preaching of the Gospel the assurance Christ gives of the success of his Word in hauling in a catch. As you cast your net by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, you will haul in a catch (fish/people).

Now in verses 10 and 11:Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.”

153 seems to be a little too specific of a number to not have some significance. So, there are a few things we know. The fish represent people. We found that out to begin with in our verse in Matthew 4:19. Also, the timing of this miracle is when Jesus is about to physically leave them, so this is significant in that apart from Christ you will have no success in bringing in fish/people to the Kingdom.

Some researchers have counted how much people Jesus healed 153 people in 48 separate incidents mentioned in the 4 Gospels.[1] At that time there was believed to be 153 known nations,[2] the fish would represent people being saved from every tribe, people, and language (Revelation 7:9). Also in Hebrew numerology, the number 153 is the phrase Ani Elohim (“I am God”).[3] God is the One who produced the catch.

Now as fishers of men, Jesus said in John 14:12:“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” The church working together, oh, wait a catch we have in store for us.  


[1] Al Maxey. http://www.zianet.com/maxey/reflx660.htm

[2] Gants Hill URC. 153: The Importance of Numbers in the Bible. https://www.gantshillurc.co.uk/ministers-blog/153-the-importance-of-numbers-in-the-bible

[3] Brady Stephenson. 153 Fishes= I AM G-D? https://www.versebyverseministry.org/articles/153-fishes-i-am-g-d May 9, 2015.