After my daily devotions and prayer, breakfast and some preparation for Sunday, I spent a few hours in the garden doing weeding and cutting up the stalks of dead Crain Flowers and branches from a huge Delicious Monster Plant. I cut up these large pieces into small pieces and bagged them so that it’s easy to dispose of on refuse bin day. Should I leave these large stalks and branches as is, the refuse truck operators will not empty the bin.
Later in the day I decided to do a readymade dish for supper. We purchased this yesterday on a special: “Buy two get 20% discount.” It was Sticky BBQ Chicken and Bacon Pasta. Although I have prepared this before, it’s been a long time since having it. I always got the oven to temperature, popped the container into the oven for the recommended period, dished it up and got it ready for Jenny and I to eat. Today, for the very first time I read the Heating Instructions properly! Right at the bottom it says, “Stir through before dishing.” I had never done this before … now I understand why some of the pasta never had the rich cheese sauce over it. Following the instructions resulted in the dish tasting so much better than before. Even Jenny said, “This is so tasty today.” I had to confess not reading the instructions properly each time I prepared the dish over the past few years!
So here I have two stories that each carry important messages. The first relates to preparing the garden rubble properly and bagging it for disposal so that the Refuge Truck will take the garden rubble without question. The second relates to reading instructions properly to achieve the best results. Now I wonder how often we get these two principles wrong. How often do we find we do not read the instructions and do not prepare properly? Do you remember those times when you purchased a house, opened a banking account or entered into a finance agreement to buy a motorcar? Did you read the fine print or did you just sign where the agent asked you to sign? When it comes to preparation, how often have you prepared the wall properly before painting or the soil before planting? But there is another aspect to instructions and preparing and this is the one relating to God’s Word and your soul.
On the first Christian Pentecost, Peter delivered the first recorded Gospel preaching done by anyone other than Jesus. You would recall that in Acts 1, after Jesus’ ascension and Him giving the disciples clear instructions about evangelism, they prayed in that Upper Room:
Ac 1:14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
Because of this constant praying and waiting for the Gift of the Holy Spirit coming with power upon them, they experienced the coming of the Spirit demonstrated by the extra-ordinary:
Ac 2:3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. 5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
This led into Peter delivering his Pentecostal Sermon … and this is how he started:
Ac 2:14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.”
He said … “listen carefully to what I say” … and what follows is his God inspired sermon. He expounded God’s Word … but he started by saying, “listen carefully to what I say”. Although he was preaching, this listening can be compared to us reading the Bible or listening to a sermon. It amounts to “reading the instructions carefully”. Peter wanted the hearers to listen differently compared to when they listened to the Rabbis and Priests speaking. He knew he was not quoting other Rabbis and Priests (the fathers). He was proclaiming the Word of God, and this Word needed to be “listened to carefully”. And they did! After his message we read:
Ac 2:37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
This verse tells us they “heard” what was preached. They heard it in their hearts resulting in the hearts being pierced (cut to the heart)! The Spirit of God was at work bringing them to conviction that would led to salvation … and they cried out, “what shall we do?” They wanted to know the way of salvation. They were urgent and intentional. Then Peter explained:
Ac 2:38 “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” 40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
They listened carefully to the Word of God and prepared themselves correctly through taking Peter’s warning seriously, accepting his message and identifying with the Lord Jesus through public baptism. The result of “reading the instructions” (listening carefully) and “preparing” was three thousand converts that very day. The same approach needs to be followed by Christians to grow spiritually and ensure they have “bagged” all their spiritual baggage for disposal so that they can travel light and be ready for when the Lord Jesus calls.
Gracious God, please forgive me for not reading Your instructions carefully enough. Help me to be like those converts at Pentecost and listen carefully to Your Word so that I will prepare myself properly and sufficiently for the day You issue my call to glory. Grant me a spirit of intentionality whereby I put You, Your Word and Your purposes first in my life. Thank You, Father, that I may pray in Jesus’ Name. Amen.