Wed, Apr 30th - 2:10PM
I AM NOT ALONE, PT. 4
Every caring minister, which is you and me, wishes that he/she could make this promise "Come to Christ, and it will guarantee that nothing bad will ever happen to you, and you will be financially prosperous the rest of your life." But no one can make that guarantee to you, or anyone else, on behalf of God. God Himself does not make that guarantee to us.
NO FEAR OF DISASTER
Unfortuanately, some overzealous preachers do make the claim that once you accept Jesus you WILL become wealthy, and that nothing bad shall ever happen to you. That sort of thinking does not even make common sense. If I make bad money management decisions I will not lose money? If I decide to step out into oncoming traffic, I will not get hit by at least one car? If I decide to smoke two packs of cigarettes each day, I shouldn't expect to contract lung cancer or emphysema?
The heroes of the bible illustrate for us that calamities and disasters befall even the ranks of the righteous. Consider, Job or John the Baptist. They suffered some disasters, right? Tradition tells that all the apostles except John the Revelator suffered martyrdom for faith in their Lord; and John was exhiled to the barren isle of Patmos. From the depths of his misery Job cried, "Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward"(Job 5:7). Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science, erroneously taught, "There is no sin, disease, sickness, or death." Of course, she discovered later on in life that, indeed, she was subject to all of those things including death.
A common cause of fear is dread, an undefined foreboding about the unknown; about the future, about people who are "different," about science, about knowledge. We usually fear people or things that we do not know about or understand, circumstances over which we have absolutely no control.
Jacob traveled to an unknown country, to unfamiliar people, and unaccustomed experiences. On his first night away from home, Jacob was given a vision by God and so was reassured of God's divine presence. When Jacob arose the next morning, he walked into the future with courage, in God's will, eventually becoming the leader of a nation that would later be named after the new name God would give Jacob, "Israel" (Genesis 28:10-22; 32:24-32).
Centures later, Joshua was faced with an awesome job: succeeding Moses. As Joshua was about to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land, God encouraged him:
"Have I not commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest(Joshua 1:9)".
Aggressive heathen tribes lay in wait for the Israelites in the land of Canaan. Joshua and Caleb were the only spies, out of ten in total sent to scout out the land forty years previously, who had given an accurate accounting of the land. Yes, there were giants who lived there but there was also much food and wealth. The eight other spies who gave negative report of the land ignored the fact that the coming battle for the Promised Land was the Lord God Almighty's. The same fact remains true for us today. Our battles each day belong to God Almighty, not to us. We will not solve them properly under our efforts, God will solve them according to His perfect will.
During the grips of the Reformation in Germany, Marin Luther was continually encouraged by an awareness of God's presence. Armed with the power of the Holy Spirit, Luther appeared before the church officials who even threatened his life while demanding that he recant and withdraw his writings. In defense of his position Luther courageously declared:
"...unless I am convinced by Scripture or by right reason---for I trust neither in popes nor in councils since they have often erred and contradicted themselves---unless I am thus convinced, I am bound by the texts of the Bible. My conscience is captive to the Word of God. I neither can nor will recant anything, since it is neither right nor safe to act against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen."
That is my stand, is it yours? Are you willing to draw a line in the sand and be willing to never cross over it? Are you bound by the texts of the Bible? Is your mind and conscience held captive to the Word of God? Is Christ your measure of ethics and morality?
Luther's courage in the face of possible death changed the course of Western Civilization and the history of Christianity. One man, courageous enough to stand on the truth. Another courageous man of faith, John Wesley, has three expressions of his carved upon his memorial in Westminster Abbey: "The world is my parish." "God buries His workmen but continues His work." "The best of all is, God is with us!" And that is what we all need to focus upon today, God is with us!
I think that I will stop there for today, my dear friends. Next time I will definitely write about courage in facing death, even though I did not get to it today. My apologies to all who read this! I am trying very hard to keep these posts short enough to keep up the interest. Until then, my prayer is that all of you may become bound by the texts of God's Word. That all of you will bring your consciences captive to the Word of God. I pray that all of you will become willing to say, "Here I stand, on the Word of God." Fear not, for Christ tells us that He is with us and will help us in our time of need. Do you believe? Do you trust Him? I look forward to the day when I shall be able to look into the eyes of each of you who read these posts, what a glorious day in heaven that will be! Hallelujah!
Tue, Apr 29th - 12:52PM
I AM NOT ALONE, PT. 3
COMFORT AND RESTORATION
God's presence is also a source of restoration for us. Despite how terribly we believers may sin, God stands ready to mend our broken relationship with him. What did King David do after he sinned immensely against God and man? He cried out to God: "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit"(Psalm 51:12). In this psalm, David emptied out his heart in repentance and confession.
Have mercy upon me, O God.(verse 1)
Blot out my transgressions (verse 1)
Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity (verse 2)
Cleanse me from my sin (verse 2)
I acknowledge my transgressions (verse 3)
My sin is ever before me (verse 3)
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight (verse 4)
Purge me with hyssop (verse 7)
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow (verse 7)
David did not stop here, he went on to beseech God to hide His face from David's sins. David also asked God to renew a right spirit within him. And still David continued with his pleas to God. You can find commentators who claim that David never had another day of rest after this. But we can certainly mark this down as fact: God forgave David, "a man after God's own heart."
No true Christian is going to enjoy sinning. Misery always partners with sinning. And yet Isaiah the prophet wrote this: "As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you..."(Isaiah 66:13). Paul opened his second letter to the Corinthians with similar words: "the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulations"(II Corinthians 1:3-4). As can easily be seen, God comforts us in ALL of our trials and tribulations, all of our lives.
We always need to remember also this phrase from the Shepherd's Psalm: "He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake"(Psalm 23:3). Jesus Christ is in the business of restoration, of healing. If we desire to find righteousness we need to turn ourselves over to Christ who is our righteousness. If we are to walk righteously then we must allow Him to lead us each and every day.
GOD'S PRESENCE GIVES US COURAGE
Is courage an absence of fear? Truly courageous men and women admit to being afraid, but they have learned to call forth reserves of bravery and stamina during times of crisis in order to do that which they know is the right thing to do.
The Bible is full of accounts where God's presence strengthened His people by giving them courage. They did not fear because He was with them, even when facing insurmountable odds in combat. Deuteronomy 20:1 speaks about this. Perhaps some of you remember Franklin Delano Roosevelt's most famous quotation: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Children of God do not need to fear even fear. God has promised that victory is ultimately ours through Christ. We may lose some battles along the way, but we will win the war as is stated in I Corinthians 15:57. In Isaiah 41:9-10 we see God instructing the people to not be afraid when faced with trouble:
...Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away. Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed, for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
Who showed more courage than young David when facing the Philistine giant, Goliath? No one else dared go out to do battle one-on-one with Goliath, but David pipes up and volunteers for he knows that God is with him always. Are there some "giants" in your life? Are they intimidating you? Don't let them, God is with you and will uphold you with His righteousness. Face your "giants" and allow God to defeat them for you. As soldiers of the cross, we should not be afraid of defeat. Remember the words of young David in I Samuel 17:45-47 and face your everyday life in like fashion.
That is all for today, beloved. Next time I shall write thoughts about having no fear of disaster, no fear of death, and perhaps get into how God's presence gives us conquest. Until then, I hope and pray that I am being salt out in the world, that I am making someone out there thirsty for Christ, the Water of Life. How about you? Are you salty enough?
Mon, Apr 28th - 1:00PM
I AM NOT ALONE, PT. 2
I am going to attempt to look at three concepts that I hope will remain in brilliant relief in your minds. First, God's presence gives us comfort. Second, God's presence gives us courage. And third, God's presence gives us conquest. The three C's.
In Matthew 28:20 Jesus promised us: "...and, lo, I am with you always, even unto to the end of the world..." Paul wrote reminding all of us that God cannot be separated from us and vice versa: "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which in in Christ Jesus our Lord."(Romans 8:38-39).
If that does not comfort you, then consider Hebrews 13:5: "For he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." So we ought to be comforted by the presence of God for He has said that He shall never leave us nor forsake us. We are not alone. Exodus 33:14 conveys the message that His presence brings comfort, rest.
COMFORT AND REAFFIRMATION
After the Israelites sinned in worshipping the golden calf, Moses went and prayed. God answered his prayer with the above promise of encouragement and comfort, thus reaffirming His care, His presence, and His provision. Repeatedly God restated His covenant commitments to His people Israel. Why? Simply because He recognized their tendency to doubt and fear.
The Godhead knows the absolute necessity of our being comforted. The Holy Spirit is appointed as the Comforter, the Paraclete. Paraclete means "one called to plead another's case or cause" or "one called alongside." John in his gospel account recorded Jesus' promise that the ministry of the Holy Spirit was to comfort and reaffirm:
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but you know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you."(John 14:16-18)
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to you remembrance, whatsoever I have said to you(John 14:26).
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me(John 15:26).
COMFORT AND REINFORCEMENT
Our faith does waver occasionally, does it not? Sometimes we feel spiritually sapped, weak, and begin to wonder if we have any faith left at all. Edgar Page Stites mirrored our diminished faith in these lyrics:
Simply trusting every day,
Trusting through a narrow way;
Even when my faith is small,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.
Trusting as the moments fly,
Trusting as the days go by;
Trusting Him whate'er befall,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.
Even when our faith is miniscule, the Holy Spirit is there to reinforce us. As Paul wrote to us in Romans 8:9-10, 14 the Comforter not only convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment; not only works to regenerate the repentant sinner; not only lives inside the believer; but also comforts us by reinforcing His witness within us. Romans 8:16 tells us that the Holy Spirit bears witness with our own spirit, that we are indeed the children of God. What else does the Spirit do?
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered...he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God(Romans 8:26-27).
Is it any wonder why Jesus Christ called His Holy Spirit the Comforter? Even when we are clueless as to what we should be praying for, or about, God's divinely given Comforter intercedes on our behalf and makes known to God the Father our needs.
That is all for today, my dear friends. I trust you have discovered some reassurance and comfort in this message. Next time I will write about comfort and restoration, and then move on to God's presence giving us courage. Until then, remember that you are dead to the Law, so that you may be married to Christ. Thus only shall you bring forth much holy fruit to the glory of God.
Sun, Apr 27th - 4:07PM
I AM NOT ALONE, PT. 1
Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. (John 16:32)
In the previous "I AM" posts I have presented several positive statements. Now I want you to consider a negative one that is just as important. The above statement from the gospel of John came right before His arrest on Thursday night of Passion Week. Jesus knew and understood the betrayal, the agony, the humiliation and the death that lay directly ahead of Him.
To the best of our human knowledge Jesus Christ has never truly been alone in His life. In heaven He was surrounded by the heavenly host, including the cherubim and the seraphim. As God, He was one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. On this earth He was born into a family, just as you and I are. Later on He was with various groups of disciples. Even during the temptation in the wilderness, angels ministered to Him. And Jesus was always in communion with His heavenly Father.
After the Last Supper and before He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus made the opening declaration of this post. Yet, less than 24 hours later, Jesus cried from the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"(Matthew 27"46) Was Jesus mistaken? Was He wrong in His declaration? Was this something that the Master had not foreseen?
The explanation comes from the distinction between fact and feeling. The fact is that no one can escape from the presence of God. Psalm 139:8-10 speaks to this issue for us. There is no eluding, no escaping the presence of an almighty God. The prophet Jonah learned of this fact the hard way. We may not ever be alone, but we most certainly can, and do, feel lonely at various times in our lives.
When Jesus uttered His cry of despair from on the cross, He knew that most of His family had already forsaken Him. The crowds were turned against Him and cried, "Crucify him! Cruscify him!" and all but one of His disciples had fled and hidden themselves away. Finally, as all of the sins of the entire world were laid on Him, He felt that even His heavenly Father had forsaken Him. For sure, God the Father did turn from Him as He actively bore all of our sins, but the Father never left Him alone.
Although we are well aware that some people are probably going to let us down, it hurts none the less when it does happen. We are living in a throw-away society in all manner of meaning. People throw away material things just to purchase newer stuff. People throw away relationships just because they have lasted too long. People throw away marriages because their spouse disappointed them, or because they meet someone else who makes them "feel" good. People throw away entire careers and lifestyles because they choose to self-medicate themselves with drugs. You see, a "throw-away" culture surrounds us. Perhaps a pastor or youth leader has disappointed you, has committed an atrocious sin. They turn away from all that you thought they held dearest and pursue a life of sin. It hurts emotionally when we experience these things.
Even worse, there may be times when we feel that even God has forsaken us. During these dark times the Word of God seems dull, prayer seems to be dried up. If we try to discover God in the beauty of nature, it may seem that creation only snarls back at us. Other people may tend to confuse us, circumstances threaten to crush us.
What to do? Even as we experience "the dark night of the soul" we must continue to cling to this never-changing truth: God is still there! Fact: He is still here now! God has not moved, we do. It is just like getting into your car, turning on the radio to your favorite local station before driving off for a long trip on the interstate. After awhile you will lose reception of the radio signal. The radio station never moved, you did. The station never stopped broadcasting, you simply could not hear it any longer. This is what happens when we decide to walk through life on our own, never relying upon God to guide us on our way. At the outset we may hear God strongly and loud for we are close to where He is. After awhile His voice becomes fainter for we no longer are walking along the path that He is on, we are on a path of our own choosing. Still later, we find one day that we cannot find God anywhere in our lives, we have lost Him.
At these points in our lives it becomes increasingly difficult to find our way back to God for sin enters into the picture and blocks our sensitivity to His presence. Sin always creates a barrier between us and God; it distances us from His presence. God is still right where He always has been, it is we who have spiritually moved away from Him. An example of this can be seen in Isaiah 59:1-2. Of course, the entire story covers much more scripture than just those two verses.
Sin may disrupt our ability to feel God's presence, but the fact remains that He is always near to us. Therefore, we are never alone when we are in Christ.
I will stop there for today, beloved. Next time I wish to write some things about how Christ's presence gives us comfort. Until then, may the peace and grace of God be with you all.
Fri, Apr 25th - 11:47AM
I AM THE TRUE VINE, PT. 6
Sometimes I wonder, "Where am I in relation to my Lord?" Do you? If so, measure your cup of joy. As we join Him in seeking the lost so that He can save them, we are abundantly blessed with His joy. Our nature as Christians must be to lead others to the Savior, for our motivation ought to be to spread the good news that has transformed our lives.
Physically we are built to show the principle of joining Jesus in the labor of sharing the news of salvation. Our two hands symbolize that with one hand we receive salvation from Christ, and with the other hand we are to reach out to help save another person. We are to "rescue the perishing, care for the dying, snatch them from sin and the grave." None of this is optional for followers of Christ. We are to glorify God by bringing forth much fruit: "Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be my disciples"(John 15:8). The fruit must be sharing the news of salvation with all whom we can.
Our joy, which is full and fruitful, unites into a final, never-ending rejoicing of our work with Christ. I mean here that this joy extends from our current life over into eternity with God the Father. As I pointed out earlier, our fruit is in our inner life coming from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the proof that we are His and He is ours; He is an earnest, a seal. "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption"(Ephesians 4:30).
Our fruit is also in our outer lives for our purpose will be incomplete without winning others to Christ. What joy in helping another person to be born again. How can we be unhappy when we work towards such ends?
Abiding and abounding seem to always run together. Jesus declared, "...I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly"(John 10:10). If you and I abide in His Word, we will abound in His work. If you and I abide in His law, we will abound in His love. And if you and I abide in His job, we will abound in His joy. You and I must remember Psalm 126:6.
That completes my posts on this topic. I know it is much shorter than most of my posts but it is Friday after all. Next time, beloved, I will begin a series of posts on Jesus' statement: "I AM NOT ALONE." Until then, abide in God's Word, abide in His law, abide in His love, and abide in His work.
Thu, Apr 24th - 12:46PM
I AM THE TRUE VINE, PT. 5
Disobedience indicates a lack of love. Picking our way over God's would indicate that we love ourselves more then Him. Each time that a professing Christian is disobedient, it hoists a red flag, a question mark, over the genuineness of their faith. Love is the first of "the fruit of the Holy Spirit" which He plants in us when we abide in the True Vine. The King James Version lists them as "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance..."(Galatians 5:22-23).
"If you keep my commandments," Jesus Christ advised His disciples, "you shall abide in My love" (John 15:10). Only as much as we obey Christ can we abide in His law and abound in His love. "You are My friends, if you do what I command you"(John 15:14). Doing what Jesus commands brings His special merit or commendation. Frequently we refer to ourselves as "servants" or "slaves" or "bondservants." These are all legitimate NT terminology but Christ has "terms of endearment" reserved for those who obey Him: "No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you"(John 15:15).
We clearly show our love for Christ each time that we do what He says. Mary, Jesus' mother, left us a one line sermon on this entire matter: "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it"(John 2:5). The waiters at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee did what He said to do, and Christ performed the first miracle of His ministry.
Our lack of love shows itself each and every time we choose to not do things God's way, when we maltreat those around us with words of abuse or strike out in anger at each other. Choosing to handle something through our own efforts usually proves our lack of love for God and our shallowness of trust in Christ. As always, our actions speak volumes about where our hearts are.
ABIDE IN MY JOB---ABOUND IN MY JOY
Listen to John 15:11: "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain(abide) in you, and that your joy might be full." Although Jesus had to endure the agony of the cross, He was joyous in His nature. He not only spoke about joy, He lived it to the fullest. If He had been a sourpuss, who would have wanted to follow Him?
Jesus Christ's joy can become ours, see in this verse: "Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be made full" (Johm 16:24). Notice that He says that we will receive, not might receive, joy to the fullest. I like that part! What was Jesus' greatest joy? Undoubtedly it was in saving that which was lost, was sick. He said as much to Zaccheus at Jericho: "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). Luke 15:5 gives a description of how Christ feels each and every time that He finds and saves "a lost sheep." And even while faced with ultimate suffering upon the cross, Hebrews 12:2 tells us that He chose to endure the cross because of the joy that was set before Him. The joy of knowing that redemption was near for all who would believe.
Joy is repeatedly united to the fruit of salvation. "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him"(Psalm 126:5-6).
Our source of joy also comes from bearing fruit for our Lord and Master. The deeper we enter into working alongside Christ the more joy that we shall experience.
That is all for now, beloved. Next time I shall continue this discussion of fruitful joy. Until then, walk in the Light, avoid the Darkness. Avoid all appearance of doing questionable things, in this way preserving your reputation and testimony before others.
Wed, Apr 23rd - 12:55PM
I AM THE TRUE VINE, PT. 4
The heart of the promise in I John 5:14 and in Matthew 21:22 is bound up in the words according to his will and in believing. The implication is that the pray-er is coming to God from a standpoint of genuine, saving faith. It also means that the pray-er, through the intercession of the Holy Spirit, should believe that God is going to answer the pray-er. It also implies that the pray-er will pray for God's good and acceptable and perfect will in all matters.
If we do not have a clue as to how to begin praying to God, then it is the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, who is there to help us to pray according to God's will. We can find in Romans 8:27 evidence of this: "And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God." God's Holy Spirit will never assist us in praying contrary to God's will and the Way of Christ.
As we yield ourselves to the Lord, He can entrust each of us with more and more of His work. If we want to be ministers and servants of the Living God, we must first abide: live, stay, be rooted and grounded in His Word. Once this happens then we can abound in His work.
ABIDE IN MY LOVE
Did Jesus instruct us to just abide in His law? No, He instructed us in John 15:10 to also abide in His love. One quite ridiculous philosophy that arose from out of the movies was the idea that "Love means never having to say you are sorry." That little gem comes from "Love Story" and is the opposite of what actually is true. To maintain loving relationships both parties must continually be ready to ask for forgiveness, and to give forgiveness. If we stop and think at all about this we realize that all of the important love relationships; husband and wife, parent and child, intimate friends; have guidelines and rules that we must fulfill. Skyrocketing divorce rates result from people ignoring commitments and vows, which are rules.
So then, love means being able to say we are sorry, otherwise we are lacking in the selflessness that is part and parcel of genuine love. Can there be real love with an absence of a certain amount of obedience and submission? I am not going to digress into covering a subject that requires its own set of posts to cover adequately. We ought to be ever mindful of our loved one's feelings, wishes, and needs. In this way we conform to the law of love given down by God.
How can we have such unselfish love? We can turn our eyes to Jesus Christ. He is the personification, the embodiment, of true love. He demonstrated the love of God by being obedient unto death upon that cross at Calvary. We could look at Matthew 3:17 and 17:5 to see how pleased God the Father was with Jesus the Son. Christ demonstrated love for the Father and love for mankind when He allowed Himself to be crucifed for our sins.
As bad as this world is today, it would utterly destroy itself without the love of God. Without God's love, there would be no compassion, no concern, no pity, no decency, no humane impulses. Civilization would be reduced to a hellish chaos. Without John 3:16 telling us: "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son" we would all be awaiting only the prospect of pitch-black annihilation. But with that verse paired up with Romans 5:8 we rejoice: "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
Since Jesus is the True Vine and believers are His branches, we are to assume His qualities. In Galatians 5:22-23 can be seen the qualities that ought to begin showing up in our lives: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." In this post I am emphasizing the very first fruit for without it, how can any of the others begin to show themselves? If you doubt what I am saying simply read I Corinthians 13:13 and ponder what that verse says.
I will stop there for today, beloved. Next time I surely will get to some words concerning lack of love and then a little bit about joy. Until then, have a song on your lips always. Tend to your inner garden, cultivate out the weeds threatening to choke out the desired growth of your relationship with Christ.
Tue, Apr 22nd - 1:04PM
I AM THE TRUE VINE, PT. 3
When we are born again into God's family, we are to abide in Jesus' Word. We are to become partners with Jesus Christ. His thoughts become our thoughts. Kinda of like being a Vulcan, eh? Sorry, a little Star Trek humor. We have increasing spiritual intimacy as we become more and more aware of the extent of our relationship with Christ. As our thoughts become molded by His thoughts, then His desires become our desires, and His will becomes our will, creating a new person in which the two are barely distinguishable, one from the other. Jesus' perfect will is superimposed over ours and His work becomes our work. The reason that we can ask anything of Christ is that through abiding in His Word we have reached the point where we want exactly what He wants.
Augustine purportedly advised people to "love God and do what you like." Now that sounds simplistic and perhaps even contradictory. But let's stop and think about it for a minute. His statement is actually all about Christian liberty and obedience. When I am "in Christ" and abiding in Him, I most certainly can love God and then do precisely what I like, because I am thinking along the exact same lines as Christ. This "partnership" originates from a communion that is extremely close, intimate.
So how can this partnership become active in my life as a Christian? It's a logical question, considering all that we have seen thus far. Through the life-changing energy of the indwelling Christ. "...Christ liveth in me," wrote Paul, "and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). As God's Holy Spirit works within me, and as I am able to abide in Christ, changes take place in my heart which makes changes in my attiutudes and actions. We must always make the initial changes within our hearts and then witness the changes that happen outwardly. Outward, superficial changes never change the heart and never are lasting in nature.
Now, we are branches of the True Vine that incorporate the characteristics of the True Vine. There is a NT scripture that speaks about Jesus Christ being engrafted into us. If anyone could find it and post it in the comments section I would appreciate it immensely! But that picture of Him being engrafted into us is a husbandry type of analogy. We graft desired apple stock onto "wild" apple rootstock and then we receive much desireable fruit from the resulting tree that grows from it. In the same fashion I believe that God wants us to see how He will work His will out through our lives. The good fruit that He wants from us comes from that part of us that is grown from out of His "stock", which is Jesus Christ dwelling within us. Much fruit is desireable, or so I am told by the bible.
Our true character in Christ can be manifested: "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he..." (Proverbs 23:7). Or as in this passage: "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee" (Psalm 119:111). It is a combination of the Living Word, Christ, and the written Word, having a powerful, forceful, push in our remaining in Christ.
Abing in Christ means that we must be pray-ers, reaching a place where our very selves become living, breathing prayers to God. Alex Carrel, French surgeon and biologist, wrote that prayer is: "the most powerful form of energy one can generate. The influence of prayer on the human mind and body is as demonstable as that of the secreting glands. It supplies us with a flow of sustaining power in our daily lives."
What is a key to prayers being answered? I mean, if this tremendous form of energy that I can tap into can change lives, then I want to be sure that my prayers will be answered. I John 5:14 says this to us: "And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us." So I must pray according to His will. See how this part becomes much easier once I abide in Christ? If I am being internally changed by Christ then my thoughts are to do His will, not do my will. My prayer life becomes much easier for I will be asking things that are God's desire already.
I will stop there for today, beloved. Next time I will continue with thoughts on the law of love and how much latitude we have in loving others. Until then, may you be blessed by Christ, by the Father, and by the Holy Spirit.
Mon, Apr 21st - 9:47PM
I AM THE TRUE VINE, PT. 2
In John 15:7-8 we are introduced to a concept of abiding in Jesus' word and to abounding in His work: "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done to you. Herein is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be My disciples."
Have you ever received a blank check? Every believer has been given a spiritual blank check, signed and delivered by Jesus Christ Himself. How can Jesus make such a bequest, such a blanket promise? Surely there are restrictions? No, there are no limitations. All the fullness of God is in Jesus Christ. He is God, who withholds no good thing from those who love Him with all of their hearts.
God can make such a huge promise because it comes to us in the context of our "abiding." Like conversion, abiding comes by trusting, not by trying to achieve it by our efforts. As His Word cleanses us, molds and shapes us, we can trust God that His life is flowing through us like clean, clear, spring water. His life flows through us like the sap of a vine does in nourishing its branches.
Notice here only a sprinkling of the promises bequeathed to those who are the branches of the True Vine:
"The Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself, as He swore to you, if you will keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and walk in His ways"(Deuteronomy 28:9).
"This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success"(Joshua 1:8).
"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want"(Psalm 23:1).
"Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities; Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit; who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; Who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle"(Psalm 103:2-5).
"Give us this day our daily bread"(Matthew 6:11).
"And He said to His disciples, "For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. For life is more than food, and the body than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; and they have no storeroom nor barn; and yet god feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!...But seek for His Kingdom, and these things shall be added to you"(Luke 12:22-24, NASB).
"But just as it is written, "Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love him"(I Corinthians 2:9).
Now there is a group of promises that we can rest assured in! None of us ought to be anxious over anything. My wife and I lay claim to that promise! With our household expanding from three people to five people last November, to now eight people living under our roof, we really need to lean heavily upon Jesus Christ's promises given freely to us. None of us ought to spend much time concerning ourselves with how we will look out in public. Make ourselves presentable, yes. Try to impress others with how fashionable we are is a mistake.
That is all for tonight, my friends. I hope and pray that some of these verses are able to spiritually lift you up, get you back on your feet, and move you towards becoming re-engaged in the race. We run a marathon Christian brothers and sisters. Let's begin training ourselves like we really desire to finish the race, not remain out of shape and easily tired.
Sun, Apr 20th - 5:11PM
I AM THE TRUE VINE, PT. 1
On Thursday night of the Passion Week, Jesus Christ identified Himself as "the true vine"(John 15:1). It was extremely hard for the Jewish people to comprehend and accept these claims by Jesus. They had always thought of nation Israel as "the vine."
The last words written in John 14:31 did set the stage for what happened afterwards. "Arise, let us go hence" shows that Jesus and His disciples left the upper room where they observed the Passover and had their Last Supper together. John 18:1 reports that they crossed the Brook Kidron on their way to the Mount of Olives. Question. Where had they been in the meantime?
It seems reasonable to believe that Jesus and His disciples may have passed by the temple which was open at night during the Passover. The sight of the golden vine embroidered on the great veil in front of the Holy of Holies, or perhaps the sculptured golden vine on the temple gate, could have stimulated Jesus' observation: "I am the true vine." If so, this entire episode seems to gain added significance.
Now if He called Himself the true vine, that nation Israel was "a vine," He was of necessity implying that there had to be a "false vine." So who or what was the false vine?
In review, Jesus had already declared Himself as "the way, the truth, and the life." He had already called Himself the true Bread, even superior to the manna in the wilderness. He had already referred to Himself as the Good Shepherd, in contrast to the false shepherds, like the Jewish priests. The vine was a familiar symbol of the nation Israel. In Psalm 80:8 it had been read: "Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it."
In Isaiah 5:7 God wrote: "For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant..." Hosea 10:1 gives us a picture of an empty vine: "Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself..." God also spoke of this in Jeremiah 2:21: "Yet I had planted thee a noble veine, wholly a right seed, how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?" This vine analogy was being used to show the nature desired by God for the children of Israel.
After Israel-the-vine had been uprooted during the 70 year Babylonian captivity, the prophet Ezekiel used the vine as a symbol of the nation being transplanted by a great eagle: "Thus saith the Lord God: A great eagle with great wings...cropped off the top of his young twigs...he took also of the seed of the land, and planted it in a fruitful field...And it grew, and became a spreading vine of low stature...so it became a vine, and brought forth branches, and shot forth sprigs"(Ezekiel 17:3-6>
In such references as this one, Israel is pictured as decaying and degenerating; as having become a fruitless and strange plant. The nation that had grown phenomonally from the seed of Abraham did not fulfill God's intended purpose. In these instances we can only conclude that Israel must be the false vine spoken of.
Since Jesus Christ is the True Vine, our relationship with God must be personal and individual, rather than national, cultural, social, or genealogical. The nation of Israel had not lived up to its intended purpose. An unfulfilled purpose is a dreadful tragedy whether for an individual, a family, or a nation. Each of us has implanted in us a sense of destiny.
For years Leo Tolstoy searched for an answer to "What is the purpose of life?" After asking scores of scholars and academics, he decided to ask a peasant. The peasant's answer? "To serve God." This became his passion for the rest of his life.
W. H. Griffith-Thomas wrote that Jesus issued four specific invitations to everyone. As our Saviour He called, "Come unto Me." As our Teacher He instructed, "Learn of Me." As our Master He demanded, "Follow Me." And as our Life He requested, "Abide in Me." And here is where we as Christians are to spend the rest of our lives, abiding in Jesus Christ, the True Vine.
Stephen Olford stated: "Before there can be communion, there must be union. Union is the acceptance of Christ, and communion continues by reliance on Christ."-
That's all for today, beloved. Next time we will look at abiding in His Word and abounding in His Work. Until then, seek union with Christ if you have not already done so. If you already have union with Christ, then diligently seek to rely completely upon Christ each and every day.
Sat, Apr 19th - 8:52PM
I AM THE WAY, PT. 4
What is our way home? God's foresight for our restoration to him was accomplished by Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross at Calvary. As we receive the benefits of the cross, God's Way becomes our way. We are forgiven for past sins, including our sin of rebellion against God: our unbelief in Him. We are reconciled to God. We are fully accepted by Him.
In the Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico, there are places on the trail where salt pits lie on either side of the main path. The guides warn everyone to stay on the marked path because the salt acts just like quicksand. A person straying off of the path might become engulfed immediately and get sucked down into the pit. The recommended path of life is straight and narrow, and one must follow the path carefully to be safe from danger. We must realize that Jesus is both the Pathfinder and the Path. He is the only avenue to God, and He is God!
THE WAY IS PURPOSEFUL
"I am the way." The Way is purposeful. Jesus indicates that He leads us somewhere, that He will take us where we really want to go. At the moment one of us trusts Jesus as our Lord and Savior, life becomes purposeful.
Aside from being the Way of God, Jesus is also the Way to God. Romans 5:2 states that by faith we have access to God: "By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God."
When Jesus died on the cross, the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom. Before then, only the high priest could enter the place called the Holy of Holies, which represented the earthly presence of God among His people. Only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, was the high priest allowed access. Now, through Jesus, we may all approach God without other intermediaries. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (I Timothy 2:5).
Paul wrote: "For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father"(Ephesians 2:18). Hebrews 4:14, 16 also expresses this idea quite well: "Seeing then that we have a great high priest...Jesus the Son of God...Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
All of mankind's longings and searchings have been focused on finding the ultimate reality. Man has been, and still is, looking for God. Jesus, as the Light of the World brings the light for our path, and the enlightenment for our minds. Psalm 119:105 speaks of how God's word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.
All of us spend our lifetimes seeking for things that give us inner satisfaction. What most are actually searching for, and are never aware of it, is a sense of approval from God and a secure feeling that all is well with their souls.
Many pastors rely upon the phrase, "Christ is the answer" for every need. That is good. But He is the answer to what, exactly? How about: "Is there life after death?" "Is there really a god?" "If so, does He care about me?" "What kind of God is he?" "How can I relate to this God?" "What does God expect of me?" "What may I expect of him?"
Because Jesus is the road that leads us to the heavenly city, we can join in and joyfully sing:
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of his Spirit, washed in his blood.
Fanny J. Crosby
And so those who are not on the Way of Jesus Christ are simply building roads to oblivion, to death and destruction. He not only is the Way, He leads the way and is with us always as we travel on this journey. So I guess that we need to ask ourselves these questions: Are we on the Way? Or are we in the way of others who are finding the way? Are we off the way? In the words of Robert Burdette: There is no way in the starless night; There is naught but cloud in the inky skies; The black night smothers me left and right, I stare with a bling man's straining eyes. But my steps are firm, for I cannot stray; The path to my feet seems light and wide; For I hear his voice--"I am the Way!" And I sing as I follow Him on--my Guide.
Well, my friends, that concludes these posts on Jesus as the Way. Next time I will write about Jesus Christ as the True Vine. This was one "I Am" statement of His that the Jewish people had difficulty understanding since they accepted the concept of the vine being nation Israel. Until then, study God's Word to show yourself approved of God, a good steward of His Gospel. Be of a cheerful spirit, extending your hand of friendship to all brothers and sisters in Christ.
Fri, Apr 18th - 1:27PM
I AM THE WAY, PT. 3
In John 14:6 there is implied that Jesus' Way is a living way. What is a "living way?" It is dynamic, it continues to move ahead and make progress. It is not artificial, pumped-up activism, but instead it is an adventurous quality of faith that occurs naturally with the believer who is in the Way. Of course, this is all in opposition to death and destruction which are the end results of unrepentent sin.
Why is there life? Only because of Christ, the Living Way. Now, this Way can also cause some divine discontent within the believer's heart as they mature in faith. We could call it a longing. Believers in Christ cannot be satisfied with the status quo. We must be moving onward, forward, in our efforts to follow Christ. Stagnation is not what Jesus speaks to us about in scripture, rather He speaks to us about change happening continually within our lives. God wants each of us to ask Him to plant our feet on Higher ground, holy ground. He desires for us to ask Him to assist us in reaching a higher spiritual plane of existence.
But with this longing we can fall into a couple of traps that can cause immense grief. First, we can run ahead of God. Like Peter the apostle we try to run ahead of God's plans, especially when we see trouble and problems on the horizon. Anxiously and frantically we try to control tomorrow and make it part of today. At this point we can become impatient and stubborn, not wanting to wait on the Lord. Due to our unstable feelings we then often want all of the answers right here and now. At these times we need to remember Jesus' words: "Take therefore no thought for the morrow...Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof"(Matthew 6:34). Our self-will causes worry, robbing us of the peace God has already promised to us.
The second trap is lagging behind God. This happens when we stumble and fall, and then fail to get back up again. We remain down. Going with God means that when we fall down we allow Him to pick us back up and then we move on with Him. There is no time for a "pity party" where we can wail "oh, poor me!" Lagging behind God only intensifies our feelings of guilt, and guilt robs us of the joy God has already promised to us.
Saints of Christ are to walk in His footsteps and stay close to Him. We are to adhere to His will, follow His Way. If we are not walking with Him at this moment, then we are stagnant, unchanging, and in danger of falling and remaining down and out.
THE WAY IS PARTICULAR
How many ways can there be to heaven and eternal life? Jesus Christ emphasized the article the, not only by declaring that He was the way, but also by adding the phrase, "No man cometh to the Father, but by me." This makes the way of Jesus as being very particular.
Fundamentalist preachers frequently are criticized for being dogmatic in teaching that Christ is the only door to heaven and eternal life, but the preachers are simply repeating exactly what Jesus Christ Himself taught! They maintain that these preachers are being intolerant of others. So be it. The truth is the truth no matter who says that it isn't.
Peter was dogmatic when speaking with the rulers, elders, and scribes. Acts 4:12 records his exact words to them. Tradition says that when Buddha lay dying he said to his followers: "Save yourselves. Follow the noble eight-fold path." Jesus Christ had a much more clearly spelled out mission for entering this world: "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost"(Luke 19:10). I was lost, Jesus Christ found me and saved me, a sinner. Forget about Buddha. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke to us about two ways presented for our choice. The true believer can opt for only one. The Way is straight and narrow. By the world's standards it seems extremely difficult. But it alone provides genuine peace and satisfaction to the soul of man.
In contrast to the way, every other way is full of confusion. Proverbs warns that certain ways that may seem right are not: "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death"(14:12). Folks, we are living in a 21st century Babel where many "teachers" are preaching that all roads lead to God and that all religions are the same. That all of us are part of God and are gods ourselves. Is it surprising that so many people are confused? That so many treat others around them as if they are gods, that they can do whatever they choose to others.
Sincerity is simply not enough. Sincerely wishing to end someone else's pain and suffering. Sincerely wishing their children to do what they never had a chance to do. Many ways seem right, but they only lead to spiritual death. One sobering fact in this is that although we cannot save ourselves, we surely can destroy ourselves; mentally, physically, and spiritually. Isaiah spoke about this aspect in his writings: "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all"(Isaiah 53:6). We have all gone wandering away from God and THAT caused God to lay our sins on Christ.
That is all for today, my friends. Next time I will write about what is our way home. Also, we will see that the Way is purposeful and not meandering about. Until then, remember that the Way of the Cross leads us home! Hallelujah!
Thu, Apr 17th - 12:38PM
I AM THE WAY, PT 2.
In the early days of African exploration, maps were not yet made for many vast, uncharted areas. More than one group of panicky European explorers reached the end of mapped territory. No more known landmarks, no more known trails. "How will we know the way to go?" they asked. That is when their African guide spoke up, "I am the way from here on!"
I know that I have gotten complex instructions on how to get to a certain place. I was not too sure I would get there without getting lost completely. What a relief when someone has volunteered, "Look, I've already been there myself. I'll show you the way." How much better by far is it when someone can show us the way rather than just telling us how to get there. And so it is with our quest for the way to life, we can hear Jesus reassuring us: "I am the Way. I will lead you there, follow Me."
DIVERSIONS ALONG THE WAY
Along the road of life are all sorts of diversions from the Christian way of life. Joining a church does not guarantee to save us from any of them. I freely admit, associating with a Bible-believing, gospel-preaching church is not "optional" for a genuine follower of Jesus Christ.
Yet, the Christian life/way is not necessarily institutional or organizational. Nor it it essentially doctrinal. Sincerity alone is not a criterion for being a Christian. As the saying goes, "One can be sincere but sincerely wrong." Adhering to biblical doctrine is crucial and yet people can have the most orthodox knowledge in the entire world and still be without Christ in their hearts. James 2:19 notes for us that: "the devils also believe, and tremble" yet they cannot become heirs of salvation.
Neither is Christianity primarily ethical or moral. Naturally, if someone is genuinely saved, belief will make a difference in their behavior. One cannot long continue to live a sinfully, wicked life and reasonably claim to be a Christian. There can also be a difference between being "a gentleman" and being a Christian---a vast difference!
A person may have emotional experiences of sorrow and regret without being saved. Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of the Way, is a prime example. "Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, 'I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.' But they said, 'What is that to us? See to that yourself!"(Matthew 27:3-4)
Upon hearing the gospel, a person can experience a certain amount of happiness and yet not be a Christian. Jesus spoke about just such people in Matthew 13:20-21.
Christianity is based on a person, not on programs, doctrines, standards, or mystical experiences. Paul wrote down, "I know whom I have believed," not what he believed. Jesus Christ came to personally end our isolation, our alienation, and lead us individually into heaven.
"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth"(John 1:14). I will point out once again that the word translated as dwelt from the Greek literally means "tabernacled" or "pitched one's tent." This should send some of you back to study about the Tabernacle in the Wilderness and how that relates to our lives today. I have a series of posts here on this blog that discuss this topic. God personally entered earthly existence as a flesh-and-blood person so that He could pitch His tent among us.
THE WAY IS PROGRESSIVE
Since "am" is in the present tense, it implies that the action is...
The expectation of the Christian walk is forward movement, not marking time on a spiritual treadmill. In Christ there is a definite beginning to the Christian Way, then a traveling along that Way through life. There is no ending, no off-ramp. With God there is only "the eternal present."
I will stop here for today. Next time, beloved, I will resume with some words about the Way being a living way and then begin writing about this way being particular in nature. Until then, do not worry about tomorrow for there are enough things to concern us today. Ask for God's limitless peace to flood your mind and soul today, relaxing in His Promises.
Wed, Apr 16th - 12:56PM
I AM THE WAY, PT. 1
Some theologians, after just over 2,000 years of Christain history, still argue that Jesus Christ never claimed either to be God or the one and only Son of God. Yet, if we attempt to deny that He made those claims, we must either be ignorant in reading comprehension or simply be manufacturing ways to deny the accuracy of the Gospels.
If you have followed along with all of my posts this far, you are well aware of my love and devotion to Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. If Jesus Christ was not what he claimed to be-that is, God incarnate, the Son of God, the Messiah of Israel- then he was either a brazen liar or a religious madman and not worthy of any consideration as a teacher or philosopher. We could not state that Jesus was a good man, a great moral teacher, or a prophet of God. None of those claims would logically hold any water, so to speak. He would either be a crazy man or a liar of the highest magnitude.
"Who is Jesus?" we ask yet again. Let Him answer this time: "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." Those are all-encompassing statements to make. What did He mean? "The way" speaks of a destination. It is a path that we can follow in a specific direction to a definite destination without meeting up with insurmountable obstacles. "The truth" is a standard of accuracy, a yardstick by which we can measure rightness. "The life" indicates a Godward aspect, for all life comes from God. He is the energy source that moves us forward in life. So, according to His own words, Jesus is the conveyor from God Almighty of the way to heaven, divine truth, and life, both physical and spiritual. What a package deal!
We adults ask, "Where did God come from?" "How can God be everywhere at the same time?" "Why does God let bad things happen?" Like children, we are curious. Or let me say, we adults ought to still be curious. We ought to want some answers. The four year-old child always asks, "Why?" Adults ought to be asking the exact same question more often.
Aristotle observed, "All men desire by nature to know." As Jesus confided in His disciples that Passover night of the Passion Week, we observe that He was constantly interrupted by their questions. They desired to know. Peter interrupted with a question about going: "Lord, whither goest thou?"(John 13:36). Jesus answered his question by telling them that where He was about to go they could not follow, at that time. He also gave them assurance that He would return for them so that they could be with Him.
Thomas interrupted with: "Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?"(John 14:5). Bless his heart! That is the profoundest probe of the human heart even today---how to find the path to God. Jesus responded with "I am the way!"
Philip interrupted with: "Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us"(John 14:8). Jesus answered him with: "...he that hath seen me hath seen the Father...". Judas interrupted Him with: "Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?"(John 14:22). Jesus replied to him with: "If a man love me, he will keep my words...the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me>"
Using all of these questions put to Him, Jesus summarized all He had tried to teach them for three years: I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE. It is unimportant if we feel that we have all of the answers, it is very important that we have the answer: Jesus Christ who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Spiritually speaking, our world today is a modern-day Tower of Babel. There are at least 300 denominations in the United States alone. There are hundreds of cults and isms. All aimed at confusing and confounding the public. Add to this teachers who maintain that there are many ways to God: nature, sacraments and rituals, good works, improvement of the environment, artistic appreciation. But in truth, all of these ways are vain attempts to enter into the fold of God by a means other than through the door.
I AM THE WAY----THE WAY IS PERSONAL
How many of you refer to Jesus Christ as your personal Savior? He ought to your personal Redeemer and Savior for as soon as you accept Him, and receive Him, you have entered into an intimate relationship with God. Jesus as the Way is not a nebulous concept nor an impersonal Deism. He is closer than the air that we inhale with every breath and the blood that courses through our heart and circulatory system.
In the original Greek the personal pronoun "I" emphasizes the speaker. Jesus does not teach the way---He is the way. Others may teach about a "way" that they think leads to heaven, but they do not claim to be "the way." Jesus' characteristic call to us is not "Learn from Me," but rather "Follow me." He is the Way.
That is all for today, beloved. Next time I will finish up with the personal aspect of the Way. Until then, serve God and others cheerfully, doing all things as if doing them for God in person!
Tue, Apr 15th - 12:15PM
I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD, PT. 3
Since Jesus is the Deity, and the Great Shepherd, and the Chief Shepherd, he also has authority and offers us security. A good shepherd conscientiously guards his flock. Since sheep are among the most awkward and helpless animals known, a shepherd must work unceasingly on behalf of his sheep. Most hired workers would labor on their own behalf-for their wages only. But an owner-shepherd would even risk his own life for the security of his flock. Jesus-the Good Shepherd-said, "I lay down my life for my sheep." Jesus Christ is the owner-shepherd of His sheep, and they are all believers in Him.
SAFETY FOR THE SHEEP
How could we ask for more from God? Jesus Christ has already laid down His life for us. Jesus has paid it all, all to Him we owe. The question again becomes, "Am I willing to turn over my entire life to God?" Because of His sacrifice, each of us has security and safety.
Jesus protects us in the emergencies of life, as well as in the extremities of death. We can rely upon Him, secure in the knowledge that He will never turn His back upon us. Jesus calmed the winds and the seas for His disciples by merely speaking, and He can also calm our own chaotic lives, our own troubled souls, giving to us internal peace and tranquility. This is what He offers to us in Philippians 4:7. Or how about the assurances given to us in John 10:27-30 where Jesus states that no one is greater than the Father, no one is able to snatch us from out of His protection. That ought to give each of us tons of confidence to face each and every day!
SUSTENANCE FOR THE SHEEP
We are not only kept by His power, but when we are weak, He restores our souls. We are protected from the innumerable dangers that might befall us. Not that He will sweep all dangers away from us, that we might live unchallenged lives. No, He allows us to expereience the dangers so that we will mature in faith and grace. Psalm 23 again comes to mind: "I will fear no evil." Even if He does not stop hurts from striking us, He soothes and heals the wounds quickly afterwards.
It is amazing that Christians are so disillusioned about the character of God and ask the age-old question: "If God is so good, how can He allow all of this evil to run rampant in our world?" We must rest in the truth that the good God of the universe, as revealed to us in the Lord Jesus Christ, creates no evil. Yet He chooses to grant free will to mankind, which continues to kill, hate, wage war, and commit abuses of every imaginable kind. Do we believe in how things appear to be, or do we believe in how things actually are? Do we believe in God's truth, or do we believe in Satan's lie?
Well, beloved, Jesus Christ is Deity. He is "Immanuel"-God incarnate. He laid down His life for His sheep. He picked it up again in miraculous resurrection so that we could have eternal salvation, eternal security. We also have His promise that we shall participate in the resurrection, living in His care for all of eternity.
Saviour, like a shepherd lead us, Much we need thy tender care; In thy pleasant pastures feed us, For our use thy folds prepare:
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, Thou has bought us, thine we are; Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, Thou hast bought us, thine we are.
-Dorothy A. Thrupp
Recognize that hymmal? What a beautiful phrasing of what we have just studied. That finishes up this topic and next time I will begin posts on Jesus as the Way. There are four major points to this: Personal, Progressive, Particular, and Purposeful. I guess you could say it is all about the four P's. Until then, remember from in Romans 8 that the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made us free from the law of sin and death!
Mon, Apr 14th - 12:51PM
I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD, PT. 2
" That great shepherd" found in Hebrews implies Jesus' deity as the obedient Son of God. The great men of Israel were at times likened to shepherds because they tended God's people, His flock. They oversaw, protected them, and interceded before God on their behalf.
Abraham was one of many shepherd-patriarchs. He was basically a nomadic shepherd all of his days. He was revered among the Israelites as the ideal shepherd-leader, a "father of the faithful."
Moses was a shepherd during the middle years of his life. As he had defended and protected his sheep in Midian, so would he deliver God's people from bondage and oppression in Egypt.
Then we come to David who is known as a shepherd-king. As a youth he tended to his father's flocks of sheep. We can find in I Samuel that David protected his father's sheep and cared for them consistently. He had proven his bravery and sensitivity. Perhaps he even composed some of the Psalms during this part of his life. He was chosen by God to defeat Goliath and to later become king over all Israel. David played his harp to soothe King Saul's moodiness (I Samuel 16).
Now the Israelites were thoroughly surrounded by pagan cultures, many of whose gods were compared to shepherds. Anubis of Egypt, Attis of Asia Minor, Marduk of Babylon, and Baal of Phrygia. The Greek hero who was raised to deity, Agamemnon, was also a shepherd. Zarathustra, founder of the Persian religion and himself later an object of worship, was a shepherd.
When Jesus referred to Himself as "the good shepherd," had in mind infinitely more than being one among many such deities. He was and is the divinely appointed Great Shepherd, God incarnate, very God, the Deity. In the Old Testament, God Himself is viewed as a shepherd. Some 80 times in the bible God is referred to as the shepherd of Israel. The 23rd Psalm begins with this phrase and then goes on to descibe the Great Shepherd's care for His sheep. Isaiah pictured this comforting and consoling concept: "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young(40:11)." To Ezekiel, God compared Himself to a shepherd: "For thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out...And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord God(34:11, 31)."
The Jewish leaders fully understood that He was claiming deity for Himself as the God of Israel. John 10:11-18 tells us today that Jesus Christ was not just a shepherd. He was the Great Shepherd who not only laid down His life, but as God exercised the power to take that life up again. That miracle alone is enough to validate any claim Jesus made to deity, and to being the shepherd of His the sheep who are His people.
Jesus Christ is also the Chief Shepherd. Since He is God-man, He posesses all the authority of God. This was assured to the eleven disciples before He ascended to heaven: "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth(Matthew 28:18)." Immediately after this He began to issue the Great Commission to His disciples.
Chief Shepherd was used by Peter in speaking of Christ's second coming. "And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away(I Peter 5:4)." This picture obviously remained with Peter from his many conversations with our Lord. This picture also was melded with the pictures of Christ being like a bridegroom coming for His bride, and like a king returning to check on His subjects' use of His capital. It was made plain that His return would usher in judgment of the wicked and unbelieving(Matthew 25:31-33).
This passage in Matthew pictures separation taking place. Even today, this process of separation is a common practise among Middle Eastern shepherds. A shepherd is actively involved in separating goats from his sheep and so too shall Christ be actively involved in that process. Does Jesus intend to exclude certain people? No, He does not intend exclusion of anyone. He has provided us with the means to enter into heaven, it is up to each of us to choose which way to go(II Peter 3:9).
Those of us who refuse to receive Jesus Christ are indeed separated for judgment: "...but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil(John 3:18b-19).
"...he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him(John 3:36b).
"And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ(II Thessalonians 1:7-8).
Clearly, those who reject Jesus Christ's offer of salvation exclude themselves. By their willful act they shut themselves out of the kingdom of God. All must choose wisely then. We have no other path in front of us. Choose Christ or choose Satan. The question always boils down to this: "What will I do with Jesus Christ?"
If we choose the Great Shepherd, we are the sheep of God in an indestructible relationship. You have infinite value to God, for He feels that each human soul is worth more than the entire universe. Can that be said of our doctors and scientists today? Do they really place that much worth on each soul? I think not. If so, then there would not be any abortions taking place. Infinite worth is what Jesus was speaking about in Mark 8:36.
That is all for today, beloved. Next time I shall speak about our security in the third and final part of this series of posts. Until then, glory in the trials and tribulations that you go through for Christ's sake. Know that He is working within you to your benefit. Know that He is with you and that He desires you to remain faithful to Him no matter what you go through. We are to be as Stephen was. When faced with being stoned to death Stephen turned his face up to heaven, where his salvation was. Where his eternal home was. Where his future was. I pray that when faced with death that I will be able to do the same thing, and smile knowingly that I am going home!
Sun, Apr 13th - 9:44PM
I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD
"I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." (John 10:11)
When Darwin announced his theory of evolution, claiming that the monkey was the nearest animal to man and that we are descendants of the apes, it caused quite a stir.
No doubt you have heard some sort of joke about evolution. Here's one: An ape was seen ambling from a public library, a bible under one arm and Darwin's Origin of the Species under the other. A bystander asked him, "Say, Mr. Primate, what kind of research are you doing?" The ape replied, "I'm trying to find out whether I'm my brother's keeper or my keeper's brother." And so it goes...
Scientists compare humans to all kinds of animals in their quest to understand mankind. From apes to mice and rats, from ants and bees to dophins. However, the bible most often compares mankind to sheep. King David, a shepherd himself, wrote in the Psalms about our being God's sheep. He wrote of this comparison in Psalm 100, 77, and 79.
Isaiah the prophet wrote: "All we like sheep have gone astray..."(53:6). In Matthew 9:36 Jesus Christ spoke of the multitudes in Jerusalem as being like "sheep having no shepherd." In speaking with His disciples Jesus comforted them with these words: "Fear not, little flock...(Luke 12:32).
This analogy is not unexpected, considering the importance of the sheepflock in the Middle East. The main section of Judea is a plateau, some 35 miles long and from 14 to 17 miles wide. It lends itself primarily to sheep raising because of its terrain.
A shepherd's life was not easy. He was called on to lead his sheep long distances in search of food for them. He must also fight off predators and thieves. A shepherd needed to be constantly vigilant, display fearless courage, and practise patient love for his flock.
Against this backdrop Jesus Christ declared that He was the good shepherd. Besides Jesus' own declaration, there are two other prominent references. In Hebrews13:20-21 the author states that Christ is the great shepherd. Peter referred to Jesus as the chief shepherd in I Peter 5:4. All three of these titles are accurate and they describe God as our shepherd.
Next time I will talk of how Christ is our Great Shepherd. Until then, beloved, remember that when Christ appears we shall receive a crown of glory, one that does not fade away.
Sat, Apr 12th - 10:11PM
I AM THE DOOR PT. 3
JESUS IS THE DOOR TO ABUNDANCE
In addition to being a door to acceptance and adventure He is also a door to abundance. We, being His sheep, find pasture and are amply provided for. In John 10:10 Jesus Christ clearly stated this purpose: "...I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
We are familiar with the Arabian tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. They had an immense stone door that protected them and their stolen treasure hoard. Now that tale comes to us from out of folklore but Jesus Christ is the Door to abundant living. His sheep find pasture in His care which is reminiscent of the "green pasture" and "still waters" of the 23 Psalm. Sheep will not lie down until they are well fed. They do not like to drink from swiftly running water either.
As we "go in and out" we can discover day by day that the necessities of life are ours from God, and also that we share in the riches of heaven. In Philippians 4:19 we are told: "But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." I get the feeling that "riches in glory" far exceeds my possible imaginations. That God will supply my needs to overflowing.
We get our assurance of this abundance in the person of Jesus Christ Himself. It is revealed in Romans 8:32 where we read: "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things?" If God has already delivered up Jesus Christ for us, why would He not deliver up to us the rest of His riches? For through Christ the remainder of His riches shall be freely given to us and shall amaze all of us in His generosity and farsightedness.
He is the Door, representing the only opportunity that we have for abundant living and its associated blessings: joy, freedom, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. He is the Door to intimate fellowship with God the Father. In the book of Revelation Jesus is pictured as standing and knocking at the door of the church and of our individual hearts. All we need do is respond and open the door, He will then become the great Door to us, providing the entrance to God's love and eternal blessings.
Can we choose when we will enter through the Door of Christ? Do you recall the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25? They were all invited to a wedding. The bridegroom finally arrives and the virgins were instructed to light their lamps(as was the custom). Five were prepared with extra oil; five were not ready. Once the friends of the bridegroom entered into the banquet hall the door was closed. The foolish virgins who were not prepared were excluded, shut out. "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh(Matthew 25:12)." We need to learn our lesson from the five unprepared virgins while we still have the opportunity for a day is soon coming when all opportunity will vanish for Christ will have returned.
THE POSSIBILITIES OF ABUNDANCE
In John 5 we read the record of Jesus' encounter with the crippled man at the Pool of Bethesda. That man paints a picture of our world today. Because it was a gathering place for all sorts of sick people there was overwhelming evidence of human suffering. Today there are men, women, and children who are helpless and hurting. On television there are endless appeals to help the homeless, the orphans, and the starving. If we are not careful, we can easily become insensitive to these numerous cries for help. many being legitimate. But misery and suffering are not confined to Third World countries, not just to Africa and the Caribbean. These things are just around the corner, on our streets, maybe even just down the hallway of our apartment building.
Picture the Pool of Bethesda, superstition is rampant among the sick who come there to be healed. They believe that sometimes an angel would come down and stir the water of the pool, imparting healing powers to the water. Their belief was focused in the wrong direction. They should have been placing their faith in God. Today, science, technology, government, one's own knowledge, the occult, and fetishes are still being substituted for faith in the true and living God.
Selfishness also existed at that pool. How can we know this? Because that crippled man could never make it into the waters of the pool before any other made it in ahead of him. Everyone just looking out for number one, just like what goes on today in our world. Nothing has changed at all. I imagine that most around the pool felt sorrow, despair, and utter hopelessness. The crippled man had no hope because he had no one to help him get in the water first. No one was willing to sacrifice themselves and help someone else. Many today feel helpless and hopeless in our cities and towns, many who are supposedly trained to help others cannot even help themselves.
In Jesus Christ there are always astounding and astonishing possibilities. To the handicapped man Jesus was the Door to healing and to a totally new life of possibilities. Jesus handed to him acceptance of who he was. The man who seemingly had no one to help him now had that Someone who genuinely loved and cared for him. Someone who could and would do more than merely tell him that they loved and cared about him.
Jesus presented the crippled man with powerful possibilities. Once he was healed, he could move freely and mingle socially, neither of which he could do previously. His new mobility allowed him to stand on his own two feet, literally. Jesus' touch gave this man adventure: the joy of being who he was. And don't forget the possibility of rich abundance. Knowing who has healed you, knowing you are no longer crippled, knowing that God has made you whole again; all of these are riches beyond price. Acceptance, adventure, and abundance were now his. His chains of bondage had been broken, the door of his personal prison had been flung open wide. He could walk about as a free man.
So Jesus Christ sets before us an open door of opportunity, but it is only opportunity: not coercion. The Door is there. When Jesus knocks at the door of your heart, will you hear, will you move to open the door to let Him into your heart? It is an act of faith on your part. If He is already in your heart, will you allow Him to use you as a living example that constantly points to the Door through which all may enter if they so choose? I sincerely hope so.
That is all I will write about Jesus as the Door. Please study out the verses given and hopefully they will lead you on to other verses that apply. Next time I will begin a series of posts on why Jesus is the Good Shepherd and how it applies to our lives. Until then, beloved, I simply ask that each of us do what Mary commanded in John 2:5; "Whatever he saith unto you, do it."
Fri, Apr 11th - 12:47PM
I AM THE DOOR, PT. 2
Believers are quite often pulled between two conflicting philosophies common in Christianity. One is that we should so live that everyone will like us. The other is that if no one likes us, we are not supposed to care at all. But because we are human, we do care very much.
Genuine acceptance is only found in Jesus Christ, not in people. He alone knows us by name and can call us out of any crowd. Jesus reaches out and accepts us exactly as we are, "warts and all." It is no accident that "Just As I Am" is extremely popular as an invitation hymn in churches across the world. That is how we must present ourselves: just as we are right then and there. If you are waiting until you get better, or get cleaned up, or get off the booze or drugs, you will never have a relationship with Christ. Come now, now is the time of your salvation!
We must remember also that Christ our Lord intensifies our approval. Jesus plainly says to all that they are acceptable to Him, they are approved by Him as soon as they believe on His name. He says to us, "I am the door to let you in, not to keep you out." See, it takes a conscious effort to reject His acceptance. Every seeking soul is accepted by Jesus. To the repentant thief up on the cross Jesus was the door to heaven. Jesus has already extended His acceptance to all of us. When will we accept it? When we do He will gladly sign, seal, and deliver our acceptance, providing inward security and unlimited love.
JESUS IS THE DOOR TO ADVENTURE
So acceptance is the first step, the required beginning that places us under the direct care of the Good Shepherd. Continual adventure is the second thing that is mentioned in John 10:9. Fellowship with Christ is anything but dead, dull, and boring. We are to go in and out of the fold. We are to seek out pasture to feed in and to grow to maturity.
Adventure used to be viewed as the domain of only the young. But today we see ever-growing numbers of the young who seem old, and the old seem young. In Christianity we are constantly reminded that we are eternally young. Christ's indwelling presence transforms drudgery into triumph and divinity. Once one enters into the fold one needs never to meander aimlessly in this darkened world again. We ought to be asking each morning, "Lord, what do you have in store for me this hour, this day?" In this fashion we discover true liberty as we follow the Shepherd.
Yes, Jesus is inclusive in His invitation: "Come unto me, all ye that lavour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest"(Matthew 11:28). It is the method of entering in that is exclusive: Jesus Himself. In John 14:6 He emphatically declared that He was the only way into heaven. Later on in Acts 4:12 the apostles reiterated this message.
Christ describes all others who would tamper with His sheep as "thieves and robbers," for He is the only Door to the sheepfold. Robbers and thieves violently use and abuse others to sate their own wicked greed and covetousness. And so the world can be divided into givers and takers. Either we are putting more into life than we are taking from it, or we are stealing from others. Here is one way that Christ leads us into the highest adventure of all: giving of ourselves as He did. In Acts 20:35 we are reminded: "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
We are expected as Christians to ever be seeking out avenues of giving to others around us. Matthew 20:27-28 reinforces this thought, that we are to serve those around us and not be served as though we are masters. This extends even to the day when we realize that we are dying. Even then, we ought to be praying that God's will be done and that He be able to use this opportunity to use us as a witness to His glory and honor. Psalm 23 contains a passage that fits into this thought, that even though I lay dying I will fear no evil for Christ is always with me.
Beloved, I am going to stop right here for today. I will finish this up next time with thoughts on how Jesus is the Door to Abundance. Until then, remember that the Spirit itself bears witness with our spirits, that we are the children of God.
Thu, Apr 10th - 12:59PM
I AM THE DOOR
"Who is Jesus?" I ask all of you again. Here is His answer. "I am the door." If we look at John 10:9 we can read Jesus' entire response.
"I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture."
Jesus used a shepherd as His illustration. In the Middle East the shephed leads his flock whereas in the Western World the shepherd tends to follow his flock. In the Middle East the shepherd leads the flock of sheep from pasture to pasture, all the day long. Then he calls to them in the evening to himself. The sheep hear his voice and follow him to a watering place and then to a sheepfold where they would bed down safely all night.
The sheepfold always was made out of stone and had one entrance. The shepherd stood in the doorway and examined each sheep as it entered into the fold. He would tend to their wounds and once all were inside and bedded down he would carefully build a fire outside of the entrance. He would cook himself a meal, bank the fire for the night, and lay down in the doorway to go to sleep. So you see, the shepherd is the door.
Jesus Christ mentioned on many occasions that He was the door and that there was no access into the fold except through Him. Of course, He was meaning there was no entrance into heaven and to God's throne except through Him.
Doors are fascinating objects. In the New Testament they varied from simple openings, sometimes with a cloth across them for privacy, to the carved golden doors of temples and prestigious public buildings. Today, we have doors made from all sort of materials: metal, wood, or glass. They can be manual, semi-automatic, or fully automatic with sensors. Almost every room in our homes has at least one door. We open and close doors many times each day.
We know that Jesus referred to common objects in order to reveal extraordinary spiritual truths. So it is no surprise that He pointed to a door in order to teach about Himself. In His simple statement of John 10:9 there are three truths, three moving pictures of our living as Jesus' sheep.
JESUS IS THE DOOR TO ACCEPTANCE
"By me if any man enter in, he shall be saved." Can any more incredible statement be made by anyone? If anyone enter in through Christ he shall be saved. That means inclusion of all people. No quota has been set on who can be saved. Guarentee is made here that if anyone accepts Christ and enters in, they will be saved. Not maybe, but shall be saved. This is acceptance being freely offered to all who will enter in through Christ. And as every door has two sides, one includes and the other excludes. We are either on the inside or on the ourside.
Lets face it. Unless you are demented, you naturally long for acceptance. It's hardwired into us from the time of our conception. We all want to feel like we belong, to have the assurance that somebody, somewhere, loves us. When we trust in the Door, seeing that Jesus has indeed included us, we can then experience a profound joy, a sense of belonging. We gain an entire family! Not only do we accept Him, but He accepts us for who we are. Through His forgiveness of our sins by his shed blood He embraces us into His family of saints.
He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved(Ephesians 1:5-6).
In the KJV verse 6 states it that we are "accepted in the beloved," in the caring, loving family of God. Just think---God included you and me in His plan for the world! Incredible!
ANTIDOTE TO ALIENATION
In Jesus Christ the immense gap between God and mankind is closed, bridged. God's grace is the only treatment for the pangs of alienation between God and man, man and man. Is loneliness a problem in today's impersonal culture? You better believe it is. Everywhere we could look we find people cut off from one another. Relationships are being strained or are almost extinct. People all over moan, "No one cares. No one understands me."
It would seem that all of us want someone special to like us, to accept us as we are. Here is some more irony: we do not even have to be alone to feel lonely! I can be immersed in a huge throng of people and still feel lonely. That can create a feeling of despair since there are so many people around me and yet not one of them even knows me. I have become an object, a thing. Unfortunately, loneliness can, and does, happen within congregations of Christians. A place where all are supposed to be accepted regardless of race, gender, national origin, economics, education, or circumstances, we all too frequently find some people being shunned, ignored. It ought not to happen among Christians. We are all the same in the eyes of Christ, and that is how we are to look at each other.
Beloved, that is all for today. Next time we will finish this intial point and look at the second truth of us being His sheep. Until then, live holy lives, seeking His face from morning till night. Seek out His kingdom and you will be abundantly blessed by God in all areas of your life. Empasize yourself less and Christ all the more, you will be happier, healthier, and an obedient servant of Christ our Lord.
Wed, Apr 9th - 12:54PM
I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD, PT. 2
REJECTION BY THE WORLD
Sadly, millions are rejecting this Light. An old expression observes that "there are none so blind as those who will not see." Jesus explained this condition to Nicodemus: "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil"(John 3:19).
The Pharisees and Sadducees were unaware that they loved darkness. How about you, do you love the light or the darkness? In John 8 and 9 we see that they strongly rejected the light that Jesus represented. The Pharisees were closed to Jesus' claim that He was the Light, so they were mainly upset over His giving sight on the Sabbath. In contrast, Jesus condemned them for doing their works for the purpose of being seen by men. If we are honest, most of us like recognition.
If recognition, rather than ministry to others, becomes our primary aim or goal, we are far removed from the mind of Christ. If we seek to be seen by others, we will not see. If we examine the lives of those who have walked in the light of God, we discover that they seemingly cared not at all for the applause and congratulations of others.
If recognition is our top priority, we are rejecting Jesus, the Light of the World. As Christians we ought to be asking how may we help others, not "What is in it for me?, How can you help me?, What will you do for me?"
Most people at one time or another have rejected God's Holy call. My hope is that you, beloved, have heard His message and responded. Here is the monumental message that we are to receive and then proclaim: "The Light of the World is Jesus. He takes the gloom of this world and fills our lives with glory, and all is changed when Jesus comes to stay in our hearts."
In the English poet John Masefield's play, The Trial of Jesus, the wife of Pontius Pilate asks the centurion in charge of the crucifixion: "So you think he is dead? "No, lady, I don't," replies the centurion. "Then where is he?" she persists. "Let loose in the world, lady, where none can stop his truth!" replies the centurion.
And isn't that exactly how it is? Nothing can stop His truth now. His Holy Spirit is free to live inside of everyone who will just believe.
CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE MAN BORN BLIND
The blind man's disability had to have been depressing. He was a financial burden to his family. In that culture a blind person could only beg from others. There was no work, no labor for them other than begging. He was treated as if he were a nonentity, a non-person. Added to this was the fact that some acted as though his affliction was possibly from his horrible sins, or those of his parents(John 9:2). Jesus' answer covered their question and it reinforced the concept that He was the Light. The disciples were missing the miraculous showing of God's creative power. This man had never had sight, so it could not simply be restored to him, but he had to have sight bestowed upon him by the creator of all. How must the disciples have felt at that moment when a previously blind man from birth looked them straight in the eyes and could see them!
Were this man's parents then joyful at their son's good fortune? Not at all. When questioned by the Pharisees they deflected all questions back to their son. They did not seem to have any gratitude to Jesus for allowing their son to see for the first time in his entire life. If they loved their son, it did not show. The former blind man was questioned by the Pharisees and finally became resolved to simply ask them if they would become His disciples too. The Pharisees in anger kicked the man out of their presence with reviling words that highlighted their elitism.
COMPREHENSION OF THE MAN BORN BLIND
Notice how quickly this man's comprehension/understanding came along. His original knowledge of his healer was quite limited. At first he referred to Jesus as "a man" (John 9:11). Later, he testified before the Pharisees,"He is a prophet" (John 9:17). And at the end of his interrogation this newly sighted man declared, "If this man were not of God, he could do nothing"(John9:33). This man's physical sight was restored instantly by Jesus. Only after some time was his full blown belief able to voice itself. After he was kicked out of the presence of the Pharisees did Jesus seek him out and ask him, "Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" (verse 35)
The man was not totally aware yet, but he had begun to understand the truth. His spiritual eyes were beginning to open also, just at a much slower rate than his physical eyes. After the man asked who this Son of God was Jesus replied that the man was looking at Him and talking with Him. Verse 38 records the man's response and hopefully ours as well.
COURAGE OF THE MAN BORN BLIND
In spite of the Pharisees' demands that he denounce Jesus, the man stood firmly on the facts(John 9:25). From there he move on to saying that he believed in Jesus. Finally he moved to outright worship of Jesus Christ, who had given him physical and spiritual sight.
Jesus' light created a source of power that included hope, conviction, and courage to stand up to the pressures of life. Years after witnessing the triumphant resurrection and ascension of his Lord, John wrote these words about the Light:
This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin (I John 1:5-7).
Well, beloved, that concludes this topic. I hope it inspires some of you to decide to walk in the light as completely as you can. The benefits are endless, for the Lord exceeds our wildest imaginings when He blesses us. Next time I will write about how Jesus Christ is the Door. Until then, let each of us examine ourselves honestly. Compare our selves to Jesus and what He said to us about how we are to act. Then may each of us be courageous enough to step out in faith and make some changes within ourselves so that we can eliminate anything that draws us back into the darkness.
Tue, Apr 8th - 1:12PM
I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
Jesus queried His disciples once, "Whom do men say that I am?" (Mark 8:27) The answers were varied.
"Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life(John 8:12).
The opinions of mortal men and women have never necessarily been accurate or of importance where vital matters are concerned. What counts most of all is what Jesus Christ said about Himself. He described Himself here as the light of the world. Physically, the light of the world is our star, Sol. God created this star early on in Genesis and He divided the light from the darkness before He placed the sun, moon, and the stars in the heavens. Light as we know it originates from our sun and all earthly forms of energy trace back to there. Without light from our sun life would cease to exist on earth.
Jesus' claim was quite startling, it has a parallel in the physical world, where light stimulates life, activity, and growth. The life of Jesus lit a monumental torch to provide intellectual light for the entire world. Christianity has provided the philosophical backdrop from which mankind could stretch out to "subdue the earth and have dominion."
The coming of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, has given beautiful radiance to mankind. Gratitude to God for giving us Christ spills over in the hearts of those who love all that is beautiful. To a world shrouded in darkness and deeply wounded by violence, Jesus has promised to "heal the brokenhearted...to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised"(Luke 4:18; Isaiah 61:1).
Jesus also morally lighted up the world. The Christian ethic is the highest and noblest the world has ever seen. Most of the world's social reforms have been championed by Christians who used teachings of Jesus as the basis for their activity. Christian morality goes far beyond honesty and integrity. Jesus Christ raised the standard extremely high:
"Ye have heard that it hath beensaid, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you(Matthew 5:43-44)."
Light reveals not only beauty but also ugliness. Before the coming of Jesus men were not aware of the evils that darkness covered. Once Jesus came people began to realize that certain evils they had always accepted and practised were morally wrong. Jesus exposed unrepentant sinners and their sins. Jesus spoke of this in John 9:39, 41.
Wherever the light of Christ shines, it banishes fear, ignorance, and superstition. Ill conceived lifestyles are driven out to make room for eternal, indestructible living. We tend to focus on the horrors of this world: terrorism, drug addiction, child abuse, and perversions; failing to focus on the good, lovely, and pure things around us. Without Christ we would continue to ignore all of the good and noble things. Reading John 1:4-9 we see what Jesus' purpose as the Light is. He came to enable mankind to see. He came to reveal as well as to redeem.
LIGHT AND GOD
In the Old Testament the writers often linked light with God. In the book of Job he is described as crying out to God to light his way again as in days before. In Psalms 27:1 David declared the Lord as his light and his salvation. In Psalm 43:3 he prayed for God to send His light and truth to lead David. And in Psalm 119:105 "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." A familiar verse to many believers, the last one puts this concept into clear focus. God lights my path through life and allows me to see where to safely walk. Other verses to read: Isaiah 2:5, 60:1, 19; Micah 7:8.
LIGHT AND THE GOD-MAN
In declaring that He was light Jesus emphasized the divine nature of His claim. Jesus also made this claim during the Feast of Tabernacles during which huge candelabra were set up in the Court of Women at the Temple and lighted to symbolize the Pillar of Fire by which God had led them out of Egyptian slavery to the Promised Land. He clearly wished all to "see" the connection between the two.
LIGHT AND LIFE
As John wrote at the beginning of his Gospel in verse 9, later on in chapter 9 Jesus authenticated His claim by restoring sight to a man born blind. Blind from birth, this man had the entire world revealed to him by Jesus. And so hymn writer Clara Scott wrote:
Open my eyes, that I may see Glimpes of truth thou hast for me; Place in my hands the wonderful key That shall unclasp and set me free: Silently now I wait for thee, Ready, my God, thy will to see; Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!
That is all for now, beloved. Next time I will finish up this topic. Until then, pray that God will open your eyes, that you might see life in all of its reality. Pray that the Father will reveal the path to freedom if you have not yet discovered it. Pray that He will strengthen your steps as you walk along His Way if you have indeed found it already. Pray that He will put a whistle upon your lips all the day long, each and every day. Above all, find a place of silence where you might stop, wait, and listen to hear Him speak to your heart about His will for your life.
Mon, Apr 7th - 1:16PM
I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE
Who is Jesus? Jesus did answer this question in John 6:35, 51:
And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger: and he that believeth on me shall never thirst...I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
Any one recall which miracle accompanied this statement? Of course, the feeding of the 5,000 with only five loaves and two small fishes. This event is recorded in all four Gospels and may very well be the most well known miracle of Jesus. The people in that passage came back the next day looking for Jesus because they had been fed. Americans today have too frequently given a response to what might be called "the gospel of health and wealth." Just as people back in Jesus' day were looking for what was in it for them, so to, today people ask what is in it for them? Can I get healed if I have faith? Can I get rich if I agree to follow Christ? Thinking only of physical satisfaction, not spiritual satisfaction.
Back then they asked "What must I do?" Don't people ask that same question today? We think in terms of doing rather than in terms of receiving. We too frequently are busy about doing and forget about being always open to receiving God's Will.
JESUS IS THE SOURCE OF LIFE
John presented this central truth as the very foundation of his Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word...All things were made by Him and without Him was not any thing made that was made.:(John 1:1-3). All that we have in this life is directly traceable back to Christ for it comes from either the earth or mankind, and Christ created both. As we are surrounded by a vast amount of possessions and ideas, we all too easily forget the fact that what we have and what we are comes from Christ. All that we ever shall become belongs to Christ also.
In our youth it is easy to forget that God is the ultimate source: of our bodies, our possessions, our food, our homes. All of the good that enters into our lives is granted by Christ as His gift to us. James 1:17 says this: "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." In our day we all too often rely on people, organizations or governments as our sources of supply. We even deceive ourselves into thinking that we provide for ourselves by our own labor or intelligence. God is the source for all that we have each and every day of our lives.
Mankind has always attempted to explain the sources of life. Some scientists feel that all life originally was tied to the sun. Psychologists feel that we can discover life in our urges and drives. Sociologists have related life force to our mores and folkways, our environment and heredity. The evolutionist considers life to be originated in our genes and chromosomes, affected by chance, mutation, and survival of the fittest. The theologist can explain the real essence of humans; that they are creations of God, made in His image, destined to be responsible stewards of this planet. Our morality and ethics originate from this theological view of life, evolutionary perspectives eliminate morality and ethics for they are unnecessary to life. We need to recognize that the essence of life is spiritual, not material. Our deepest hunger is spiritual. We search for God, for truth, for purpose. Our misery originates from our separation from God. Look in Isaiah 59:1-2 and it will be seen how our sins separate us from God and force Him to not hear our pleas.
Of course, on the personal level, we are so prone to depend on people and cultural mechanisms/agencies to provide for our needs, and in so doing we forget to rely on God, without whom we would not exist in the first place. The believer in Christ must realize that the real supplier is singular in nature and is not a "what" but a "who." All organizations are nothing more than middlemen, for God is the Source of all that is good and worthwhile. Paul expressed this primacy of Christ in Colossians 1:16-17.
JESUS IS THE SUSTENANCE OF LIFE
All of His ministry indicates that He was not an impractical person. Jesus Christ understood that mankind was dependent on "bread" for its existence. Bread was essential back then, and still is today.
Jesus is concerned about the whole person. He never has been concerned about just souls. He was sensitive about the physical needs of the crowds. He fed not only their souls and spirits but their bodies as well. In His human form He fully understood hunger and thirst and that bodies cannot endure for long without food. We make fatal mistakes today if we assume that Christ is not concerned about the material needs in our lives.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ spoke about this very topic. Looking to Matthew 6:31-32 we can read that He was very aware of peoples' needs. Through His words and actions Jesus clearly showed His care for our material needs. He provided medical care, provided food, provided products for supporting livelihoods. He longs to provide us with all that we could possibly need.
Why should we not worry about the necessities of life? Our answer comes to us from Matthew 6:33: "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." He promises not just some of these things, He promises that all of these things will be given.
We often see the "horn of plenty" displayed around Thanksgiving time because it symbolizes abundant blessings and fruitful harvest. But Jesus' cornucopia is full to overflowing every season of every year. In Philippians 4:19 we find how God shall supply all our needs, each and every day. How does God supply this bountiful provision? We must notice that the same metaphor of eating was followed at the beginning of the Lord's Supper. Jesus picked up the bread at the end of the Passover meal and declared, "This is my body, which is given for you..." (Luke 22:19). Eating involves receiving, and then ingesting, food from outside oneself: from without to within. In the Lord's Supper we feed in our hearts by faith with thanksgiving on the Bread of Life. Just as physical bread is essential to life in the body, so the reception of Christ into ourselves is essential to the life of the soul.
JESUS IS THE SATISFACTION OF LIFE
Jesus is the source, sustenance, and satisfaction. His grace is super abundant. Without Christ people will never be able to satisfy the gaping hole within themselves. No amount of possessions, money, prestige, or fame will adequately satisfy the need within ourselves. Only Christ is able to fill our inner needs. J. Paul Getty was the richest man in the world at the time of his death. Yet he wrote in his autobiography, As I See It: "Why is it that I have been able to build my own automobile, drill oil wells, run an aircraft plant, build and head a business empire: yet remain unable to maintain even one satisfactory marriage relationship?" Why indeed?
Jesus alone can become the Satisfaction in our lives. According to John 10:10b He promised: "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." In achieving this abundant life through Christ we can become stabilized and granted spiritual security. Besides food, clothing, and shelter, we need things such as affection, importance, recognition, approval, solvency, and a sense of being useful in at least one significant cause or project.
And so Jesus alone can satiate the gnawing hunger within the human spirit. In our world we buy cars because they are attractive and perform well. We buy clothing that makes us feel good and look attractive. We buy food items that are enjoyable to eat, not just healthy for us. Too often we replace many of these items with newer versions long before the original ones are worn out.
JESUS SAVES US
This point was inevitable in coming to. Through the incarnation, Jesus became as a man, a form that sinful, immature people could understand. Jesus Christ helped the woman at the well to connect with the "living water" that He offered. He satisfied her spiritual thirst so that no longer would she drift aimlessly, unsure as to where to look for peace of mind and joy.
But Christ never will force feed us the Bread of Life. A person must become aware of their own soul-hunger for the food that will permanently fill the emptiness within them. Then they may become whole, restored to that which they originally were meant to be. They can rejoice and walk in newness of life, members of the family of Christ.
That is all for this topic. Next time I will post about Jesus as the light of the world. Until then, beloved, dine upon the Word of God. Gorge yourselves with the delights hidden within these divine passages. Join in the feast offered by our Lord Jesus Christ.
Sun, Apr 6th - 12:26PM
I AM THE RESURRECTION, PT. 2
The apostle Paul wrote that the resurrection is to be a celebration, to include cheer now and hereafter.
"So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (I Corinthians 15:54-57).
No true believer in Christ needs to fear the changes that are going to happen at the moment of our death. God has planned for a joyful time rather than any fear. The Christian does not deny death, rather, he defies death. Three times Paul mentioned "victory" in declaring that we have the victory, it is already ours. That victory is bound up in the person of Jesus Christ. In the face of death, we can live cheerfully because we know that Christ's resurrection covers the two primary reasons for fear: guilt and uncertainty.
THE RISEN CHRIST BEATS GUILT
Guilt being a major cause of fear, many are fearful of facing God since they know that they live sinful lives. Paul admits that the sting of death is sin. But Christ removed the "sting" through His resurrection. Jesus removed the threat of death by dying on the cross and bearing the penalty of our sins. He also rose triumphantly over sin, death, and the grave. Death can no longer injure us.
THE RISEN CHRIST THROWS OUT UNCERTAINTY
All of us fear the unknown. Death is not unknown any longer for Jesus has been there and He came back. He is alive forevermore. Thomas would not believe in Christ's resurrection unless he saw the nail prints in His hands. Jesus satisfied his unbelief by telling him to not be faithless but believe by reaching out his hand to touch the nail marks in His hands. Thomas obeyed and he believed. Jesus is still speaking similarly to all of us today. Reach out and touch Him, feel Him, and believe.
RESURRECTION OFFERS A CHALLENGE
God has already secured out victory. Because He lives, we live. Our responsibility is to proclaim the fact of His resurrection and then fully live it each day by working it out in our lives. Our salvation is sealed. It was a free gift of God's grace. It was bought with Christ's blood. We know that we will be rewarded in eternity, now is the time to be spurred on in our adventure of serving the Lord God Almighty.
How to serve Him? II Peter 3:10 speaks about how everything will be subjected to fire, and so what will survive that? Isaiah 40:8 tells us that the Word of God will stand forever. John 5:28-29 speaks about believers being resurrected to life eternal. I guess that means that since I cannot alter God's Word, I ought to focus my time and energy upon doing what needs to be done for Christ. Unlike the Pope who believes that Christians will one day convert this old world into a Paradise of good works, I believe that we are steadily moving downward in human behavior until we reach a point where God has already predetermined He will return to this earth in judgment. We cannot convert this world, only God Himself can do that.
ACCENTUATE THE FAITH
We must answer the same question as Martha: "Believest thou this?" Do we actually believe that Jesus Christ is the great Redeemer, Restorer, and Preserver, that He is totally adequate for life and death? If so, then we must follow Him. When we follow Him we are required to give ourselves totally to Him and do His will rather than our own. That is hard to consistently do. Then we must adopt His purpose as our own deepest motivation: to reach the world.
Because Jesus is the resurrection and the life, we can be unafraid of all earthly powers of life and death. We can accept the cheer and rise to the challenge of life here and hereafter. The peace called forth by His resurrection was quite aptly expressed by Alice Freeman Parker:
I lie and listen to you in the rain,
Better than Easter bells that do not cease,
Your message from the heart of God's great peace,
And to his arms I turn and sleep again.
And that is the short and long of Jesus as the Resurrection and the Life. Next time I will write about Him as the Bread of Life. Until then, be good to one another, love the brethren as yourselves so that all may know that you are a child of God.
Sat, Apr 5th - 10:55AM
"I AM THE RESURRECTION"
"Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live(John 11:25)."
God wrote in I Corinthians 15:12-19 of how there must be resurrection since Jesus Christ rose from the dead and was not found in his grave. That passage also closes with a somber reminder that if we only have a hope in Christ during this life of ours, then out of everyone on earth we are the most miserable.
The prophet Job seems to have spoken the question four thousand years ago that plagues most people, "If a man die, shall he live again?" (Job 14:14a)
Curiosity about death.
The records of every civilization contain records, artifacts, and memorabilia that are related to death and dying. In our modern times doctors and writers like Raymond Moody and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross have pushed research in the areas of death and dying. They both have gathered veritable mountains of data concerning experiences of "temporary death." After extensive analysis of the data they have concluded that there is evidence for life after death.
Cowardice about death.
Now, inspite of our inquisitiveness about death, most of us fear it with almost a phobia. We live in a death-denying culture that bends over backwards to ignore the fact that death is inevitable for all of us. Many may successfully evade paying taxes, but no one can escape death. Yet people continue to live as if they never are going to die. It will happen to someone else, but not to them. Perhaps that is why many of us avoid contact with the terminally ill. It is too much of a reminder that death awaits each of us one day.
Comprehension about death.
Now if we are to face death and our fears about it, shouldn't we have the facts? We ought to go to our "instruction manual", God's Word, and use it as our most reliable source. The Bible does give us all the information we need to know about death and dying. God has done better than just handing out to us a list of the whys, ifs, ands, and buts. He has given to us His Son, Jesus Christ, through whom He has decreed that we can not only conquer the fear of death but death itself!
What example could there be in God's Word concerning death? How about that story about Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha? Looking in John 11 we find out that Lazarus became seriously ill, his sisters sent a desparate message for Jesus to come immediately. However, Jesus' own timing was the controlling factor, not their personal sense of urgency. By the time that Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been dead four days. Undoubtedly his body was already decomposing. Martha was exasperated with Jesus because He had not done what she had demanded of Him. Imagine, demanding God to do what you want Him to do, when you want Him to it! Ever do that yourself? I have. Martha was upset with God because He had not hurried to come and heal her brother. "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died(John 11:21)." Her words show her incomprehension of Jesus' actions. If any pastor today did what Jesus had done he would be in serious trouble with his congregation.
Martha knew Jesus quite well, perhaps better than any other than the apostles. He had spent many hours within her home, with her relatives, shared meals with her. It was not that she did not know Jesus Christ. Verses 22 and 24 of chapter 11 in John show us that she did know Him and that she did, in fact, believe Him to be whom He claimed to be. And yet...she shows her incomprehension of what God is capable of. She has missed the "big picture" as it were.
In a way, Martha was typical of anyone who has lost a loved one to death. Jesus redirected her thoughts to the idea of living, here and hereafter, by asserting: "I am the resurrection and the life..." He did not attempt to teach her a short course in immortality. He simply offered Himself. His reply then dealt with two classes of believers: those who died and yet shall live and those who shall not die. Paul wrote a passage later in time dealing with the second coming, but it also echoed Jesus' words to Martha: "...and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds...(I Thessalonians 4:16-18)."
Here was the hope and comfort Jesus offered to Martha and Mary concerning their brother. In John 11:40 Jesus said to both of them: "Said I not unto thee, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of god?" Then He summoned Lazarus from the dead.
Jesus had delayed coming so that Lazarus's body would already be stinking, as Martha so delicately put it. He wished it to be thought by all that Lazarus's death seemed irreversible. Jesus wanted everyone to witness the glory of God in the raising of Lazarus from the grave, and He obviously hoped that it would remain in their minds later on when He died and had promised that He would arise again. But they all forgot.
Resurrection involves change.
Can we enter into heaven as we are? No, we can not. Resurrection calls forth a dramatic transformation. Our bodies are to become glorified, immortal. But how will this miraculous change happen?
In I Corinthians 15:39 Paul pointed out that God had created different bodies for different conditions: "All flesh is not the same flesh..." It is obvious that there are different kinds of earthly flesh and Paul said that there are celestial bodies as well. The glory of each is different from one another. Angels, for instance, have celestial bodies that are suited for heaven, and so shall we after we are resurrected.
Paul used common, agricultural analogies. Looking at I Corinthians 15:36-37 we find that a tiny seed planted in the earth looks vastly different from the large plant that will eventually grow from it. What we see growing is the result of the seed being planted in the ground. But the seed perishes in the process of germination and becomes a part of the culmination of the maturing plant and its fruit.
A clear illustration of the resurrection is the life cycle of a butterfly. First, a caterpillar spins itself a cocoon, wrapping itself in a silky tomb and seemingly dying to the outside world. Many days later it re-emerges with the exotically colored, gossamer wings of a butterfly. Through the process of metamorphosis it changes form completely. Hear what is written in I John: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is."(I John 3:2). Transformation!
Beloved, that is all for today. Tomorrow I will continue with the second part of this topic. Until then, remember the Psalmist's words from Psalm 66: "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me."
Fri, Apr 4th - 1:10PM
I AM HE
I continue from the first post by this title. Jesus' quite bold claim to be the Messiah has stood examination for two millennia. His character and personality, His speech, and His actions have presented abundant evidence that these claims were indeed true. This is clearly seen in His encounter with the woman at Jacob's Well.
Jesus' character matched His claims for He not only said in effect, "I am the Sent One of God," He demonstrated it with His life. Jesus had an almost instant impact upon this Samaritan woman for His claim was backed up by His spiritual insights, revealing His character. He radiated love and understanding, and His nonjudgmental approach resonated within her soul. Because of Jesus' kindness she sensed that this was a good man, unlike any she had ever met before.
Jesus is the friend of sinners. He came "to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). In contrast to everyone else condemning this woman, He was kind to her, concerned about her. When she reveals her checkered past He does not turn away in disgust. He simply dropped the subject for she was uncomfortable with it. She realized that here was a man who cared about her feelings and emotions. The God who reveals Himself to us does it because He loves us and profoundly cares how we feel. Christ Jesus came into this world to meet us in the rubble of our sin-ravaged lives, and to do something about it!
"I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry..." God assured Moses from the midst of the burning bush, "for I know their sorrows; And I am come down to deliver them..."(Exodus 3:7-8). And this is exactly what was happening with this poor woman at the well. God had heard her sorrows, her cries, and He came to deliver her from them.
Even though they had never met before this encounter(and probably never saw each other again), He knew her better than she knew herself. As far as we can know, she had never seen His deeds before and only heard His words during their meeting at the well. Jesus' righteousness pierced her morally. When He said, "Go, call thy husband" (John 4:16), the woman was forced to freely admit their true relationship. The contrast between her thoroughly unsettled life and His unshakeable stability was painfully clear.
Of all the diagnosticians in this world of ours, Jesus Christ is the only reliable one for our spiritual ills. He alone can discern the innermost condition of our hearts and souls. This poor woman's limited belief was moving in the right direction, but her immoral lifestyle was way off-course. Just as He did with this woman, Jesus diagnoses our ailments and provides the cures. He identifies Himself so that we can come to the point of knowing and admitting who we are (sinners) and where we are in our spiritual condition (lost). Only then can confession effect cleansing and begin effective change.
Jesus Christ focused His light on the basic sin that kept this woman from being spiritually whole. At that level He offered her healing, and this is what He will do for each of us also. We simply must examine ourselves honestly and admit the problem to God as well as to ourselves. This Samaritan woman never dreamed that a simple conversation with a strange Jew beneath a scorching sun at Jacob's Well would put her on the hotplate. She had to decide on the spot whether or not she was ready to accept this stranger's knowledge of her entire life and also accept His Messiahship. She could not hide in the valley from a seemingly distant God up on the mountain. God was here beside her, talking with her, revealing Himself to her. She had to decide whether to accept and to worship "in spirit and in truth" the God who stood before her.
As always, Jesus offered Himself as the solution to her problems---not philosophy, not religion, not any denominations, nor any sort of "right thinking---only Himself as the Son of God. In this atmosphere the woman was able to sort out her priorities quickly and to then act on her new discovery. Jesus Christ's claims, when genuinely embraced, seem to have an immediate positive influence on those who accept them. This woman laid aside her errand and even left her water pot at the well. In her excitement she became a human exclamation point! She ran to the city in order to share her fantastic new with others. In other words, she shared her testimony with others. She was evangelizing! John 4:29 records her breathless words. And she had an impact on these people and they came out to the well to meet this man who knew all things that the woman had ever done.
The Samaritan woman had finally seen Jesus for who He really is: the great I AM, God Himself! Do we? Do we see ourselves for what we actually are, like Isaiah did upon seeing the Living God in Isaiah 6:1? Many today do not want an intimate relationship with God, for that would mean seriously reflecting upon their own shortcomings and their scarred relationships with others. They would be forced into changing their behaviors, and that would be distasteful.
The powers of unbridled passion had wasted this woman's life, had altered it into an arid wasteland. Abandoned and mistreated, she surely must have cultivated seeds of bitterness in her heart that defiled herself and others. Yet, because of her brief encounter with Christ, can there be any doubt that she now saw people for what they could be, not what they were? She no longer cared what others thought of her, she cared to bring others to Jesus Christ so that they too could be blessed.
The number one need of our lives is to accept the authority of Jesus Christ, the great I AM. Our lives are overflowing with "ifs." How often do we wave these "ifs" before Him? The Samaritan woman did this to Him in 4:20. But Jesus has an "if" also: "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water" (John 4:10).
When we accept the gift of God, recognizing Jesus for who He is: I AM, very God Himself; we will experience a revolutionary change in our hearts and our lives. Just like the woman at Jacob's Well, we will desire to proclaim, "The great I AM is in my heart. I want you to have Him too!" Know this, when reading the Bible the I AM is speaking to you!
Next time, beloved, I will write about Jesus as the "I AM the Resurrection." There are three "C's" about death that will be seen. Here's a short poem to ponder until then:
If death ends all, then evil must be good,
Wrong must be right, and beauty ugliness.
God is a Judas who betrays his Son,
And with a kiss, damns all the world to hell--
If Christ rose not again.
~unknown soldier , WW I
Thu, Apr 3rd - 1:35PM
STUDY IN REVELATION
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
For without are fogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star(22:13-16).
Is it any wonder that Paul wrote what he did in Philippians3:10-14? Jesus Christ tells John, and us, His deity: "I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last." He began this book with this statement and He now ends this book with a repetition of it. We need to remember that only blood-washed believers have authority over the Tree of Life and access to the Holy City(Ephesians 1:7-12).
In verse 15 Jesus tells us who will not have access to the New Jerusalem. This is a return to current time for John. Quite possibly the Holy City is no longer in John's sight, that he is now elsewhere. Clearly Christ is not speaking about eternity at this point. Christ repeats for our benefit the list of those who shall not be allowed into eternity. The term "dogs" is not meant for the canines of our world but represents lost Gentiles and lost Judaizers(Matthew 15:21-28 & Philippians 3:2).
In verse 14 we find the seventh and last beatitude of the book of Revelation. "Blessed are they that do his commandments." They shall be blessed in that they qualify for entrance into the city. Doing Christ's commandments leads believers to obeying the commandments of old and living out the two new commandments that He gave. His commandments to wash ourselves daily in His Word and to work at conforming ourselves into His image are no less important than any of the Old Testament commandments given to Moses. The right to the tree of life and the right to enter through the pearl gates of the city are one and the same as the right to eternal salvation.
In verse 16 we see the unusual term "I Jesus" used to indicate that Jesus had sent His angel to testify the truth of this book to John and to us. Additional titles given to Christ are "the root and off-spring of David" and "the bright and morning star." Isaiah 11 speaks of Him being the root of David, and also speaks about the End Times prior to eternity. Numbers 24:17 and Revelation 2:28 speak about Him as the Morning Star. As the morning star Christ heralds the coming dawn of a new day, darkness and night are to be done away with. Also significant, here we see the mention of the churches for the first time since the letters to the seven churches. It is appropriate for we are back into real time, back from the future so to speak.
And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely(22:17).
Here is a special invitation given by the Holy Spirit and the bride, the church. The invitation to all is given: "Come." None are excluded from this earnest invitation. The Holy Spirit is performing His work in the world today in convicting and converting lost men and women. He works through the Word of God and through the church which proclaims His Word. This is why it is so important for the churches to proclaim God's Word clearly to the world. An invitation to others is asked from those who hear the invitation from the Spirit and the church. It is a threefold invitation which is then enforced, to those who hear, to those who thirst, and to those who will. For all who are willing to accept this invitation there is an offer of the water of life without cost. In Isaiah 55:1 a similar invitation is seen. This invitation in chapter 22 of Revelation is an urgent command, for the day is coming when it is too late to come to Christ. Now is the day of grace. The hour of judgment is impending, it is resting out on the horizon of our future.
For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that written in this book:
And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen (22:18-21).
The urgency of the final command is now supported by the solemn testimony of Christ Himself. Warning is extended that if anyone changes the words of this prophecy then there will be dire consequences to them. There are other instances of warnings against tampering with the Word of God but none are like this one. Do critics of prophecy understand what thin ice they tred upon? Those who are so arrogant as to believe that they are equipped intellectually and spiritually to determine what is true and what is not true in the Word of God, do they comprehend the thinness of the ice that they jump up and down upon? This passage assumes that a child of God will not tamper with these scriptures. Although the true child of God may not comprehend the entire meaning of the entire book of Revelation, he/she will recognize in it a declaration of their hope and that which has been assured to them in grace by their salvation in Christ.
The announcement that "Surely I come quickly" is a repetition of verses 7, 12. This announcement however adds the particle surely
which enforces the affirmation. It is then followed by the word amen often translated "verily." So this announcement is fortified before and after by words used to emphasize the absolute certainty of it. John then apparantly adds his own prayer that echoes this announcement. Although this book of prophecy concerns itself with a broad expanse of divine dealing with men including the time of tribulation, the millennium, and the eternal state, for John the important event is still the coming of the Lord for him at the rapture of the church. His heart longs for this, not simply because he is exhiled on lonely Patmos but because of the glorious future that he now has seen and heard.
As John ends this absolutely remarkable book, he uses the familiar phrase from in Paul's letters, a benediction that the grace of our Lord will be upon his readers. Have you caught a vision of what is yet to come? Have you rediscovered your first love? Has your heart begun to beat faster, having witnessed what awaits us in eternity? In perhaps no other book are the issues facing us made more specific. Grace is being offered to all, but if any one refuses the offer which is extended, he must bear the judgment pronounced in this book. Grace is still freely offered to mankind.
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind, but now I see.
That concludes this study of Revelation. I hope that it helps some to understand these scriptures a little bit better. I know that it is a large chunk of prophecy to chew upon, take your time and study it more. Threads lead out to other topics that are relevant to Christian faith, find them and follow your nose! My new series of posts will cover the "I AM" statements made by Jesus Christ throughout the New Testament. I want to cover them to show why they are so important and revealing of who Christ is. I feel that the more that we learn about who Christ really is and what He desires of us the better we will understand what we ought to be doing with all of this time that Christ redeemed for each of us.
Peace and grace be with you all today,
Wed, Apr 2nd - 10:20PM
"I AM HE"
"Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he(John 4:26)".
Who is Jesus? What does He mean to you? Does He remain a mystery, an enigma? There is much we know about Jesus and much that we do not know about Him. In John 21:25 is written that if all that Jesus did were to be written down there would not be enough room in the entire world to contain the books of it. So there is much that we do not know about Jesus.
Many who criticize the divinity of Jesus say that He never directly answered the direct questions put to Him as to whether or not He claimed to be God. I direct your attention to John chapter 1: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Scripture makes it plain that Jesus is the Word and the above verse makes it plain that the Word is God. Simple mathematical laws apply here to logically prove that A equals B equals C.
In John's gospel account Jesus is quoted as using the expression "I am" at least eight times. This statement should transport any of us back to Exodus where Jehovah appeared to Moses in the burning bush. When Moses asked God for His name, the self-existent God answered, "I AM THAT I AM" and He said, "Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you."(Exodus 3:14)
We could look at chapter 3 or 5 of John and see Jesus's encounters with individuals with spiritual needs. But if we look at chapter 4 we find His perfectly timed encounter with the woman at Jacob's Well in Samaria. She represents the person who is a human disaster area, especially when it comes to the handling of relationships. How well she could fit into our American society today!
The Hebrew word for transgression literally means to break out of bounds, to turn aside from God's commandments and laws. The woman at the well was an outcast from her particular society. She had to draw her water from the well in the heat of the day, not in the coolness of the morning when everyone else drew theirs.
Emotionally this woman probably was burnt out. After going through five marriages a life of undisciplined passion had left her little more than a burnt out cinder, a shell of her real self. The man with whom she currently cohabited was not her husband.
From a cultural standpoint it was incredible that Jesus would even risk being seen with her in public, much less carry on a serious conversation with her. But this is exactly why He came in the first place, to find that which was lost.
This woman confronted Jesus with the current ethnic/racial issue: "For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans." This issue had roots going back to around 722 B.C. when the divided kingdoms came into existence, but it was primarily due to the fact that Samaritans were the offspring of intermarriage with Assyrians and other non-Jewish races. The Jews looked down their noses at the Samaritans.
Yet Jesus revealed profound spiritual truths. He spoke of the genuine meaning of worship to a woman who could not even decide where to worship. Here, for the first time, Jesus admitted that he was Messiah.
The woman at the well apparantly had one tiny ray of hope, of light, that a Messiah would come (John 4:25). To this miniscule hope of hers Jesus Christ spoke the truth of who He was. Was she prepared for His response? Would you have been? She was not ready for that sort of answer.
She was shocked that a stranger would speak to her. She failed to draw the water for Him that He had requested of her. Instead she asked, "How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria?" (John 4:9). Jesus replied, "If you only knew what a wonderful gift God has for you, and who I am, you would ask me for some living water!"(John 4:10). She was intrigued, but when Jesus inquired about her personal life she quickly changed the subject. Does this sound familiar to any of you?
Jesus dealt with her patiently, answering her historical question of worship in a way that opened up profound spiritual matters. The woman knew that Messiah was to come, she simply couldn't conceive that He would be a Jew, and that He would deign to speak with her in person!
Her perceptions that the Messiah was to come, just not today, reflects how we usually feel today about His Second Advent. Yeah, He will come back, I just don't think that it will be today is our thought. For this woman, the Messiah ought to appear up on the sacred mountain, not at Jacob's Well at mid day.
"I am he" clearly meant that Jesus claimed to be the Living God, Jehovah. In the history of Judaism, only three types of persons were anointed: prophets, priests, and kings. Jesus Christ combined all three of these offices into one: Deuteronomy 18:17-19. According to the book of Hebrews, Jesus was the High Priest who fulfilled all that Aaron represented: Hebrews 2:17-18.
Jesus is also the promised Son of David, the King of kings who will sit on the throne of Israel forever. But He also claimed to be not only be the Anointed One but also to be God! This concept stunned and stymied the Jews to the point where most could not accept it.
If we look at a literal translation of the Greek for John 4:26 we would get: "I AM speaks to you." This undeniably places Jesus in the position of referring to Himself as God. This same type of translation can be found in John 8:24. The pronoun "he" is inserted to make for a smoother reading of the verses for it is not found in the Greek language. Jesus also claimed "I am one that bears witness of myself" (John 8:18) and "I am from above" (John 8:23). The Jewish leaders did not have any trouble interpreting exactly what Jesus was claiming with those words. We ought not to have any trouble either.
Next time I will continue thoughts on this topic. A look at His character, His concepts, and His cures will help us focus on exactly who Jesus Christ is.
May His peace and grace abound in your lives each and every day!
Wed, Apr 2nd - 2:13PM
STUDY IN REVELATION
And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things.
Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellow-servant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.
And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.
He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still(22:8-11).
John is finally overwhelmed with all that he has seen and heard and has to fall down to worship. Please note here that the angel does not allow John to worship him, he corrects him and points out their mutual position. Back in Revelation 19:10 this also happened. The angels are our fellow-servants, they are not rulers over us. The angel gives John a direct and to the point command: "Worship God." This is in counterpoint to the approach of Satan, a fallen angel, who desires us to worship him rather than God. If we were to mistakenly worship Satan he would not correct our mistake.
In verse 10 we see a request that is somewhat like that given to Daniel in Daniel 12:4. Here John is told to not seal up the sayings whereas Daniel was told to seal them up for they were about the end times far in the future. What John is seeing and hearing, its time is at hand. These things were to begin happening, and have been happening for the past 1900+ years.
In verse 11 we come to a strange command given to John, and hence to us. God is advocating the status quo for both the wicked and the righteous. Not meaning that men ought to remain unmoved by the prophecies of this book, but rather that if these prophecies are rejected, then there is no other message that will cause men to repent. These are the final opportunities given to man by God. If they are insufficient, then there is no more that God shall say. This is an either/or proposition with no neutrality possible. Choose, and choose wisely. A sense is given here that choices fix character; that a time is coming soon when change will be impossible.
And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be(22:12).
Either the angel is bearing a very personal word from Jesus Christ, or else the Lord Himself is breaking through and speaking this personally to John. Christ our Lord promises that He is coming again. He will personally reward each believer individually at His return to set up His kingdom at the Millennium.
The phrase "I come quickly" is seen again. We are to know for certain that when the appointed time set by God arrives that Christ shall not hesitate, nor shall He procrastinate. He shall come suddenly. This verse also refers to His judgment seat as it relates to true Christians; "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences"(II Corinthians 5:10-11). This judgment is not concerning sins, for they have already been forgiven and forgotten by God. This is a time of determining whether or not we receive rewards. Judgment will be according to how we lived the Christian life, how we applied His Word to our lives, how well we taught His truth to our children. It says in Hebrews 10:31; "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Despite what liberal theologians teach and what liberal churches teach and say every Sunday, God is not a sweet, indulgent old man. Let us not preach a watered down, sunshiny gospel. It is this holy God who loves you. It is this holy God who wants to save you. But, my friends, if you don't come to God His way, you will have to come before Him in righteous judgment. Many pulpits do not preach anything about hell anymore. There are few that preach about punishment, few sermons on judgment. As a result, increasing numbers of people believe that God will allow everyone to enter into heaven because He loves us all so much. He does love us all to the point that He does not desire that any of us should perish, BUT, He has provided the correct WAY for us to achieve redemption from our sins. If we accept His FREE GIFT of salvation given to us through Jesus Christ then we will not perish but we will have eternal life. That is the key concept that the liberals do not want to accept. We must choose to do something about Christ. Do we believe, or do we reject Him? And today is the day, choose wisely!
Next time I will write about verses 13-16 and the majesty of the eternal Christ. Until then, beloved, I pray that your hearts may be comforted, held together in love. Knowing the richness of the complete assurance of understanding the mystery of God in whom are hidden all of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say here that I do not try to entice you with my words. If anything, I suspect that some are turned away by what I post here for I try my hardest to post only the truth. May God's peace and grace be with all who stop by and read these posts.
Tue, Apr 1st - 12:21PM
STUDY IN REVELATION
And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.
And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever(22:4-5).
The blessedness of the servants' position is further declared to us in verse 4 in the fact that they shall see His face. There will be immediate access to the glory of God each and every day. Whatsmore, His name will be declared in our foreheads, showing to all that we are His, that we belong to Him and none other. I look forward to this day when I will see Christ's face and I too will display the radiance in my features like Moses did in olden times. What a glorious day that will be!
In verse 5 John repeats for us the fact that there will be no night within the city and therefore there will be no need for lights of any sort. There will be no need for our solar system's star to provide light for us. God and Christ will be the light of the city. Believrs have the glorious privilege of reigning forever. The concept that the reign of Jesus Christ must cease at the millennium, based upon I Corinthians 15:24-25, is a misunderstanding. Only the character of His reign changes, not His reign itself. There is no contradiction in calling the saints servants and at the same time recognizing them for those who will reign with Christ. Here I would ask, "What shall saints be reigning over at this time?" A good question. First of all, they will be reigning over all of the earth. Beyond this is up for debate and conjecture. Will we rule planets? Or solar systems? Time only will reveal this particular truth, and only in its proper time according to God's will.
And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done.
Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book(22:6-7).
The angel now tells John that he can rely upon these sayings as being true and lasting forever. John, and we too, are reminded again that the angel has been sent by God to reveal to us the things which have to be done shortly. The root word used in the phrase "shortly be done" is the same as the one used in the next verse in the phrase "come quickly." First usage can be literally translated as "what it is necessary to do quickly." In verse 7 the adverb form translates as "quickly." The implication given to us is that when the action comes, it will be sudden. Not that it must come really soon, timewise, but that when it does come it will happen suddenly, in the blink of an eye. We are also given the impression that it could be imminent, happening at any time. This is a message of warning to the saints and the sinners. It repeats the warnings given back in the opening chapters of Revelation, do not procrastinate, accept Christ into your heart today. Today is the day of your salvation. It also warns believers to not think that the words written in Revelation are not for their benefit also. Jesus Christ is telling John, and us, that when He comes it will be quickly.
If these words are faithful and true then it precludes anyone from changing them while translating them into another version. These are the Words of God, given to us so that we may believe. Our Lord is speaking about reality, not perceptions of people. At the beginning of this book Christ pronounced a blessing upon all who read and hear and keep these words. Here He repeats the blessing upon those who keep these words. This is a book to live and act upon, not merely for use as a curiosity. Verse 7 also holds the sixth of the seven beatitudes found in Revelation. It is strange that so neglected a book of the Bible ought to contain these special notes of promised blessings to any who properly understand its promises and divine revelation. Here, in this final book of the Bible, we find evidence of the paying of honor and exaltation to the Lord Jesus Christ above and beyond all of the other books of the Bible.
Next time we shall continue on with the next 3-4 verses. Until then, beloved, live each day in the Lord Jesus Christ. Believe with all of your heart that He truly is grafted into you and that if you feed yourself spiritually then He shall grow to become the greater part of you. It is a case of living out John the Baptist's claim, "He must increase, and I must decrease." I pray that this will happen to each of us, beginning this very day.
Back to Blog Main Page