Sat, Jan 30th - 10:14PM
STUDY IN JOHN
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shone in darkness; and the darkness did not comprehend it (John 1;1-5)."
We can find here the probable height of human thought. Here is the apex of human concepts. It is that Jesus Christ is the Word of God, the Creator of all life, and the Very Being and Essence of life. One can't quickly breeze through these opening five verses and come close to understanding what is being said. Here are to be found the truths upon which the very foundation of life rests. If Jesus is the Word of God, then people must hear and understand that Word or else be forever lost in ignorance of God Himself. The truth is that Jesus is eternal (verse one), Jesus is the Creator (verse three), and Jesus is Life (verse four-five).
The Greek word logos means the picture, the expression, the pattern, and the very image. This concept was familiar and understood by both Gentile and Jew. The Gentiles had not heard about the Messiah or Savior who was expected by the Jews. How was John going to present Christ so that they could grasp who and what he was talking about? The answer was to be found in this term "Word." The Jews saw a word as something more than just a mere sound. A word was something active and existing. It was power, it possessed the power to express something, to do something. This can be seen in the many Old Testament references where The Word of God was seen as the creative power of God, the power that made the world and gave light and life to every person (Genesis 1:3, 6,11; Psalm 33:6; 107:20; 147:15; Isaiah 55:11). The Gentiles, or Greeks, saw the Word more philosophically. In the world of nature they saw that things were not chaotic, but orderly. Everything had its place and moved or grew in an orderly fashion, including the stars above and the vegetation below. They therefore concluded that behind the world was a mind, a reason, a power that made and kept things in their proper place. This creative and sustaining mind, this supreme reason, this unlimited power was said to be the Word. This term was also seen as the power that enabled people to think and reason. It was this power that brought light and understanding to peoples' minds and enabled them to express their jumbled up thoughts in an orderly fashion. This term also was thought of as the power by which people came into contact with God and expressed their feelings to God.
So we see John grabbing hold of this common idea of both the Jews and the Gentiles. He proclaimed that Jesus was the Word. John proclaimed that in the life of Jesus Christ, God was speaking to the world, speaking and demonstrating just what He wanted to say to people. John stated that God had given us much more than simply words in the Holy Scriptures. God had given us Christ Jesus, The Word. He was the picture, the expression, the pattern, the very image of what God wished to say to us. The very image within God's mind of the Ideal Man was demonstrated in the life of Christ Jesus. Jesus is the perfect expression of all that God wants us to be. Jesus was God's utterance, God's speech, God's Word to mankind. Jesus enabled each of us to come into a face to face relationship with God.
We must understand, and accept, that Jesus is the Mind, the Reason, the Power that both made and keeps all things in their proper order. He is the creative and sustaining Mind, the Supreme Reason, the unlimited Power. Jesus is also the Light, the Illumination, the Power that penetrates the darkness of the world. It is He that makes sense of the world and enables us to understand the world around us. John proclaims that Jesus is eternal, pre-existent. This means that Christ existed before Creation. It is not a case of "from the beginning" but only of "in the beginning." Jesus was not created; He never had a beginning. The term "was" is the Greek imperfect tense of eimi which is the word so often used for deity. It means to be or I am. "To be' means continuous existence, without beginning or origin. This concept comes across in these other Scripture references: Psalm 90:2, Proverbs 8:23, John 17:5, II Corinthians 8:9, Philippians 2:6-8.
We must understand that Christ Jesus was coexistent with God the Father. He was and is face to face with the Father forever. These opening verses lay out the concept that Jesus was both with God and acting with God. He was there with God, acting, living, and moving in the closest of relationships. Their relationship, communion, fellowship, and connection was a perfect eternal bond. This is what was brought down to earth to be revealed to mankind (I John 1:1-2). It is very important to understand that John did not say that the Word was the God. He says "the Word" was God. John stated that Jesus was a distinct Person from God the Father, but He is of the very being and essence of God the Father. When a person sees Christ they see a distinct person, but that person is of the very substance and character of God in all of His perfect Being. Christ, the Word, self-existent and eternal, the Supreme Majesty of the universe who owes His existence to on one, is the Son of the Living God.
To accept that Christ Jesus is eternal means that He reveals all that God is and wants to say to us. Therefore, Christ must be diligently studied, and all that He is and says must be listened to most closely. Christ reveals God most perfectly for He is God, identical to God; so when we look upon Christ we see God. Christ also reveals that God is the most wonderful Person in the universe. God is far beyond anyone we could have ever imagined. He is loving and caring, full of goodness and grace, truth and mercy; and He will never tolerate injustices, murder and stealing, lying and cheating of husband, wife, child, neighbor, brother, sister or stranger.
We need to understand and accept that Jesus is the Creator of the universe. Colossians 1:16 reinforces this concept by mentioning again how all things were created by Him and for Him. Before the beginning there was nothing, no substances, no physical matter whatsoever. Matter is not eternal. God did not take substances outside of Himself and remake them into something else. That would be inconsistent with His perfect nature. Christ took nothing but His will and power; He spoke the Word, and created every single thing out of nothing (ex nihilo). Among the Godhead (Romans 1:19-20) He was the active Agent, the Person who made all things. Since Christ created our world, it is His. He is not off in some distant section of the universe preoccupied with aliens. He is not unconcerned and disinterested in what is happening here on earth. He cares deeply about each and every detail of each person's life. Be very sure of this: the problems of our world are not due to God and His attitude. The problems are due to sin, to the attitude and evil of our hearts. The solution to the world's problems is not us and our technical skills. The answer is finding the way back to Christ: to turn to Him and surrender and give their lives in order to know Christ in the most personal and intimate way possible. Then, and only then, can mankind set its life and world back into proper order as God has always intended.
Finally, we learn that Christ is life. He is the source of light. God's intention from the very beginning was for mankind to know life, to know God personally and intimately. Christ's life was to be the light to illuminate our purpose, our meaning and significance of being upon this earth. The flip side of this is that Christ is the answer to the darkness. Since "darkness" had been brought into this world by man through personal sin, the life of Christ was the light, the beam, that revealed the Way to man. Christ revealed the way God intended people to live. He showed people the truth of life, the truth about God and man and the truth about the world of man. He showed people the life, the truth about how to save their lives and avoid the things that can cause them to stumble and lose their lives in sin. John proclaims that without Christ there would be no life whatsoever. Life is in Him, within His very Being. Christ is the very purpose of life, the very meaning of life, and the very significance of life. Life is completeness of being, absolute satisfaction, the fullness of all good, and the possession of all good things. Life is perfect love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, faith, meekness, and self-control.
Well, that is a lot of stuff to consider from just the opening five verses of John. Yet it is all foundational to Christian belief. Without this as bedrock to your faith, there is nothing upon which to believe you are saved from sin and the debt it places upon you. You can understand what John believes to be true about Jesus, he leaves one without any doubts. He consistently remains true to Old Testament Scriptures and what they claim about God. It is up to you, the reader, to decide what you believe to be true. Just choose wisely, my friends, choose wisely. Grace and peace be yours.
Sat, Jan 9th - 2:58PM
STUDY IN LUKE
"And He led them out as far as to Bethany, and He lifted up His hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was separated from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen (Luke 24:50-53)."
Here at the end of Luke's gospel account, he closes it with the ascension of Christ, and then will begin the book of Acts with the ascension of Christ. This ascension is important in that it signifies the close to Christ's earthly ministry, to save the world. Here is the consummation of Christ's journey upon this earth, the final chapter and close of the "unfinished business" of God the Father. This ascension begins the Lord's heavenly ministry, His mission of intercession for the world and His mission of bearing witness through the lives of His believers here on earth. Thus, the ascension is the opening chapter of Christ's journey back into heaven as the Risen Lord. There in heaven Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the entire world (I John 2:1-2).
What sorts of assurance does this ascension of Christ's provide to us today? It assures that God is, that He is alive and does exist. Only God could do such a thing as to die and be resurrected. It assures that Christ is God's Son. The fact that God raised Christ up and received Him up in heaven proves that Christ must be God's Son. It assures that heaven is a real place. It assures that the gospel is true. It validates the message of Christ Jesus. What Christ proclaimed and revealed was true: people face a critical problem, the problem of sin and death and a future of condemnation and separation from God. It assures that the Great Commission is the call and mission of each and every believer. Why? Since Christ is now bodily in heaven at the right hand of God's throne, if the gospel is to be carried to the ends of the earth, it is up to believers in Christ to do it. Also, it is the risen and ascended Lord who gave the Great Commission and demands that it be fulfilled. It assures that power is available to carry out the Great Commission. It also assures that we have a very special Helper in heaven, One who really loves and cares for us. He is ever ready to forgive and forget our sins and to look after us through all of life.
What was the purpose of the ascension? Beyond what I said in the beginning paragraph, this was Christ's final blessing of His disciples. His last earthly gesture was to bless them. It demonstrated that He was the High Priest who had the power to make the sin-offering for them and to bless them with the gift of peace with God, just as Aaron in Leviticus 9:22 had done. It demonstrated that His blessing was coming from the ascended Lord who was in heaven exalted to the right hand of God. It demonstrated that His blessing was forever, without any end, even to the end of the world and beyond. It demonstrated that His blessing was unlimited, from their ascended and eternal Lord. It demonstrated that His blessing was upon them as they went out into the hostile world as His representatives, witnessing for Him.
What was the response of the disciples? The ascension stirred worship. The disciples knew beyond any question that Christ was the true Messiah, the Son of God, the Lamb of God. He had ascended into heaven, therefore, He was due all of the homage, adoration, and praise due God. The disciples were filled with joy because their Lord was exalted and privileged to take His rightful place at the right hand of God the Father and be praised eternally. They were also overjoyed because they now knew that His presence would always be with them. Incarnated in human flesh and living upon earth limited how many places God could be simultaneously. Physically, He could only be in one specific place at a specific time. Limited people could interact with Him as long as He remained embodied in human flesh. But with ascension into heaven Jesus could release His Holy Spirit to dwell with believers everywhere (omnipresent). We can observe that the disciples were in the temple continually. The temple was the focus of God's presence and worship, and it was the center of teaching, the place where the people were instructed in the Scriptures. The disciples' focus had to be either the temple or church because Christ had taught that the temple was His Father's house and the house of prayer, because they wished to praise God for sending the Messiah and to bear public testimony of Him, and because the temple was the chosen place of God to manifest His presence among His people.
It would seem rather obvious that today believers ought to have their focus upon the church because it is where they are to be instructed in the Scriptures. Then as now, the church is the center of teaching and prayer. It is also a place where believers need to praise God for sending the Messiah, to bear testimony of Him, and to feel God's presence among all gathered together to worship Him. Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Well, it has taken much longer than I anticipated but we have finally finished the book of Luke. Next time I shall begin the book of John which was at the very least dictated by John the Apostle. Perhaps he actually wrote down this gospel account while he lived and served Christ at Ephesus by teaching, preaching, and writing. This gospel could have been written between A.D. 80-95. We know that John was a very young man when called by Christ "to come." It was written to the lost (3:16), the unbelieving (20:31), the new believers, the philosopher (1;1), and the theologian (1:12-14). Its purpose for being written was that the reader might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that in believing, the reader might have life through His name (20:31). A secondary purpose is that this gospel refutes almost any heresy that might arise over the passage of time. John answers those who deny Christ's deity, those who deny Jesus' humanity, and those who continue to look for a human messiah and an earthly utopia.
This gospel is "the gospel of simplicity" in that John used the simplest language and the most pure Greek possible. This gospel is "the gospel of revelation" in that John is compelled to show the reader that Christ Jesus is the very revelation of God Himself. This gospel is "the gospel of the Messiah" in that John shows repeatedly that the Old Testament prophecies find their fulfillment in Jesus. A difference between this gospel and the Synoptic Gospels is that John shows that salvation brought by Jesus is the very climax of Jewish religion. Jesus is the very fulfillment of the blessings promised Israel, the substance and truth, the symbolic meaning of the great Jewish festivals. This gospel is "the gospel of redemption" by being centered in the cross and death of Christ Jesus. He is the sacrificial Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the entire world. He draws all people to Himself but it is only by being lifted up on the cross. By giving of His life others are able to be set apart to God. This gospel is "the gospel of Jesus' humanity" in that John shows Jesus being weary and thirsty; spitting on the ground; weeping at the death of a dear friend, Lazarus; troubled because He was to die; disgusted with His betrayer; and having normal blood and and water flowing through His body. This gospel is "the gospel of the Word" in that John shows Jesus to be the very Word of God. Jesus is everything God ever wanted to say to mankind. God has done more than speak what He wanted to say to us; God has pictured what He wanted to say in the very life of Christ Jesus. Jesus is the expression, the thought, the idea, the essence of what God wanted to say to us. The Word of God has become flesh. This gospel is "the gospel of 'I Am'" in that John records the these words spoken by Jesus of Himself. "I AM" is extremely important to Jewish history. It is the great name of God revealed to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:13-15). At least ten times we shall discover that John shows Jesus revealing Himself as the "I AM". This gospel is "the gospel of signs" in that John records eight miracles of Jesus, six of which are only found in his account. All of these miracles point and show that Jesus is the Son of God. The miracles were not done to amaze people but were done as signs of His deity and godly powers. This gospel is also "the gospel of the Holy Spirit" in that John gives the fullest teaching of Jesus on the Holy Spirit among the four Gospel writers.
That is background information on the book of John to be kept in mind as we study it in the coming weeks. Peace and grace be yours! The length of daylight in the northern hemisphere is increasing each and every day! Spring is almost in sight! Our Savior has been born, is witnessing upon the earth, and will begin His journey towards Jerusalem for His passion week in short order. May each believer join Him in this annual pilgrimage of the Spirit.
Sat, Jan 2nd - 11:54AM
STUDY IN LUKE
"And as they thus spoke, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, Peace be to you. But they were terrified, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And He said to them, Why are you troubled? and why do you have these thoughts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself: touch Me, and see; for a spirit does not have flesh and bones, as you see that I have. And when He had thus spoken, He showed them His hands and His feet. And while they did not yet believe with joy, and wondered, He said to them, Have you any meat? And they gave Him a piece of broiled fish and of honeycomb. And He took it, and did eat before them. And He said to them, These are the words that I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning Me. Then he opened up their understanding, that they might comprehend the scriptures, And said to them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead on the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of My Father upon you: but tarry in the city of Jerusalem, until you be endued with power from on high (Luke 24:36-49)."
Here you and I can find the great statements of Christian faith. #1 is that Jesus is risen; #2 is all prophetic Scripture must be fulfilled; #3 is repentance and forgiveness of sin are imperative; #4 is power is to come upon you. The scene above was very dramatic in nature since it was the night of the very day of Christ's resurrection. He had already appeared to Mary Magdalene and the women visiting the tomb as well as to the two men walking to Emmaus (Cleopas and Simon). I would imagine that word had been circulating among all of the disciples during that day that others were claiming to have seen Christ Jesus or that the tomb was empty. The atmosphere in that upper room must have been electric! Excitement, anxiety, concern, must all have been coursing through the minds of those gathered in that room. As they are all talking to one another about these things, suddenly Jesus appears right in the middle of them all! I would have been rather startled by His appearance out of nowhere. How about you?
But Jesus knows what they are thinking and feeling so He says to them, "Peace be to you." Jesus knew that they all needed to remain calm, to not become hysterical with fear of the unknown. ("Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you: not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let your heart be not troubled, neither let it be afraid." John 14:27) The disciples, as always, had reacted in a very human manner. They concluded that they must be seeing a ghost, a spirit, for Jesus had died on the cross and been buried in a tomb. They were scared. How do unbelievers respond to the resurrection? Perhaps in these five ways: They are terrified, frightened, and troubled by it because it means they must obey and serve Christ. If He is the living Lord, then it means man is His subject. They may question the resurrection, the truth of it. The idea that a man could arise from the dead is beyond their experience and acceptance. They could ignore the resurrection, pay no attention to it, and count it as being meaningless to them. They might respond to the resurrection, accepting Christ Jesus as their Savior and Lord. They might react to the resurrection negatively; from mild opposition and cursing to the persecution of any who bear witness to the resurrection.
Well, this account demonstrates that Jesus was not a spirit, a vision, an hallucination, a phantom, or any other figment of man's imagination. He was bodily the risen Lord, not reincarmated, not in someone else's body, nor some other spirit. His body still bore the marks where the nails had been driven through His wrists and feet. His side still had the mark of the spear that pierced His side. Yet His body was different too. It was glorified, perfected, and no longer subject/limited to the laws of the physical universe; it was now glorified by the power and spoken Word of God.
How was this body different? It was radically changed. It had all of the appearance of a normal physical body, but it was not restrained by the physical world and its material substance. It was a body that could travel and appear anywhere, anyplace, at will and by thought: it was uninhibited by time, space, material, or substance. Locked doors did not cause Jesus any difficulties in appearing on the other side of the door. It was a body that could prevent observers from correctly discerning who it was. Most exciting of all is that it is a body that has been promised to each one who chooses to believe in Christ. "Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like to His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things to Himself." (Philippians 3:21)."
So our bodies will undergo a radical change just as the Lord's body was radically changed. We will receive a spiritual body (I Corinthians 1:44) but it shall retain some of the qualities of the earthly body. In essence, the body will be perfected; it will no longer be subject to pain, tears, death, sorrow, hunger, infection, or injury. The shape of the body remains the same but the nature of it is what changes. If we remained in a body of flesh and blood we would still age, deteriorate, and die. Our glorified body shall not require sleep, food, nor reproduction in order for the human species to survive.
Finally, it is clearly written in this passage that all prophetic Scriptures must be fulfilled. Jesus had forewarned of this happening throughout His teachings. He had predicted all of the events leading up to, during, and after, His arrest, trial, crucifixion, and burial. He repeatedly had told them He would rise again on the third day after His death. Christ emphasized the necessity of His death and resurrection. He stated that the Son of man must be crucified and rise from the dead. It was imperative that He do so. Christ revealed that the the law, the prophets, and the psalms all prophesied of His coming and His salvation. As a direct result of His fulfilling these scriptures, each believer in Christ then becomes equipped for witnessing for they have received the promise of the Father (Holy Spirit) and power, being decked out with spiritual power. The source of the Spirit and the power was God. Christ was to send the promise, the promise was of the Father, believers had to tarry/wait upon God and pray for the promise to be given. Acts 1:8 teaches us that we shall receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon us. Accepting Christ as our Lord and Savior then means that we must wait upon the coming of the Holy Spirit to fall on us, to provide us with the power of God in our lives.
Grace and peace be yours this day! I pray that you enjoy these days leading up to Epiphany.
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