“For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”
– Acts 3:26 NASB
In the weeks following Jesus’ ascension into heaven, the apostles Peter and John found themselves surrounded by a crowd near the temple in Jerusalem after they had healed a beggar who had been lame from birth. Peter wanted to make sure that the crowd understood that the power to heal the man had not been his, but rather the power of Jesus through him had healed the man.
At the end of his exhortation to the crowd, Peter emphasized the central purpose of Jesus’ mission: to “bless us by turning us from our wicked ways.” It was specifically for this reason that Christ was “raised up” – that is, resurrected from the dead. “Servant” is one of the many titles that the Old Testament gives to Messiah (Christ). Messiah serves God and humanity by becoming the prime example for desirable human behavior. Raised up to heaven, and heralded as the new human prototype, Messiah then teaches His ways to all people who come to Him in faith looking for direction.
Most people don’t seem to associate being “blessed” by “turning from wicked ways.” Rather, they think of a blessing as a new home, new car, a sunshiny day – things like that. Of course, those things can be blessings, but God desires to bless us most by transforming our hearts to be more like His. As this transformation succeeds, other blessings come along with it.
Remember that Jesus taught “Do not murder” should be taken to heart and lived as “Do not hate.” Similarly, “Do not commit adultery” should be taken to heart as lived as “Do not even think an adulterous thought.” Everything with Jesus was about cleansing us from the inside out; purifying our motives. If our hearts are pure, our words and deeds will take care of themselves.
Assuming your outward actions are all acceptable, focus on purifying the motives of your actions.
(Remember that prayer is more about listening than talking. Use the words below to start yourself, but then allow time to reflect more on the Scripture above before you say the “Amen.” During that time of quiet reflection, let God shape your thoughts and wait for a sense of peace to come. That’s your signal to say “Amen” and go forth to the day.)
Lord Jesus, we know that You do not want us to wear the kinds of clothes You wore or eat the kind of food You ate. Rather, you want us to have the kind of heart You had – the kind of heart that is willing to suffer for doing what is right and keep on loving everyone through that suffering. Show me how to do that more today…(this is where you remain quiet in order to let Him work in your thoughts)… Amen.