Friday, August 10, 2018

A Lesson Learned From A Foreigner

A Lesson Learned From A Foreigner

In Matthew 15:21 - 28 a story is told of a Syro-Phoenician woman who pleads to Jesus for a miracle. The story reads as follows,

Matthew 15:21 Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.
Matthew 15:22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.
Matthew 15:23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.
Matthew 15:24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Matthew 15:25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.
Matthew 15:26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.
Matthew 15:27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.
Matthew 15:28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

When we look at this account closely, this is what we see. Jesus initial silent treatment to this Canaanite woman was intentional. It was not to mistreat the woman, but, to teach the disciples and us a few lessons. It seemed the Disciples response was one of disdain. It was pretty much like, "get rid of her." After the disciples speak out to Christ, Jesus speaks to the woman. His answer to the woman can seem very rude. However, it was in line with His intention of teaching the lesson to His disciples. What things did this event show us all?

1. Jesus' love crossed gender lines. The disciples needed to learn that God did not see females as inferior to males. God created them and in Jesus God was redeeming them also. He listened to the woman and answered her prayer.

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

2. Jesus' love crossed ethnic/racial/national lines. Again, the disciples needed to learn that God does not favor one group over the other. If the disciples were to go out into the world with the gospel, they had to leave their bigotry, nationalism, prejudices and discriminative attitudes behind. Only Jesus can do this. Tolerating is not enough, you must agape others.

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

Colossians 3:10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
Colossians 3:11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

3. Faith can be found in anyone who believes regardless of their background. 

Romans 10:11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
Romans 10:12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
Romans 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

4. God will test your Faith. It will seem to you that He is ignoring you. He will seem to pay no heed to your petition. However, those who have faith will keep asking, until God replies. That is what Paul did about his infirmity.

2 Corinthians 12:8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
2 Corinthians 12:9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

5. The Canaanite woman admitted to submitting herself to Christ as a puppy to its master. Dogs have two distinct qualities about them that most owners like. They are loyal to and dependent on their master. Are we loyal to God and dependent on Him? Puppies follow their master everywhere, as sheep follow their shepherd. 

John 10:3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
John 10:4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

This passage perhaps gives us the perfect image of discipleship. A disciple is as a puppy sitting at his Master's feet and feeding off the crumbs that fall from the Master's table.

Friday, August 03, 2018

"THE CONVERSION OF PAUL"

"THE CONVERSION OF PAUL"

 

 

Paul Means the Little One

 

Luke 9:48 "…for he who is least among you all -- he shall be great."

 

The verse quoted above seems contradictory. However, such are things in the Kingdom of God.  A pearl is highly valued and desired. However, its origins are very humble. Something insignificantly small – and undesirable to the clam - causes a lesion within it. The clam, to self-protect, creates a substance with which it covers and isolates the irritant. The final result of this process is a precious pearl. It is in this light that we look at Paul's conversion.

 

What do we know of Paul before His conversion? We know that he was an old covenant believer of God, filled with religious bigotry, status and pride. Paul says of himself in Acts 22:3, "I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day." He proceeds in Philippians 3:5, I was, "Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee." He was born a Roman citizen according to Acts 22:25 – 28. According to Galatians 1:14, He "…profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers." He was present at Stephen's death and consenting of it according to Acts 7:58 and 8:1. After this, He persecuted the church as we read in Acts 8:3 and 22:4, 5:

 

Act 8:3 "As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison."

 

Act 22:4, 5 "And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished."

 

Paul's original name was Saul (Acts 13:9). His parents gave him this name because they hoped he would be as great as King Saul (Saul means desired). It seemed Saul did not disappoint his parents. That was until his conversion, when he became a New Covenant believer. After Paul's conversion (Acts 9) Saul changed his name to Paul, which means little one; this was to contrast his name in his life without Christ. After conversion, he no longer pursued greatness but was content to consider Christ as the great and desirable One and he, Paul, was a small one. Indeed, he called himself the least of the Apostles and all saints (1Corinthians 15:9; Ephesians 3:8), the chief of sinners (1Timothy 1:15), and a wretched man (Romans 7:24).

 

Paul's view of himself is very paradoxical, as the things of God often are. From our human perspective, we consider the little one and least of all of the Apostles as the greatest apostle of all. He was the preeminent evangelist, highly successful at church planting, and the most prolific letter writer. Paul agreed that it looked as though he was great, but then he clarified in 1 Corinthians 15:9-11. Let us read in I Corinthians 15:9, 10 (ESV),

 

"For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me."

 

How did Paul do it?  We could argue that it was Paul's energetic personality, along with his educational attainments and excellent training that produced such a worker for Christ. But these things merely enhanced the tool that he was. Sister White has said it is not the abilities which the man possesses or will ever possess that give him success in the work, it is the mighty outworking of the Holy Spirit on the heart through the one who is surrendered. But naturally a man who is well prepared and pays attention to the little things can have a wider sphere of work, than one whose energies and talents are divided, undisciplined or untrained. (See COL, Chapter 25 on Talents). It was the Holy Spirit through Paul that accomplished all these things. Paul completely gave himself to the Holy Spirit's control, and trusted in God's promises and provisions. He was a man of prayer. There are approximately 32 references on prayer in Paul's epistles. These indicate that not only was he a man of prayer, but that he was filled with, and followed the directions of the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:9; Acts 16:6). Paul, who said he was the least of all the apostles, did not disappoint the Lord. Could the same be said of us?

 

~Raul Diaz