The Great Commission – Acts 26:15-18

You Have Been Saved For A Purpose

15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?'”

” ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'”

Seeking Servanthood

When Paul had his encounter with the Living God, he was first directed to be the servant of the Lord Jesus.  The first concern of God after people come to him is to follow Him and to serve Him:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

In a culture where we are told every moment of every day that it is all about YOU, this seems to be a foreign concept.  After all, if it is all about ME, why should I care about any of YOU?  This is a tool of Satan as he attacks our minds:

For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.

This three-pronged attack is very effective at distracting us from being effective servants of the Lord.  If Satan can get us to desire fleshly things, or covet with our eyes, or fill our hearts with pride, he can effectively destroy our walk and ministry for the Lord.

Servants have no rights of their own; their master is Lord over them.  Many of the letters in the New Testament start with the author identifying themselves as bond-slaves of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Himself said:

25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave- 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Worthwhile Witness

A great deal of Christians, when witnessing to the lost say, “God has this wonderful plan for your life” or “Escape the fires of Hell!”.  And while both of these are true, we are to be telling people that God desires that people know Him.  We are to tell people what God has done for us in our lives – to free us from the bondage of sin, and to give us the opportunity to live life in victory.

We are to show that we are living lives in victory.  That is how Paul and Silas were able to sing hymns at midnight after being beaten with rods and thrown in jail, resulting in the jailer and his family coming to know Jesus as Lord.  Many have come to faith through the faithful witness of disciples of Christ after people see the peace they have in their lives through difficult time, terrible illness, and other distress.

Smash Strongholds

In order to live our lives in victory, and to help others live in victory, we need to break down the strongholds in our lives:

3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

These strongholds are arguments and pretensions that we have in our minds that are contrary to the revealed word of God.  Just a couple of these (certainly not an exhaustive list!) are:

LegalismThere is no law against love

Our works earn us a place in heaven – It is by grace alone through faith that we are saved

God can’t forgive me of my sins, they are too great – If we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive them

We can have strongholds in our lives about finances, sex, and any other number of topics.  God, through His word, is the only authority for all aspects of our lives.  He created the universe and us.  He knows everything there is to know about us.  He knows what will harm us and what will prosper us.  And since Jesus is the embodiment of Truth, we can trust what He says is correct.

Show Salvation

We are to tell of God’s salvation to the lost.  Before witnessing, we are also to pray that God will open the eyes of the blind and that the deaf might hear so that the lost will see the goodness of God, and the free gift of salvation.

By being faithful servants, who have been freed from the bondage of strongholds and pretensions in our minds through the word of the Living God, we are then able to go and do what we have been commissioned to do – make disciples of all nations.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I a faithful servant to Christ?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are glorious, and Your beauty is beyond description.  You shower us with your mercy and grace every moment of every day.  If I only knew just how much You provide for me and protect me from, I would not be able to get off of my knees in praising You.  Father, open my eyes to the strongholds in my life that keep me from being free to serve You as You desire.  Show me in Your word the truth that I need to see in order to shake myself free from the bonds that I have created.  Bind the works of Satan, and help me to be free, for since Jesus has freed me, I am free indeed.  And Father, please send me to people, or send people to me, that I may witness of what You have done in my life, that You would be glorified and that others would know of Your love for them, that they too might be freed and be saved.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Shock and Awe by God – Matthew 27:44-54

God Announces Significant Events With Signs and Wonders

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

Drape Divided

At three o’clock local time in Israel, on April 3, 33 C.E.*, the temple veil was torn in two.  This is significant for several reasons.

First, the temple veil kept the innermost part of the temple, the Holy of Holies (in the Greek, the naos), separate from the rest of the temple.  It was holy – set apart for God and God alone.  Only the high priest could enter this area, and only once a year to perform the yearly sacrifice for sin for the Israelites.  When the veil was torn in two, it symbolically announced the arrival of the time that Jesus had foretold to the Samaritan woman at the well:

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

Indeed – the time had come when all true worshipers would worship in truth and spirit.

Secondly, the veil was torn from top to bottom.  This signified that it was God who tore the veil, and not man.  God was the one who now changed the relationship between man and Himself.  No longer would there be a separation between God and man, requiring that people come to the temple to worship.

Thirdly, God changed the location of the temple.  The naos** was the location where the presence of God dwelt.  Up until the time of the death of Jesus, this was the tent of meeting or the Holy of Holies in the temple.  Now, God dwells in each believer.  God has forsaken the vessels built by man and is now inhabiting the vessel built by God – the believer’s body.  The temple is no longer a building but the very bodies God has given us:

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple** and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?

Enormous Earthquake

When God makes a statement, He generally tends to do it either softly (the still, small voice), or with a lot of panache.  On this day, God used a LOT of panache.  Not only did the veil hiding the Holy of Holies tear from top to bottom, but there was a great earthquake.  God wanted to make sure He got EVERYONE’S attention.  Signs in the Sun, Moon, and stars were going on, and if people weren’t paying attention, they would miss it.  God ensured that everyone in Israel would be stirred to attention to what had just happened.

Boulders Broken

Not only did the ground shake, the boulders shook as well.   They Bible says that the rocks were rent in two – the rocks had cried out and bore witness to the sorrow of the death of the Son of God.  Having no clothing to rent (tear apart), they tore themselves apart.

Death Defied

Not to be outdone, God wanted everyone to know that this was no ordinary day of events.  God raised the dead from their graves and sent them into Jerusalem.  The dead had risen – only The Lord God Almighty has the ability to raise the dead.  This day would not be soon forgotten by those who had witnessed it.  And just to make sure, God ensured that the centurion and others who were guarding Jesus on the cross bore witness when they cried out, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

Heavenly Hosts

And God, who does not change, made sure that this event had a heavenly sign as well.  When the Moon rose that night, it was a full blood Moon, as prophesied by Joel***.  But the most interesting part was that at exactly 3:00 PM Israel local time, when Jesus gave His last breath, the Moon went into eclipse.  The people of Israel would not have seen the Moon until about 6:00 PM.  And when they did, they would have seen that the Woman rose with the Moon at her feet, and the twelve stars crowning her head.  But this time, she was not clothed with the sun.  She came in darkness, the most blackest darkness as befitted the death of the most Holy Son of God.  And the Moon, which first rose as a new, white-as-snow crescent Moon at the conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit in Mary, a life just starting, now rose as full Moon, stained blood-red with Jesus’ death, a life fully lived.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I paying attention to the signs that God is placing in the sky with the Sun, the Moon, and the stars?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are faithful in all that You do.  You show us signs and wonders when You do significant things.  Help us to be a people who pay attention to Your word, and what You are doing.  Give me a sense of urgency in my heart for what troubles Yours, and help me to bring about Your plan that You have put into place to tell the world about You, Your Son, our sin, and Your desire to reconcile with us here on Earth rather than at the White Throne seat of judgment, where we will no longer have any chance to settle our debt with You.  Father, You are a holy and just God who cannot tolerate sin.  Thank You for the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ, for my sins.  Make my heart ache as I watch those who do not know you.  Give me a sense of purpose and boldness, that I too would testify about Jesus as Peter did at Pentecost and before the Sanhedrin.  And Father, help me to pay attention to the signs that You are giving that Jesus is coming soon.  For wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


Notes – This blog has been edited for clarity.

*Fred Larson has definitively identified April 3, 33 C.E. as the day of the death of Christ.  Using logic and clues from the Bible, he was able to accurately determine the date.  Using the software program Starry Night, Fred Larson was able to corroborate that this was the day by confirming that a blood Moon – a full lunar eclipse – occurred on this day as well.

**  The Greek word used here is naos, the same word that is used for the Temple’s innermost sanctum, the Holy of Holies.  God had Paul use this word because it was the only part of the temple that God could reside in.  It was declared holy – set apart for God’s plans and purposes.  In the same way, we are set apart as well.  Paul later reminds us of this in Romans 12:1-2:

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

*** The sun turned to darkness is interesting.  From the perspective of the Earth, the Moon turned to blood.  If you were able to stand on the Moon and look at the Sun (a REALLY COOL feature of the Starry Night software program!), you would see that the sun was now in full eclipse as well – it would appear as black as sackcloth.  When Jesus died on the cross, and He cried out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”, God the Father withdrew His presence, power, glory, and His holy light from His One and Only Son.  And indeed, from Jesus’ perspective (the Moon was blood-red, indicating that it was representative of Christ’s condition and position, so the Sun would represent God the Father’s position and condition in relation to the Son), the light had indeed turned to darkness. (Special thanks to Fred Larson for spelling this out in his movie, “The Star of Bethlehem“.)