Christianity 201

October 29, 2016

Words That Knock You Down

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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As we mentioned yesterday, devotions and studies here often begin with the words, “Today we return to the blog of ______ …” as we catch up with writers we’ve used in the same month, but previous years. Yesterday and today we’re taking the liberty of running two posts from B.J. Richardson at The River Walk. Click the titles to see these at source, you can also click the “merch” link to find out about owning copies of his studies in John’s gospel. Each devotional also has a related music video which you can see there.

Two Words

Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them.
“Who are you looking for?” he asked.
“Jesus the Nazarene,” they replied.

I am he,” Jesus said. (Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.)
As Jesus said I am he,” they all drew back and fell to the ground!
John 18:4-6

Read: Acts 14:21-28, Galatians 1:1 – 3:23

Relate: Ego Eimi. I exist. It is I. I am. However you want to translate it, the words out of Jesus mouth threw the others to the ground. Judas, the betrayer, was there. A delegation from the priests and the Pharisees was there in all their stuffily religious zeal. A detachment of soldiers was there armed to the teeth. It doesn’t matter. With two words, “I AM” they all fall down.

These men came to arrest Jesus. They wanted to control Him, to stop Him, to silence Him. They wanted to put Him in chains and take Him where He didn’t want to go. They thought they were in control of the situation. The religious delegates felt that they were the ones running the show. The soldiers felt they could handle anything that came their way. Judas thought… well, who knew what Judas was thinking. He clearly wasn’t. No matter. With two simple words, in Greek, “Ego Eimi” in English, “I AM” Jesus set them straight. The road He walked to the cross was completely and totally His choice. It was not forced on Him. He never lost control. What He did, Jesus did willingly.

React: Am I like the soldier? Do I think I can force the issue? If I have the right tools, the right weapons, I am the one in control? If only I am strong enough, if I undergo enough training or preparation, then I can be the one running the show. This is a popular lie from the world. If one has enough education, or self discipline, if one knows the right people then they can be the one running the show.

Am I the religious delegate? Do I think that by virtue of my self earned righteousness that I can be the one running the show? We would never couch it in those terms, but how often do those in the religious world buy into this lie? If only I pray more, or fast more, then God must listen to me. If I stop what I am doing and bow my head to the east with every call from the minaret then surely God will listen to me? If I read my Bible more often, how could I not earn His favor? How dare He deny my request?

Am I Judas? Everyone thinks I am a follower of Christ. I believe I’ve got everyone fooled. Even God. Even perhaps myself. Yet even as my words and my appearance is that of being a friend of God, with my actions I betray Him. I think I’ve got everything under control. I can stop doing it anytime I want. As long as I say I’m sorry, He has to forgive my most recent betrayal. I think that an apology has it covered and that repentance is far too radical a step. “I’m in control” I think as I betray Him with a kiss.

Then He speaks two words…
All illusions are shattered.

Respond: God, shatter my illusions. Knock me off my feet. That misconception of control, that idea of freedom, that I can do my own thing. Erase it from my mind. Forgive me for the audacity in thinking that if somehow I might be a little more righteous I might somehow control You. Forgive me for the temerity in thinking that I can be OK even as I betray You with my sin. Forgive me for thinking that I can run things with just a little more self discipline or force of will. You are in control. You are God. You are, “Ego eime.” Jesus, You are I AM.

 

 

January 19, 2016

The Sufferings of Christ: Witnessed by an Angelic Host

CEB, I Timothy 3:16 Without question, the mystery of godliness is great: he was revealed as a human, declared righteous by the Spirit, seen by angels, preached throughout the nations, believed in around the world, and taken up in glory.
(emphasis added)

The title I gave today’s devotional is just a small part of all that is contained here, but I wanted to draw attention to an aspect of the story that struck me as I was reading this and may affect you as it did me.

Today’s devotional is from BibleUniverse.com and is part four of a larger series.

The Sufferings of Christ, Pt. #4 – Christ’s Submission

And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. Matthew 26:39

How cruel for the disciples to permit sleep to close their eyes and slumber to chain their senses, while their divine Lord was enduring such inexpressible mental anguish. If they had remained watching, they would not have lost their faith as they beheld the Son of God dying upon the cross. This important night-watch should have been signalized by noble mental struggles and prayers, which would have brought them strength to witness the unspeakable agony of the Son of God. It would have prepared them, as they should behold his sufferings upon the cross, to understand something of the nature of the overpowering anguish which He endured in the garden of Gethsemane. And they would have been better able to recall the words he had spoken to them in reference to his sufferings, death, and resurrection, and amid the doom of that terrible, trying hour, some rays of hope would have lit up the darkness, and sustained their faith.

He had told them before that these things would take place; but they did not understand him. The scene of Christ’s sufferings was to be a fiery ordeal to his disciples, hence the necessity of watchfulness and prayer. Their faith needed to be sustained by an unseen strength, as they should experience the triumph of the powers of darkness. We can have but faint conceptions of the inexpressible anguish of God’s dear Son in Gethsemane as he realized the separation from his Father in consequence of bearing man’s sin. He became sin for the fallen race. The sense of the withdrawal of his Father’s love pressed from his anguished soul these words: “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” Then with entire submission to his Father’s will he adds, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

The divine Son of God was fainting, dying. The Father sent a messenger from his presence to strengthen the divine Sufferer, and brace him to tread his blood-stained path. Could mortals view the amazement and sorrow of the angels as they watched in silent grief the Father separating his beams of light, love and glory, from his Son, they would better understand how offensive is sin in his sight. The sword of Justice was now to awake against this dear Son. He was betrayed by a kiss into the hands of his enemies, and hurried to the judgment hall of an earthly court, there to be derided, and condemned to death, by sinful mortals. There the glorious Son of God was “wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities.” He bore insult, mockery, and shameful abuse, until his “visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men.”

Who can comprehend the love here displayed? The angelic host beheld with wonder and with grief Him who had been the majesty of Heaven, and who had worn the crown of glory, now wearing the crown of thorns, a bleeding victim in the rage of an infuriated mob, fired to insane madness by the wrath of Satan. Behold the patient sufferer! Upon his head is the thorny crown. His life-blood flows from every lacerated vein. All this in consequence of sin! Nothing could have induced Christ to leave his honor and majesty in Heaven, and come to a sinful world, to be neglected, despised, and rejected, by those he came to save, and finally to suffer upon the cross, but eternal, redeeming love, which will ever remain a mystery.

September 30, 2015

Paid in Full

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Allan Connor is a retired missionary who has also authored two books and produces a series of devotional studies under the title Trail Mix. Allan is part of Clarke Dixon’s church; Clarke returns next week.

Today’s Scripture: Matthew 26:36-29 and Luke 22:39-44

tetelastaiPaid In Full

Jesus and his eleven disciples emerged from a house in Jerusalem, crossed the Kidron Valley to the east and entered a garden on the thickly wooded slopes of a long limestone ridge named the Mount of Olives. This walled enclosure was called “Gethsemane” from the Aramaic word meaning “oil press.” It was about to become a place of great crushing.

The Master took three of his intimate friends and moved off a short distance from the rest. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he confided in them. “Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther he knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.” Then an angel came to his help, strengthening him. But he prayed more earnestly, in great anguish, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

What is happening here? Why this convulsive struggle? What is the cup? Jesus knew he would soon die on a cross but even death by crucifixion could not create such torment of soul. Here is the strong and mighty Son of God in an astonishing state of overwhelming agony!

Jesus, the sinless Savior, is about to die on the cross, taking on himself the world’s sin, breaking his oneness with the Father, facing the blackness of hell, drinking the cup of God’s wrath. “And his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Christ is being crushed beyond endurance in Gethsemane’s press; he will drink the cup until not a drop remains.

Next morning Roman soldiers fasten him to a crude wooden cross, the fiendish instrument of torture used by the Romans to punish and execute slaves and the worst type of criminals. At noon darkness descends over the land for three hours. Then Jesus cries out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Someone runs to get him a drink. Then his last words, “It is finished.” He bows his head and gives up his Spirit.

“It is finished.” Three English words are used here to translate a single Greek word, “tetelastai,” a word written across tax receipts of the time that meant, “Paid in Full.” Through his shed blood Jesus has become the supreme sacrifice required to pay our debt completely, to grant us full and complete salvation.

If Christ was willing to endure the horror of Gethsemane, the physical pain of crucifixion and the unthinkable separation from the Father as he bore my sin on the cross, there is a message here that I must breathe into my soul: God is the great Lover. As such he has an urgent need to be loved in return; that need requires our response.

John the apostle, one of the three disciples Jesus drew aside in the garden, put it this way: “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life” (John 3:16, TM).

So I take my stand: I will endeavor, with the help of his Holy Spirit, to love the Lord with all my heart and soul and mind and strength (Mark 12:30). For that is his desire.

October 13, 2011

The Last 14 Hours of Christ’s Earthly Mission

Structured somewhat like an episode of the television series 24, Dawson McAllister’s 2009 book A Walk With Christ to the Cross: The Last Fourteen Hours of His Earthly Mission, is probably one of the more explicit books I’ve seen in terms of Christ’s suffering.

I picked up this book and not-so-randomly jumped to chapter three, which deals with Jesus in Gethsemane.  I’ve read some rather detailed descriptions of Christ’s crucifixion — I think Chuck Swindoll has a book that is exceptionally clear on this — but considering that I was reading a chapter consisting of 90-minute window before Jesus was even arrested, nothing at all prepared me for what I read. 

The chapter is based on a combination — or harmonization — of all the gospel accounts.  I’d hoped to find some text from the book online, but since that wasn’t an option, and since it’s hard to excerpt bits of this chapter without missing the impact of the whole, I’ll just note a few things in bullet points:

  • His friends didn’t understand His pain
  • …and they were soon to abandon Him.
  • The severity of what He was about to face could mean that physically, He was going in to shock.
  • Jesus began to be sorrowful; emotions absolutely shot.
  • Jesus became deeply distressed; He began to shudder; some believe this was to the point of a mild heart attack.
  • He pressed His face to the ground and prayed, basically, “Abba Father! Is there another way?”
  • He asked himself: Could He do it? Was it right to take all our sin on Him at once? Could he bear the utter hell of being forsaken by The Father?  Was humankind worth the suffering?
  • Nonetheless, He had to make a yes or no decision. 
  • He sweat drops of blood: Hematidrosis is the technical name for this condition; blood passing through the veins into the sweat glands.
  • He would want to do The Father’s will, but His whole system would be shouting, “NO!”
  • All these things considered, He might have died right there, but The Father sent an angel to comfort him; in some way the angel ministered to Jesus; the almighty creator of everything being comforted by a created being.

[…I have no words at this point…]

What we learn from Jesus’ time in the garden:

  • Humility.  If we’d walked by that garden and looked over the wall, we wouldn’t have said, “Oh, I get it…God in human form!  That must be God in the flesh.”  …Our first reaction would have been, “Who is this peasant Jew having a nervous breakdown?”
  • Sin is no small thing to Jesus.  What troubled Him deeply even to the point of death?  What was it He saw in the garden?  Answer: He saw sin in all its fury. 
  • Jesus considered us worth the suffering.  Hebrews 12:2 “…Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame.”

Items in all bullet points are edited quotations from the book.