Christianity 201

January 7, 2020

As Jesus Grew, His Purpose Became Increasingly Clearer

Last year at this time we introduced you to the writing of various authors at The Jagged Word. This article caught my eye when I saw the original title (below, click to link) and thought it would be a good fit here. The author of this piece is Cindy Koch.

What Jesus Did Not Know

He heard it a million times from his mom; son of God, born of a virgin. When he was younger, he did not really know what all those words meant. Everyone was nice to him and he had a special place when they went to temple. He remembered the old men looking at him with tears in their eyes, and the widows would touch his little shoulder when he walked by. They told him that he was born of the Spirit, and there was much he would do in his lifetime. When he was little, he tried to imagine what it was he would get to do.

And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon Him (Luke 2:40).

He read it a million times in the Scriptures. It is written, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession” (Psalm 2:6-8). “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore” (Isaiah 9:6-7). His wisdom about the deep things of God were remembered from the beginning of all time. The Word he once spoke from creation and now heard through the prophets kept his heart and mind focused on the will of the Father in Heaven.

He wondered a million things as he grew up in the fear of the Lord. He was Son of the most-high, why did he ache with sadness? He was able to heal and give sight to the blind, would there ever be an end to this need for restoration? He spoke with the authority of the everlasting Word of God, why can people not recognize his voice? His purpose in life was to lead God’s beloved creation through repentance to everlasting salvation, why do they refuse to listen?

Jesus must have expected more out of this creation. The wise and holy son of God learned to be incredibly disappointed. Fulfillment and meaning lay right in front of the servants of God, and they turned away from young Jesus. Healing and wisdom called directly into the ears of the chosen people, and they raged against his holy name. Day by day, Jesus grew in the wisdom and understanding of what it looked like to be the Christ, the Son of God. Day by day he understood what it must take to save such an undeserving hoard of unbelievers.

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented (Matthew 3:13-15).

He began to know what he must do. His righteousness, his wisdom, his healing, his sonship, it was for them. It was to be given to this wicked and unloving generation. Even the repentance they failed to do, right now at John’s passionate call, it was the responsibility of this righteous Son. Jesus began to understand his long-promised kingdom in reference to those who would reside within the gates. Here in the Jordan, Jesus was coronated in the gritty black mud of his unmerited repentance.

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16-17).

Jesus seemed to know this from the beginning. He was the Son with whom God was well pleased. He was sent to do the work of the Father, and he would do it well. But the pleasing work of the Father looked a little darker than Jesus might have imagined. The repentance of the world felt thick and heavy stepping out of the water that day.

The worst of it was, finally, looking around at the people whom he came to save. They had no idea. The adulterous, guilty generation blindly believed their own baptism of repentance was enough. They wanted to fulfill the Law and do it right, but John’s washing with water only highlighted their sin. So, they left the water, trying to sacrifice and clean up their life to please the Father in Heaven. They were made alive in their sin, only to find out they were already dead. Yet, if they trusted in their repentance and their reconciliation, these poor miserable sinners unknowingly heaped sin upon sin; trusting in the Law to bring life, trusting in themselves to follow the Law.

Unbelief, misunderstanding, selfishness, unrighteousness, these were the brothers and sisters Jesus discovered in the Jordan. Pain, sorrow, disgust, separation, these were the riches Jesus learned to inherit on this earth. His journey of deep wisdom and pure understanding ultimately exposed the bowels of a rotting humanity. And while we were still sinners, Jesus died for the ungodly.

“This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.”

December 24, 2019

This is Why Jesus Came

Note: This article continues a theme begun yesterday…

While writing a fictional story for a local newspaper, though I knew what I wanted to say, I wanted to review the theological underpinnings for some of the dialog. This was found at ecclesia.org and you’re encouraged to click the title below to read this at source. Note: The language has been updated by using some of the many current translations available.

15 Reasons Why Jesus Came

  1. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.

    1 Timothy 1:15, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” This saying is true, and it can be trusted. I was the worst sinner of all! (CEV)

  2. Jesus Christ came into the world to call sinners to repentance.

    Mark 2:17, When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (NLT)

  3. Jesus Christ came into the world to seek and save the lost.

    Luke 19:10, For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. (ESV)

  4. Jesus came into the world to demonstrate the true purpose of life and give Himself a ransom.

    Matthew 20:28, Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (NASB)

  5. Jesus Christ came into the world to be a King and bear witness to the truth.

    John 18:37, So Pilate asked him, “Are you a king, then?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. I was born and came into the world for this one purpose, to speak about the truth. Whoever belongs to the truth listens to me. (GNT)

  6. Jesus Christ came into the world to do the Will of His Father.

    John 6:38, For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. (NKJV)

  7. Jesus Christ came into the world to be a Light in the world.

    John 12:46, I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark. (NLT)

  8. Jesus Christ came into the world that men might have the Abundant Life.

    John 10:10b, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (KJV)

  9. Jesus Christ came into the world to Judge the world.

    John 9:39, Then Jesus told him, “I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.” (NLT)

  10. Jesus Christ came into the world to Proclaim or preach the Good News about the Kingdom of God.

    Mark 1:38, Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else–to the nearby villages–so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” (NIV)

  11. Jesus Christ came into the world to die on the cross.

    John 12:27, Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ’Father, save Me from this hour’? No, it is for this purpose that I have come to this hour. (Berean Study Bible)

  12. Jesus Christ came into the world to fulfill the law.

    Matthew 5:17, Do not think that I have come to overturn or do away with the law or the words of our prophets. To the contrary: I have not come to overturn them but to fulfill them. (The Voice)

  13. Jesus Christ came into the world to be a Divider of men.

    Matthew 10:34, 35, Don’t assume that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I came to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law (CSB)

    (Christ makes it necessary to choose between relatives and the truth. This choice often causes division.)

  14. Jesus Christ came into the world as a demonstration of God’s Love.

    1 John 4:10, This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (NIV)

  15. Jesus Christ came into the world because the Father sent Him.

    John 20:21, I give you the gift of peace. In the same way the Father sent Me, I am now sending you. (The Voice)

a. The Father SENT Jesus to be the Propitiation (atonement) for our sins.

1 John 4:10, >This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God. (The Message)

b. The Father SENT Jesus and gave Jesus as the Saviour of the world.

John 3:16-18,  For this is how much God loved the world—he gave his one and only, unique Son as a gift. So now everyone who believes in himwill never perish but experience everlasting life. God did not send his Son into the world to judge and condemn the world, but to be its Savior and rescue it! So now there is no longer any condemnation for those who believe in him, but the unbeliever already lives under condemnation because they do not believe in the name of God’s beloved Son.(Passion Translation)

c. The Father SENT Jesus to bless us by turning us from our iniquities.

Acts 3:26, God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.” (ESV)

d. The Father SENT His Son to redeem us from the curse of the law.

Galatians 4:4-5, But when the fullness of time came, God sent out His Son, born of a woman and born under law—to free those under law, so we might receive adoption as sons. (Tree of Life – TLV)

e. God SENT His Son to make possible a new power in the hearts of men, a power to enable him to fulfill the righteousness of the law.

Romans 8:3,4, For what the Law could not do [that is, overcome sin and remove its penalty, its power] being weakened by the flesh [man’s nature without the Holy Spirit], God did: He sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful man as an offering for sin. And He condemned sin in the flesh [subdued it and overcame it in the person of His own Son], so that the [righteous and just] requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us who do not live our lives in the ways of the flesh [guided by worldliness and our sinful nature], but [live our lives] in the ways of the Spirit [guided by His power] (Amplified Bible)


As this is publishing on Christmas Eve, I want to wish all of Christianity 201’s readers a blessed and meaningful celebration of incarnation.

November 22, 2019

The Woman Jesus Wanted Us to Remember

Today we dropped in again on to Dylan Tarpley at the blog One Thing. The blog’s title is based on this verse:

One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. -Psalm 27:4

Although the site isn’t currently active, there is a wealth of material here for you to consider. Like this one!

Mary of Bethany

Every human being has some desire ingrained in their being to do something significant. We all want to be able to look back at the end of our life and know that we have done something that matters. For believers, there is a desire to make a significant impact for God. However, we are often misguided in the way that we go about doing this. The Bible is filled with many people who did extraordinary things for God, but there is one that Jesus called out among the rest, and that is the life of Mary of Bethany.

On the exterior, this woman lived a pretty insignificant life. We only hear of her a couple of times. We never hear her preach a sermon. We never see her perform any miracles. She never raises the dead, or heals the sick. In most circumstances, her life would be ignored or forgotten by most. Yet Jesus declared to those who criticized her extravagant devotion that anywhere the Gospel is preached, her story will be told.

Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her. – Matthew 26:13

Think about this for a second. Jesus so valued her life that He literally wants everyone to know about her. I don’t know of any one else who received such an honor. There were many who walked in more power, and seemed to impact more people than Mary, yet she will be remembered in His eyes forever. 

This must cause a radical shift in the way we see our lives. We must learn to value what Jesus values in us. The Bible says that His eyes are searching throughout the earth looking for hearts after Him. This is so important for us to understand. He is not looking for good sermons, good songs, or more gifts – He is looking for hearts.

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him – 2 Chronicles 16:9

I want God to use me in ministry, but I want Him to be moved by my ministry to Him first. You may never preach to the masses, or find yourself on a foreign mission field, but your life can be remembered by Him. Could it be that He measures our life’s significance not by our ministry, but by our devotion?

So as I write this, I find myself signing up all over again. Jesus, I’ll break my boxes for you – over and over and over again.

October 23, 2019

Bible Numbers: Twelve Disciples

Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach. Mark 3:13-14

When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James (also known as Thaddaeus, the name that is used in Matthew and Mark), and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.” Luke 6:13–16. The accounts of the calling of the disciples are also found in Mark 1:16–20, Luke 5:2–11, and John 1:40–42.

I don’t believe we’ve covered this particular topic before. The answers to the question, “Why 12?” below should whet your appetite for further study on this and other significant numbers in scripture.

■ From the NIV Bible Website:

It was no accident that He chose twelve.

God’s chosen people, the Israelites, were divided into twelve tribes. And as Jesus calls out a new people for Himself, He starts with twelve men who will form the basis of a new Israel.

The power of God was clearly at work in calling these men, but it is doubtful whether they knew the full extent of what they were signing up for when they began as Jesus’ disciples. They knew that they had to leave their current jobs and the security that those gave. But it was only as Jesus neared the end of His earthly life that He explained to them the real cost of discipleship.

Ultimately, what Jesus required of His followers was the willingness to give up everything for Him. He put it in very stark terms when He said that anyone who wanted to follow Him must take up his cross (Luke 9:23) and follow Him. In other words, they were to be prepared to die for Him. For some, their allegiance to Christ resulted in their being killed. And yet what Jesus asked of His disciples wasn’t more than He was willing to do Himself as He demonstrated when He freely gave His own life on the cross as a once-for-all sacrifice for human sin.

Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He “graduated” His disciples, as was the custom of the rabbi. He instructed them to go and proclaim the good news of the kingdom and in addition, He told them that they would be able to do everything that He had taught them to do (Matthew 28:19–20). The book of Acts and the subsequent history of the Church reveal that Jesus’ disciples did precisely that…

■ From the website AllAboutJesusChrist.org:

The 12 Disciples – Why Twelve?
In the Bible, twelve, like seven, frequently suggested completeness and perfection. In the Old Testament, twelve represented “all Israel” (Genesis 49:28; Joshua 13-19). The Book of Revelation provides numerous references to twelve.

  • 12 tribes of Israel, which are sealed and protected (Revelation 7:5-8; Revelation 21:12)
  • 12 stars in the woman’s (Israel) crown, symbolizing the 12 sons of Jacob (Revelation 12:1; Genesis 37:9)
  • 12 gates of the great high wall of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 12:12)
  • 12 angels guarding the heavenly gates (Revelation 12:12)
  • 12 apostles of the Lamb, part of the church and body of Christ (Revelation 12:14)
  • 12 pearls or precious stones of different colors, adorning the 12 foundations (Revelation 21:14, Revelation 19-21)
  • 12 crops of fruit, continually producing wholesome and pleasant fruit (Revelation 22:2)

The mention of “twelve” appears in other areas of the New Testament as well.

  • Jesus first spoke in the Temple at 12 years of age (Luke 2:42, 49-52).
  • Jesus raised Jarius’ 12-year-old daughter from a death-like state (Mark 5:42).
  • The miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fishes, providing 12 baskets of leftovers (Matthew 14:19–20; John 6:13).

As Jesus’ immediate followers, the Twelve’s faithful obedience would be challenged repeatedly. A promise of eternal honor was extended to these chosen men. “Jesus said to them [disciples], ‘I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel’” (Matthew 19:28). This promise shows the glory and status reserved for these saints who had suffered persecution on earth for the cause of Christ. “The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:14).

The 12 Disciples – Why These Men?

…The selection of the Twelve demanded the utmost deliberation as well as sacrifice. Prior to Jesus choosing these men, He fervently sought to fulfill the will of God, the Father. “. . . Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God” (Luke 6:12). These men would not only be His followers, but individuals who would be closest to Him. In every way, the Son of God chose to be vulnerable to these individuals. They would witness His fury against the moneychangers, His grief at a dear friend’s death, and His misery as they abandoned Him in the Garden of Gethsemane (John 2:13-16; 11:35; Mark 14:32-42). Still these men were the sort of people God has always desired—the humble. Despite their faults, the Twelve were teachable. Jesus wanted men who could understand the struggles of the broken-hearted, the poor, and the afflicted…

■ Finally, Christianity.com quoting Doug Bookman:

Since the multitudes had turned away from their promised Messiah, Jesus began a six-month period of private instruction with the Twelve, those He would prepare for the time of this death, resurrection, and departure…

…Seeking seclusion to instruct the Twelve, Jesus retreated to what would then be known as “heathen lands.” The leaders in Israel harassed him because of their animosity to His teaching, and no place within the region would allow Him a time of true private instruction. The Twelve Apostles would serve as the core of the future church, and this time would prepare them for—from their vantage point—the catastrophe of His death. His instruction during this time culminated in the Transfiguration, witnessed by the three members of the “inner circle,” Peter, James, and John, an event that fortified their faith and left an indelible impression on their later ministry (see 2 Peter 1:16-21).

 

 

August 22, 2019

Jesus Gives Them a Problem to Solve | Jesus Slips Through the Crowd

Canadian Pastor Kevin Rogers is one of the most frequently cited devotional writers/bloggers here at C201. Today we have two devotionals for you. Click the titles below to read this at his site.

When Jesus Creates Your Problem

So let’s explore some ideas about problem solving in prayer.

If prayer is a relational dialogue with God, we can learn plenty by observing how Jesus related and dialogued with individuals and with crowds. I am interested in both the conversations and the Presence of Jesus to teach us about prayer. We are going to explore the dynamics around the miracle of loaves and fish to see something about how people relate to Jesus and how he relates to them.

John 6:

As Jesus sat down, he looked out and saw the massive crowd of people scrambling up the hill, for they wanted to be near him. So he turned to Philip and said, “Where will we buy enough food to feed all these people?” Now Jesus already knew what he was about to do, but he said this to stretch Philip’s faith. Philip answered, “Well, I suppose if we were to give everyone only a snack, it would cost thousands of dollars to buy enough food!”

But just then, Andrew, Peter’s brother, spoke up and said, “Look! Here’s a young person with five barley loaves and two small fish . . . but how far would that go with this huge crowd?”

So what is the problem here? Thousands of people are in the wilderness and need to eat.

Many of them were on a journey to Passover at Jerusalem and had detoured to go hear Jesus teach. Instead of arriving at that day’s destination where they would have found food and lodging, they were miles away with no ready resources. The disciples came to Jesus and said that he should send them away so they could go find food in the closest villages.

It would be easy to say, “Well, that’s their problem. They should have planned better or they should have brought food with them.” The opportunity to see Jesus and hear his teaching was so life giving and refreshing that thousands gave up their day to hear his voice. No one wanted to leave his presence.

When it comes to problem solving in prayer, there’s an important thing to notice here. Jesus creates the problem and turns to the disciples for their solution. Sometimes Jesus does that to us. What a strange question he asks—where will we buy enough food to feed all these people?

Jesus assumes a massive, disproportionate act of hospitality and asks his team how to do it. It could be easily argued that everyone was responsible for his or her own food but Jesus has a profound thing to do here.

Jesus already knew what he was going to do, but asks questions to stretch the faith of his disciples.

There are times that Jesus wants to speak to you and give you a massive problem to solve. The easy solution is to ignore Jesus and lay the responsibility at someone else’s feet. But he asks you what you can do about the problem that he has created.

Stop looking at your problems as massive inconveniences and do some problem solving in a conversation with Jesus. See that Jesus wants to create massive opportunities to grow your faith.

It starts with a realistic assessment of natural conditions. It would cost us eight months wage to do this. We do not have the resources, but there is a little boy with a lunch.

Your answered prayer may begin with the smallest, most insignificant detail. A little boy’s lunch… a cloud the size of a hand… a dove carrying an olive branch in its beak or manna on the ground…

You may miss the answer to prayer because you miss the small detail needed to grow into God’s massive answer.

Thank you Jesus for bringing problems to us. Thank you for asking us to assess and then showing us what you can do with the smallest detail.


When Jesus Exits

It would be easy to look at the miracles that Jesus has done and still does and get side-tracked. A relationship with Jesus could easily become more about his power than his presence.

Do you know what the vast majority of people in this world are looking for when they go to church? More than any comfort, catering or style people go to church to experience the presence of God.

That’s what keeps us coming back. We have enough social programs, recreational opportunities and causes to support without ever darkening the door of a church. But if you can gather with other believers and experience God’s presence in the body of Christ, there is nothing comparable.

In our prayer lives, do we pray to enter God’s presence or are we more focused on using God’s power to shape our world?

John 6:

14 All the people were astounded as they saw with their own eyes the incredible miracle Jesus had performed! They began to say among themselves, “He really is the One—the true prophet we’ve been expecting!”

15 So Jesus, knowing that they were about to take him and make him their king by force, quickly left and went up the mountainside alone.

If you think that you know everything there is to know about Jesus and have an idea of what he should to do to fix things, be careful. Never presume that our ideas are all inspired because we witness God doing something miraculous.

When Jesus was transfigured on the mountaintop with appearances of Elijah and Moses, the disciples beheld the glory and jumped to a conclusion. We need to build a shrine here and perpetuate this experience.

Our first response to miracles, revival and signs might be to presume a plan to perpetuate, that which would most benefit our experience.

The crowd saw Jesus’ power to multiply the food and feed them all. That was enough to convince them that Jesus was sent from God. They knew that eventually the King of Israel would come and it appears to be Jesus.

Jesus can see how people think and that they would quickly organize to go to war against Rome. They would bring Jesus to the throne because he represented good government and social justice for the poor.

So, rather than being co-opted into a political agenda, Jesus withdraws. He leaves them and his disciples and heads to the hills to be alone.

I wonder if sometimes our attention to what God can do for us becomes selfish. Are there times when God withdraws His presence because we are coming up with bad ideas that use God’s branding more than His presence?

God is not persuaded by the power grabs that are borne out of our fleshly ideas.

April 10, 2019

He Gave Up A Successful Ministry in order that His Congregation Could Find Something Better

“And they came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.’” – John 4:26

While I’ve linked to Matt Tullos before at our other blog, I’ve not mentioned him here until today. I was originally going to go with the shorter blog post which appears at the end of today’s writing — and I hope you see the connection between them — but decided instead to let you see more of his writing. I was going to build from the first post to include some other writers, but again, didn’t want to shortchange you.

Only a few times have we included poetry here, but it’s a very powerful writing form, as you see below. Click the headers to read the individual pieces at the source and thereby encourage Matt.

Jesus, the Increasing One

They came to John the Baptist with a report of Jesus baptizing. “All are going to Him,” they observed. This itinerant preacher who made his home among reeds and wild goats listened and then replied. “You heard me saying from the start that I am not the One. Don’t expect me to be anything other than elated by His renown, All must go!

John’s was the first all-in believer who gleefully tossed his ambition into the fire of His coming.

“He must increase and I must decrease.”

This is the disciple’s passage into the Kingdom: “It’s not about me. It’s never been about me.” 

Once a disciple of Jesus understands the grand, expansive nature of Christ, everything else falls away. The things that were once important and needful are now flimsy and unsatisfying. The things we chase after aren’t worth the wind. It’s not a sudden change. At least it hasn’t been for me. We often give in to the instinct to build our own castles and place His name on the threshold. As we grow closer to Him, we begin tearing down these false edifices for something more beautiful: the presence of Christ… in every inch of our souls. Piece by piece we dismantle the personal idols and achievements to make more room for His presence. We learn that the works of our hands are best used as kindling for the fire of our own sanctification. No relationship, account, possession or achievement can touch the joy of falling headlong into His grace. And so we toss it all in with little thought of their merit. As we do this, Christ’s presence expands and overtakes our territory. He increases and we decrease.

Like Enoch, if we walk with him long enough we will be no more.

I often lust for definition
affirming nods
Self-decision
Protection for extreme derision
Better plans
And high ambition

Then…

I come to see
And come to say
that what I need
in close of day
is more of you and less of me
More of you and less of me

The world doesn’t need more of me
My brains, my skill, my vanity
I wish to take a solemn vow
To say to heaven here and now
That what I have is travesty
With less of You and more of me.
Life is filthy rags times three
When there’s less of Him
and more of me.

So drown the egocentric urge
Begin the Romans 12:1 purge
My ever foolish bent to judge
To trust myself
To hold a grudge
Let truth be told
And words be few

Less of me
And more of you.
Less of me
and more of You.

[Bonus content:]

Jesus, The Early Riser

We see Jesus rising up early:

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.  Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
Mark 1:35-37

Jesus leaves the house before the crow of the rooster. He retreats into the morning air.

There’s something about waking up alone and experiencing the first stirrings of morning. The air seems pure. The sounds of night in glorious stillness. The whole countryside waits in longing anticipation for the light of morning. This is the dawn-treading Messiah sleuthing for the stillness of the dawn’s advent.

Before any healing, deliverance, miracle or story, Jesus’ days begin with the power of stillness, intimacy and prayer. It is the key to true mindfulness.

He wakes to pray…

He prays to wake…

Lord. of the Dawn…

King of Creation…

Teach me your abiding peace that seeks the Father before any other relational transaction.

When everyone is looking for me, may I, first, begin to look for You.


…If this left you wanting more, here’s one more devotional from Matt on the life and ministry of Jesus and John the Baptist: Jesus the Beloved Son

April 2, 2019

Did Jesus Get Sick?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:06 pm
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I’ve been feeling ill all day. Just now, I realized I neglected to schedule a devotional here. Proving that I still have a vestige of my sense of humor, about 30 minutes ago, I asked myself, “Did Jesus ever get sick?”

When we say Jesus, just to be 100% clear, we’re referring to Christ incarnate.

A possible go-to verse on this would be Hebrews 4:15

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.  (NIV)

Some will want to argue that this verse is to be interpreted solely with respect to temptation. So let’s keep going. Philippians 2: 7-8 reads,

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. (7 NLT)

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (8, ESV)

So far we’re making the argument that in his earthly body, he would have known what it meant to experience illness.

But then, about 40 years ago, an elder in our church proposed that Jesus had leprosy. He based this on Isaiah 53: 2b-4

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. (NIV)

At this one, I draw the line and say, “No!”

The reason is that in the scripture leprosy is a type of sin. (See this article for an explanation of Biblical typing.) Jesus was without sin. End of discussion. Jesus identified fully with the human condition when he “took on flesh,” and leprosy was common in that time and place, but where something has another layer of meaning, I think it goes too far to suggest something with such a strong sin-identification.

So, back to the question which forms today’s title…

A ‘yes’ at Culture Watch:

Second, as already mentioned, we are arguing from silence here. Very little is actually known about the earthly life of Jesus. As has been rightly stated, the gospels are basically extended introductions to the passion narratives. The last week of Jesus on earth receives most of the attention in the gospels, while his first thirty or so years of earthly life are largely passed over. Indeed, Paul seems to glory in not knowing Christ “after the flesh” (2 Cor. 5:16 KJV).

But even so, can we in fact know that Jesus never experienced illness? One way to approach this issue is to simply ask a number of questions about the life of Jesus on earth. Did Jesus ever:

Have nappy rash?
Have croup?
Cry as a baby?
Have a runny nose?
Have a headache?
Lose a tooth?
Have indigestion?
Throw up?
Have insomnia?
Have mosquito bites?
Get sunburn?
Suffer physical exhaustion?

True, not all of these conditions have to do with actual illness as such, but they help make my point. Just how exempt was Jesus from the common ailments and ordinary frailties of life? We do know of some human frailties experienced by Jesus: he was tired (John 4:6); he was thirsty (John 19:28); and he was hungry (Matt. 4:2).

We can tease all this out even further: Did Jesus ever fall as a boy and scrape his knee? If so, did that scrape get infected? Or did it heal instantly? These kinds of questions have to do with just how we are to understand Jesus and his full humanity.

A ‘no’ at this Protestant Reformed site:

First, Matthew 26:38 and Romans 8:10 make clear that sin makes the body weak, in fact, dead. But Christ’s body was neither dead nor weak.

Second, Jesus did not defeat, and did not know illness; He only commanded illness in others to depart. What sense would it make for Him to be sick, if He needed only say a word in order to be healed?

Third, the lamb for the sacrifices in Israel had to be without blemish. This pointed to Jesus (I Pet. 1:19). If He had His own weaknesses and sickness, then it would have been good for Him to take care of His own blemishes.

A “third way” answer at New Life Church:

“Did Jesus ever get sick?” The Bible never recorded he did. In fact, whenever Jesus touched the sick, instead of them contaminating him, he “infected” them, if you will, with his own cleanness. He actually touched lepers whose terrible skin disease was considered unclean (Luke 5:12-15; 17:11-19). He himself was touched by a woman who had been hemorrhaging blood for twelve years (Matt 9:20-22; Luke 8:43-48). No doctor could heal her. No medicine could help her. Jesus was declared unclean by the laws of Leviticus, yet this woman was healed when she touched the fringe of his garments.

When Jesus felt a cold coming on (or the nasty flu that was going around) did he zap himself with healing power? Great Physician, heal thyself (Luke 4:23). Was he the only little boy who never had to wash his hands because of germs? Many scholars say, “No! Jesus never got sick.”[1] They claim he had a perfect human body like Adam and Eve before the Fall. In fact, Jesus would not have even suffered and died unless he submitted himself to death. His genetics were uncorrupted since he never sinned and did not have a human father to tie him back to Adam’s sin. Surely, he suffered human weakness like hunger and thirst and tiredness, but he did not need to suffer illness. Yet although did not need to suffer, I like to think that Jesus chose to suffer illness. After all, he had a human body and he was “one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15b).

Jesus eventually suffered the final human weakness by his death on our behalf. And if he submitted his perfect body to a human death, then certainly he could submit his body to sickness, yet without sin.

There are other views as well, but at the end of the day, the Bible doesn’t really answer this question.

 

 

 

December 22, 2018

Christmas: The Birth Story is a Death Story

Today’s thoughts are from a writer who is new to us. (Thanks for those of you who send recommendations.) Michael James Schwab has lived in Oaxaca, Mexico since March, 2005; “cooperating with God” at a home for needy children called Cristo Por Su Mundo (Christ for the World) operated by Foundation For His Ministry.  He blogs at ToEnjoyGod.com.

November 21, 2018

Surrendered to the Cross

We’re back once again with Rick Morgan, who writes in the UK at the site, Digging the Word. Click the title below to read this there, and then check out other recent articles, or “Today’s Top Ten” article links in the right margin.

Your Will Be Done

John 17:1-5 After saying all these things, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son so He can give glory back to You. 2 For You have given Him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one You have given Him.

3 And this is the way to have eternal life–to know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the One You sent to earth. 4 I brought glory to You here on earth by completing the work You gave Me to do. 5 Now, Father, bring Me into the glory We shared before the world began.


When we hear somebody mention the Lord’s Prayer we think about the prayer that Jesus said when his disciples asked him to teach them how to pray. Maybe you never thought about it but Jesus didn’t actually pray that prayer, Jesus wouldn’t have asked God to forgive his sins, he spoke that prayer as an example for us. (Matthew 6:9-13, Luke 11:2-4)

The prayer in John 17:1-26 is the longest prayer of Jesus that we have recorded in the Bible. It is our best opportunity to listen in as Jesus talks to his Father, it shows us the courage that Jesus had to stay with God’s plan despite the great sacrifice that it would require.

Jesus begins this prayer completely surrendered, safety and comfort are not on his mind, he is only thinking about God’s will and timing in his life. It is odd that the Giver of Life who would never have to die, willingly submits in obedience, He will choose to be subject to the curse of death. (Philippians 2:8)

God’s Timing In Jesus Life
(John 2:4; 7:6, 8, 30; 8:20, 12:23, 27; 13:1; 16:32)

Jesus never lost sight of his mission and purpose for being here. Imagine knowing that you came for a purpose and having to wait thirty-three years for God’s timing so that you can complete your mission. We can learn a lot from Jesus about how we handle delay in our lives, we get anxious and want God to hurry up, Jesus left the timing of events up to his Father.

Now the time is right and the shame and the pain would not keep him from completing his work. Jesus shows us that if we are going to do God’s will in this hostile world then we need to submit without hesitation to God’s sovereign plan to glorify Himself.

You will be inconvenienced and you will get dirty, you may have to go toward dangerous situations, live with uncertainty, or embarrassment. Life is full of risk, but the life that is lived for Jesus is even riskier, the side effect of living in the rescuing power of the gospel and being willing to rescue someone else is that you will have to live by faith.

Risk It All To Glorify God
(1 Samuel 14:1-23 / 2 Samuel 10:12 / Esther 4:15-16 / Daniel 3:16-18)

Jesus surrendered to the cross and we must do the same, He told us to pick up our cross daily and follow him, that certainly involves risk. God’s people have always been called to take risk, that’s the very nature of living by faith, we cannot see the outcome or the pathway but we step out because we are told to do so.

When we risk losing face or money or life because we believe God will always help us and use our loss, in the end, to make us more glad in his glory, then it’s not we who get the praise because of our courage; it’s God who gets the praise because of his care. In this way risk reflects God’s value, not our valor.

-John Piper “Risk Is Right”

God is most glorified in my life when I step out and rely on him no matter what is going on around me and how foolish my obedience looks to the rest of the world. The glory goes to God when the world sees me trusting him with absolutely everything.

It is difficult to value our forever life that we cannot see over our temporary life that we can see. The ability to put our lives completely into God’s hands and follow no matter what is a real struggle that most of us want to avoid. Very few people in our safety minded culture come to the point that the disciples came to.

But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus–the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.

-Apostle Paul

How radical am I for God’s will? We pray a lot about knowing God’s will, but few of us really want to know what that looks like. The number one prayer request from Christ followers living in the safest country on the planet is for safety. I don’t know of anybody praying like that in the Bible. God’s people chose to do God’s will despite the risk that was involved and they prayed that they would have even more boldness. (Acts 4:23-31)

In every life that is lived for the Lord there will be a moment when a radical step of faith is required in order to please God. I need to be willing to allow God to achieve his agenda through my life and I need to be okay with being uncomfortable and insecure when God shows me his agenda.

 

October 24, 2018

Taste Testing the Reality of God

This is our second feature sourced from Don’t Ask The Fish, written by Florida pastor Dr. Tommy Kiedis.

The Proof Is In The Pudding

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.
How happy is the person who takes refuge in him!

— Psalm 34:8 CSB

“Tasting” the reality of God does not mean you will always “see” the reality of God. We must all live in the tension of proof and faith.

Last week I read the stories of Ezekiel and John, two men who tasted the reality of God, albeit in different ways. Ezekiel was the bold prophet sent to pronounce God’s judgment on his rebellious people, while John the Baptist trumpeted the arrival of Messiah and saw him walk, talk, teach, and heal.

Their experiences got me thinking about the proverb, “The proof is in the pudding.”

Actually, “the proof is in the pudding is a new twist on a very old proverb.” So says Ben Zimmer, language columnist at the Boston Globe. Zimmer notes, “The original version is the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And what it meant was that you had to try out food in order to know whether it was good.”

In one sense, Ezekiel and John got to “try out” the food. Their experiences were first-hand, the kind most of us wish for from time-to-time: “Oh, if I could have just heard the voice of God like Ezekiel!” “If I could have just witnessed the work of Jesus like John.”

Not so fast.

Despite having seen Jesus, John the baptizer had his own crisis of faith. His doubts about Jesus spilled out as he sat in Herod’s prison. So unsure was John that sent his followers to ask:

“Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?

— Matthew 11:3 ESV

How does Jesus respond to this temporary lapse of faith? “You go and report to John what you hear and see:”

  • The blind see
  • The lame walk
  • Lepers are cleansed
  • The deaf hear
  • The dead are raised
  • The wretched of the earth learned that God is on their side.

John, the proof is in the pudding. If this is what you were expecting, count yourself most blessed! Because you’re seeing it. The reality that I am the Messiah.

John’s problem — his nagging doubt — reminded me that we all live in the tension of proof and faith. In other words, we may get to see the pudding, but not taste it this side of heaven.

I turn the pages of my Bible to Hebrews 11, to those notables whose pictures grace the faith Hall of Fame: Abel, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses and the rest of that confident cohort. They possessed a faith so strong we’re on a first-name basis. Yet, in one sense each of these only saw the pudding, never sampled it.

“And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised.

— Hebrews 11:

The members of the Faith Hall of Fame tasted the reality of God, but walked in the unseen reality of the day-to-day. What are we to make of all this?

For starters, God does not owe you or me a tidy wrapped package that is the life of faith. “Tasting” the reality of God does not mean you will always “see” the reality of God.

I appreciate Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Jesus’ words to the crowd after this encounter with John:

“How can I account for this generation? The people have been like spoiled children whining to their parents, ‘We wanted to skip rope, and you were always too tired; we wanted to talk, but you were always too busy.’ John came fasting and they called him crazy. I came feasting and they called me a lush, a friend of the riffraff. Opinion polls don’t count for much, do they? The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” — Matthew 11:16-19 The Message

Jesus is telling me that while the meal may not look the way I want it, I still need to come and eat. And as I continue to read Matthew 11, he urges me to come to his table.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

“Tasting” the reality of God does not mean you will always “see” the reality of God. We must all live in the tension of proof and faith. But Jesus, like the Psalmist, knows the happy person is the one who sits to dine, who comes to him.

Ezekiel, John, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Rahab . . . they all dined with God. They trusted him — even when it didn’t seem to make sense — and found he is good.

How about you? Taste and see. The proof is in the pudding.


Note: “The proof is in the pudding is a new twist on a very old proverb . . .” from “The Origin Of ‘Proof Is In The Pudding’“, transcript of Morning Edition, August 24, 2012. National Public Radio. www.npr.org. Accessed October 15, 2018.

August 30, 2018

Jesus: His Glory and His Greatness

Clarke Dixon, who normally occupies this space on Thursdays, suggested today that we use the sermon notes from the person who replaced him on a recent Sunday. I agreed; this is great material to review.

by Blake Tufford

Part One: The Glorious Person of our Lord Jesus Christ

What do we learn about Him in this passage from Hebrews chapter 1?

First, He’s greater than all the prophets. In the past god has spoken through them many times, and in many different ways. He has spoken miraculously through a prophet like Elijah. Elijah stood up bravely against wicked King Ahab and all the false prophets of Baal. Through his prayer God sent down fire to consume a water drenched sacrifice, and then sent rain to end a four year drought. But Jesus is greater than Elijah! God has also spoken through Isaiah. He’s the one who wrote of Christ’s suffering 500 years before it happened. Isaiah predicted He would be “wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, that the chastisement of our sins would be placed on Him, and that through His stripes we would be healed”. But Christ is greater than Isaiah! God also spoke miraculously through Jeremiah.

Again, centuries before Christ’s birth he wrote: “Behold the days are coming declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous branch, and He shall reign as King and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and judgement…. And this is the name by which he shall be called, The Lord our righteousness”! And our Jesus is greater than Jeremiah, and greater than all the other prophets. It is He who has spoken in these last days. We read in the first chapter of John’s gospel, ‘In the beginning was the word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. And the word became flesh and dwelt among us”. Jesus is God’s final word and we do well to hear Him. God is speaking to us in these last days through Jesus.

Second, He is greater than the angels. In fact it is He whom the angels worship. (v.6), and it is He who sends out the angels (v.7). Angels are associated with all the great events in the old and new testaments. It was an angel who came to Mary with the astonishing news, troubling news for her, that she was to give birth to the son of God. It was angels who met the shepherds with good news of great joy. And it will be angels who will join with all creation in singing His praises in heaven. Rev. 5:12, myriads of them, thousands and thousands singing “worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might, and honor and glory and blessing.” But Jesus is far greater than angels.

Third, He is the one through whom the world was created (v2). That truth is also repeated in John 1, “All things were made through him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” He was with God from the beginning when the world was created. He is the great creator.

Next, His person He radiates the glory of God (v3). He is “the radiation of the glory of god, and the exact image of his nature.” It is no surprise to us then that He Himself said, “He that has seen Me has seen the Father”(John 14:9) He is God the Son, second person in the trinity, fully God and fully man.

Finally, He is altogether lovely. And as He is indeed altogether lovely, He is also altogether loving. His nature is love. Rom. 5:8 says “In this He has manifested his love in that while we were yet sinners,(even His open enemies), He gave Himself for us.  And we read in Galatians that having once loved his people, He loved them to the end. Jesus is love personified. Jesus is glorious in every way.

The greatness of His person: The one who is greater than the prophets, greater than the angels, the great creator, the one who radiates God’s presence, and reflects His love. He is God’s final word. It is no wonder then that we read in Phil. 2 that there is a coming day when every eye will see Him, every ear will hear His voice, and every knee will bow before him.

Let’s be sure we are those who hear Him now.

Part Two: The Greatness of His Work

We’re thinking now of what He has done, what He is doing now, and what He will yet do. Jesus holds the offices of Prophet, Priest and King. As our Prophet He fulfills all the promises we find in scripture to shed light on our path, to guide us on the way, and to direct our lives. As our Priest He fulfills all the promises found in scripture concerning pardon, forgiveness, peace with God. As our king he fulfills all scriptural promises concerning defence from our enemies, protection in danger, deliverance from evil.

I want us to think more specifically about His priestly role, all He has done to secure our salvation. It is important we do so because He is not one of several ways to God, He is the only way. “Neither is there salvation in any other for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we may be saved,” (Acts 4:12)

First,  He is our mediator. “For there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus.”(1Tim 2:5) We can’t come through our church, we can’t come through His mother Mary, nor through any of the saints. No, we come through Christ alone. “He only can unlock the gates of heaven and let us in.

Second, He is our substitute, our sin bearer. I’m going to the Old Testament book of Isaiah again to read these familiar words. “He was wounded for our transgression, He was bruised for our iniquity, the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, the Lord has lain on Him the iniquity of us all.” Think of the wonder of that; He endured the punishment our sins deserved. “All my iniquity on him was laid. All my indebtedness by him was paid”.

Third, He is our propitiation. This is one of my favourite words! John 2:2 “He is the propitiation for our sins.” Other versions say atoning sacrifice. He is the one who took God’s anger. He removed it. We often hear “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”. But how often do we hear “God is angry with the sinner every day.” (Psalm7:11, KJV) In His holiness god cannot abide sin, but the wonderful news is that Christ propitiates that anger. He removed it by being punished in our place.

Fourth, He is our redeemer, the one who buys us back from slavery to sin .”In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of god’s grace.” (Eph. 1:7) That word redeemed brings before our minds the picture of a slave being bought back and set free.

Redeemed how I love to proclaim it,
redeemed by the blood of the Lamb,
redeemed through His infinite mercy,
His child and forever I am.
Redeemed, redeemed, redeemed by the blood of the lamb.

Fifth, He is also our justification. This is a legal term confirming the believer has been declared righteous. “Those He called , them he also justified”. (Rom. 8:20) Imagine for a moment the terror of standing in god’s presence, clothed in our own righteousness, our own goodness. (We could say our own lack of goodness.) But we don’t need to, we can stand in His presence justified, because you see, the believer is covered in Christ’s righteousness.

Sixth, He is also our keeper. He enables us to persevere. When He was here, the Lord Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice . I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can snatch them out of my hand.” If our salvation depended on ourselves, on anything we can do, then we would have every reason to fear. But since it is Christ’s hand holding us we may rest secure. We often see in films or on TV, someone falling and hanging over a roof edge or a cliff by one hand. They’re dangling desperate for help. Sometimes they’re pulled to safety, sometimes they fall to their death. But our Savior will never let go.

Lastly, He is a coming King, but He is reigning right now as King of kings and Lord of lords. This of course was predicted long ago. We read about it in Isaiah 9, a verse usually read at Christmas, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.” He entered Jerusalem as king, and was rejected. But He was raised from the dead, and we read in Eph. 1 that He is now seated at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms, that He has all authority, dominion and power, that God has placed all things under his feet, and appointed Him head over everything.

The glorious work of Christ: We have seen him as our mediator, substitute, propitiation, redeemer, justifier and keeper. He is reigning now and will return one day in glory and power.

What is He saying to us?

I believe He’s saying, “Look unto me and be saved all the ends of the earth, for I am God and there is no other.”

May 9, 2018

Awaking from Spiritual Slumber

Back in November I introduced you to Jay Mankus who writes at Express Yourself 4 Him, calling it at the time “a goldmine of devotional resources.” These posts today are recent and appeared back-to-back and it occurred to me they had sleep or unconsciousness as a common theme. Click the individual titles to read each at source.

Snap Out of It

Prior to the discovery of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, most professional sports ignored game related concussions.  Athletic trainers often took smelling salts laced with ammonia inhalants to awaken concussed or knocked out athletes.  As portrayed in several older films, this trainer would apply the salt, then clap their hands over injured heads.  The goal of this archaic practice sought to help snap individuals out of their woozy state.

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified, Galatians 3:1.

You don’t have to receive a concussion to be dizzy, slightly off or weak.  From a spiritual perspective, anyone can randomly stray off course.  During this period of time, your mind is susceptible to making poor decisions.  This prodigal mindset might even lead you to become bewitched, tricked into believing a lie planted within you by the Devil.  If you ever reach this state, you need the Holy Spirit’s help to snap out of it.

You were running [the race] well; who has interfered and prevented you from obeying the truth?  This [deceptive] persuasion is not from Him who called you [to freedom in Christ], Galatians 5:7-8.

The apostle Paul found a similar climate during a visit to Galatia.  Peer pressure, opposing views and a lack of guidance caused many from within the church to lose sight of what’s important.  Luke 4:8 sheds light on this, to worship the Lord and serve Him only.  Sure, there are plenty of worldly chores and exercises that must be completed daily.  Yet, in the end, human beings were created to worship God.  Falling short of this goal leads to compromise and temptation.  Therefore, snap out of it by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.

The Greatest Temptation

Then Jesus returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter, Matthew 26:40.

When the Son of God spoke in the first century, eager followers flocked to hear his teaching.  Afterward the needy, poor and sick lined up, pushing their way to the front, hoping for a miracle.  To a certain extent, the twelve disciples became complacent, taking their access to the Messiah for granted.  During special occasions Jesus left nine disciples behind, confiding in his inner circle composed of James, John and Peter.  During his greatest temptation, surrendering to religious leaders to be beaten, crucified and left to die, Jesus urges his disciples to pray late into the night.  An hour later Jesus returns to find his trusted leaders sleeping.

“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” Matthew 26:41.

Disappointed, Jesus addresses the unseen battle going on within the human body.  The Spirit is willing to yield spiritual fruit detailed in Galatians 5:22-23.  Unfortunately, these traits often lose out to a weakened flesh, Galatians 5:19-21, by giving into temporary pleasures.  Way too often the events of Eden in Genesis 3 are re-enacted daily with forbidden fruits replaced by modern delicacies.  While current readers can take Jesus’ advice at face value, all but one disciple were about to abandon Jesus in his greatest time of need.  John, the one whom Jesus loved is the only disciple who doesn’t go into hiding.  Only one man put Jesus’ words into practice.

He went away a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done,” Matthew 26:42.

Jesus was a victim of a mob mentality, innocent of the charges made against him accept of course for being the son of God.  Overcome by emotion, Jesus pours out his heart to God the Father in prayer.  If this was any other person, justification would be made to not go through with this sacrifice.  However, without Jesus’ death, there would be no forgiveness, left to rely on Old Testament animal sacrifices.  Realizing this fact, Jesus submits to God’s will, surrendering early Friday morning.  While there will always be new temptations that arise and attack your soul, the greatest temptation is to reject God’s will for your life.  May you find your purpose on earth using Romans 12:1-2 as a guide.  From here its up to you to apply Matthew 26:41 so that you will keep in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.

May 8, 2018

Jesus’ Love Saved Him

by Russell Young

All believers accept Jesus as the God-Man. Care must be taken to distinguish these two aspects of our Lord as he walked this earth, however. Before the descent of the Holy Spirit upon him, he was made in every aspect as we are. “For this reason (to help Abraham’s descendants) he had to be made like his brothers in every way.” (Heb 2:17) That is, he was created in the womb just as you and I are created with the same possibilities and limitations. No special consideration or privilege had been granted him, although he had inherited the soul of his Father.

This reality should give us pause. The writer of Hebrews states, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” (Heb 4:15) He suffered the same temptations that are presented to all humans and was able to overcome them. His victory should not be taken as being availed through supernatural provision. Again, we are told, “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he I able to help those who are being tempted.” (Heb 2:18) Why is it that Jesus prevailed while humankind fall prey to temptations and sin?

The answer rests in the love relationship that Christ practiced and enjoyed with his Father. He was committed to obedience and to maintaining the relationship. Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” (Jn 6:38) He came to “finish [God’s] work” (Jn 4:34) which was to “destroy the devil’s work.” (1 Jn 3:8 ) He did not come to destroy the devil’s power—which existed in the law, but to destroy his work in this world, the manifestation of evil, of unrighteousness.

Could Christ have died? Yes! If he had died, so would have hope for all humankind. “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” (Heb 5:7) Christ was fully committed to the task given him and suffered through temptations just as you and I might. He was heard because of his prayers and petitions and because of his reverent submission to his Father. Through singleness of mind and heart he overcame temptations and death.

I am doing just what the Father commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.” (Jn 14:31 NET) Jesus clearly made it known that his obedience was due to his love for his Father. It has also been revealed that those who seek his kingdom are to love Christ, and he defines love in the same manner, the practice of obedience. Jesus said, “If you love me you will obey what I command” (Jn 14:15) and promised that “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (Jn 15:10)

The Lord (sovereign authority) spoke much of the need for a love relationship with him, with the Father, and with others. His kingdom will be comprised of those who have reverently submitted to him, not with those who have made an empty pledge to do so. Unless the attitude of reverent submission based on a love relationship is the nature of those who would be in the kingdom of heaven, strife turmoil, and friction would remain a constant presence, even in his eternal kingdom. Peace would not exist, and the Lord’s work would never be completed. Believers are to be conformed to the likeness of Christ (Rom 8:29), having the same heart, committed to love through obedience.

Some promise the realization of an eternal hope by allowing that God’s grace will cover their sinful practices. However, Christ said, “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” (Mt 13:41) Their having been weeded out will be because of their practices–defiance of the Lord’s commands. Christ did not sin, and he will not sin while present in the believer (Col 1:27). John has recorded, “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.” (1 Jn 3:6) They do not appreciate who he is or what he is about. Further, john has written, “But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 Jn 2:56)

The love of Christ for the Father saved him from death and the love of people for Christ will also save them from death. As in Jesus’ case, that love is expressed through obedience. “[W]ork out (finish) your own salvation through fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Phil 2:1213) Love brings victory over death.

All scriptures NIV except as noted


Author Russell Young lives in Ontario, Canada and is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  His column appears here every other Tuesday.  To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.  There is also a feature-length article at this link.

 

March 23, 2018

Wisdom is Justified by Her Children

This is our third visit with Steven C. Mills at the website, Steve’s Bible Meditations. Click the title below to read at source.

Wisdom’s Children – Luke 7:18-35

“For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.” (Luke 7:33-35, ESV).

John the Baptist sent some of his disciples to Jesus to find out if He was the Messiah. When they asked if He was the Messiah, Jesus did not answer them explicitly. Rather, He sent them back to John with this message:

“Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (Luke 7:22-23, ESV).

But Jesus explicitly identified John as the one whom the prophet Malachi described as the messenger who would prepare the way when the day of the Lord comes. Although this explanation of John’s ministry satisfied many of the people in the crowd of people following Jesus who were also John’s disciples, the Pharisees and scribes rejected His testimony about John because they didn’t believe John the Baptist was sent by God.

Then Jesus points out that God’s purpose is accomplished in multiple ways: John’s abstemious method and Jesus’ intemperate style.

Jesus and John didn’t try to justify their own behavior. They didn’t behave a certain way because it’s the “right” way.

Instead, they each carried out the ministry to which God called them. With John it was declaring people’s sinfulness and need for repentance. With Jesus it was declaring God’s forgiveness and mercy and then sacrificing His life for us. Each rendered service to God in the way in which God called them and according to their own personalities and perspectives.

So, it’s not about which way is right and which is wrong–it’s about doing God’s will!

Think about it. Is the right way to serve God by living in the wilderness and “eating no bread and drinking no wine” like John the Baptist? Or, is the right way socializing and “eating and drinking” with people like Jesus did?

Our trouble is that we want it to be one or the other. This is right, that is wrong. In other words, we compartmentalize our faith–we’re either right or left, evangelical or liberal, Arminian or Calvinist, preterist or futurist.

And then we want to impose the compartment in which our faith resides on others. If they don’t believe the way we do then they must be wrong and we need to fix them!

Being wisdom’s children is not simply about knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is about seeing our purpose in life from God’s perspective.  Each of us must find out what we should do and then do it according to the personality and perspective God has given us.

And, accept the perspective of others who are doing likewise…

When our lives are focused on justifying God rather than our own point of view, then we are the children of Wisdom.

O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. (Psalm 104:24, ESV)

November 11, 2017

Humility – Part Two – As We Are to Live It

Yesterday and today we’re doing a rare “Best of C201” and looking at a topic which appeared several times in 2014 with each containing a key passage from Philippians 2…

Some of you know that in the last two or three years my go-to portion of scripture has been the place in Philippians 2 where Paul breaks out into a section that translators set out from the text as poetry, leading many to conclude it was either a creed or something that had been set to music as an early church hymn. This is the passage I mentally recite when I can’t get back to sleep, and if you invite me to speak at your church on less than 72 hours notice, this is the passage I will speak on.

I’ve created my own version of it, but for sake of familiarity, this is the NKJV, which is usually not my default translation:

5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who,being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

So in practical terms, how do you adopt that mindset, that attitude; or to put it another way, how do you get to be humble?

He took on the role of a servant

Of the four things the text states this is really the only one that is open to us. We have already entered into the human condition, and we will almost certainly taste death, even if it is not the excruciating form that Jesus endured. Since we have no options vis-a-vis three of the four things stated, what we must press into is the idea of adopting the towel and the basin as our personal symbols; to give up the stallion in favor of a donkey; to take a seat at the back, not the front; and to seek not be served, but to serve.

We need to remember our sin

When spiritual pride comes knocking at the door, we need to remember our sinful condition. Like David, our sin is ever before us. If you’ve mastered holiness, good for you; but I still live in the middle of two conditions, in the warfare of two wills, two natures battling for control of my mind and actions. Without making this a confessional, suffice it to say that, like my apostle namesake, I haven’t attained it, but press on to it. Remaining in Christian community will help keeps us transparent and accountable.

It’s a really big planet

We are also humbled when we consider not only our place in the universe, but that we are members of a tribe seven billion strong. No matter how large your Facebook friends list, or whether you take significance in being either a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond; on a global scale sense of personal importance fades dramatically. You may be a superstar in your local church, or your denomination, or you may have won public service awards in your community, but on an international scale you’re probably not such a big deal.

Identifying humility’s opposite

I wrote about this a few days ago and suggested that while we often name pride as the culprit that undermines a humble spirit, ambition can be equally deadly. Being able to name the players in the spiritual battle that’s always ongoing really helps us see the root of the problem. Philip Yancey, in What’s So Amazing About Grace wrote about how the larger society operates by the rules of un-grace. Probably most people equally operate by the laws of un-humility. Timothy spoke of the last days being characterized by people who were “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy…” We certainly do see a lot of that. When I remember how contagious these attitudes are I recognize the need to guard myself from trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses.’

I have a good example to follow

The whole point of this passage is comparison. Let the attitude or mindset that was in him also be in you. Three months ago, I wrote about the classic CCM song Understudy that uses Hollywood imagery to describe us apprenticing to the one with the starring role. No wonder the early followers of Jesus were called “little Christs.” Or, if you prefer, you can think of the students of who “walk in the dust of the rabbi;” doing everything their teacher does.

What other aspects of Christian living can serve to keep us humble?

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