Christianity 201

March 22, 2023

When You Seek Christ, Abundant Life Will Follow

Today we return one more time — the eighth, I think — to highlight Brothers of the Book, written by Bill Hood. Click the title which follows to read this where it first appeared.

Deuteronomy 4

Jesus’ promise of life more abundant can be had only when we put on His character.

My mind constantly returns to a specific phrase of scripture spoken by Christ:

John 10:10 ESV
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Christ also said:

Matthew 5:17-20 ESV
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  

For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

He follows these words by telling us that the law says murder is wrong but He says if you harbor anger in your heart you are also guilty of murder.  He states further that while the law says adultery is wrong, the man who lusts after another woman is also guilty of adultery.

Now we all know that we needed the bloody sacrifice of Jesus Christ because we were unable to perfectly obey the law and yet Jesus is telling us that He is holding us to an even higher standard.  How can that be?

In today’s reading, Moses tells the people:

Deuteronomy 4:1 ESV
“And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you.”

Deuteronomy 4:9 ESV
“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children”

God loves you and has promised you a land, a place of abundant life.  Obeying Him and His commandments is the key to possessing this promised land.  You can’t obey Him in your own power, however, which is why He sent Jesus Christ to die for you.  Having accepted the cleansing of sin through the shed blood of Jesus Christ we can obey the commandments of God because He has sent us His Holy Spirit to live within us, guiding us, and teaching us, and molding us into the character and mind of Christ.  It is only by putting on the character of Christ that we can obey God.  The mind of Christ was placed completely under the authority of God.  He didn’t come for himself but for others.

You want to know how to put on the mind of Christ? Stop thinking about yourself, deny yourself and do what He did; sacrifice your desires for the will of God.  It is in His character that you can obey.  It is in His character that you can have an abundant life.  His commands are not onerous; they are life enhancing!

God wants you to have a joyful, abundant life that can only be had by putting on the mind and character of Christ.  Doing so leads to, among other things, the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  How great would your life be if you had just that list of blessings alone?

Beyond all of that, God clearly intends for us to teach all of this to our children that it might go well for us.  If you want to do something meaningful, and eternal, teach your family the Word of God.  This following passage pretty much makes the point I’m attempting to make

Deuteronomy 4:35-40 ESV
“To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him.  Out of heaven he let you hear his voice, that he might discipline you. And on earth he let you see his great fire, and you heard his words out of the midst of the fire.  

And because he loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them and brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power, driving out before you nations greater and mightier than yourselves, to bring you in, to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is this day, know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.  

Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for all time.”

God let you hear His voice out of the midst of the fire.  He brought you out of slavery to sin.  He has driven out evil before you and is bringing you to a land flowing with milk and honey.  Lay it on your heart that the Lord is God of heaven above and the earth beneath; there is no other.  As Pastor Jim Cross has said from the pulpit; “Make Jesus King of your life.”

We can nod our head in agreement that we should obey God.  We can praise God in thankfulness that He has forgiven us of our sins; but we need to surrender ourselves to our King and put on His character that we may enjoy the fullness of His blessings.  Make up your mind right now.  Are you king or is Jesus King?  You can’t have it both ways.

Let’s do that guys!  Let’s make God King of our lives!  Put on the mind of Christ and Obey!

Victorem Viver! (Live Victorious!)

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Dying to self, living to serve!

January 23, 2019

He Wants Preeminence over Our Hearts

Today we’re back with Art Toombs Ministries. You’ll find both exegetical and topical articles on the site, combined into a single index. Or, as we did today, you can choose commentaries by title. (Some trivia about Art this time: He is ” a permanent member of Theta Kappa Alpha, the National Honor Society for Religious Studies/Theology.”)

You’ve heard the saying “God is my co-pilot,” but as some have pointed out, if he is merely your co-pilot, “you need to switch seats.” Click the title below to read at source.

Is Jesus Your Pilot or Co-pilot?

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the first born from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. (NIV)

This passage explains three relationships of Jesus Christ. It explains His relationship to the Father (v.15), to creation (vv. 16-17), and to the church (v.18).

Our Father in Heaven is spirit. He is invisible. Jesus is an “image” of the Father. The word translated “image” is “eikon” in the Greek. It means image, likeness, or portrait. When we say something is an image it means that there is an original from which it came. The Father is a spirit and invisible, but if you could paint a portrait of Him, which you cannot, it would look like Jesus. Jesus said “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). This means that Jesus is representative of the Father. Those in the Old Testament and John in the New Testament (Rev. 1:17) who said they saw God actually saw His representative, Jesus. Jesus, the historical man was just that, a man. Therefore, God in Heaven, if an image of him could be seen, would appear as a man, not as a woman as some would contend.

Jesus was the “firstborn” (v.15). This does not mean that He was created. Jesus was not created. He was present at the creation (John 1:1-2). He already existed prior to the creation. God existed at creation, in the persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The expression “firstborn” as used here denotes a place of superiority or supremacy, as God said to David: “I will also appoint him my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of earth” (Ps. 89:27). Jesus was the “firstborn over all creation” (v.15).

As the firstborn over all creation, Jesus created all things for His own use. He created “all things in Heaven and on earth.” He created all things “visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities”, which would include angels, kings, and all leaders of all nations since the creation (v.16).

Not only did Jesus create all things, “He is before all things” (v.17). He was at the creation. He was not a created being, as is taught by cults such as Mormonism, who claim He is not of the “same being” as the Father and Jehovah’s Witnesses, who claim He was created by the Father. Those cults claim to be Christian, but they worship a different god than do Christians.

Jesus is the creator of all things and He also is the one active in holding all things together (v.17). He is the Sustainer of the universe and the Source of its perpetual motion. Even while He was on earth He calmed the wind and the waters (Luke 8:24). He also made the Sun stand still (Jos. 10:13).

Finally, we see that Jesus is also the head of the church. He is the beginning, meaning the source of our spiritual life. He is the first in His church to rise from the dead with a glorified body (1 Cor. 15:20). He has preeminence over all things (v.18).

Just as Jesus has preeminence over all things He wants preeminence over our hearts. He wants us to put him in the place in our hearts where he belongs, first place. He does not want to be our co-pilot, just along for the ride. He wants to be our pilot, in charge of the journey.

September 6, 2018

When the King is Rejected

by Clarke Dixon

Editor’s Note: Clarke is away this week. This post was taken from the large number available at his blog, Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon, which includes many which have never been published here at C201.

In the beginning we see the King. God created it all and clearly was ruler of all. But a few pages into the Bible and already the serpent is looking to take God’s place not to mention Adam and Eve looking for more than just tasty fruit. And the King is rejected.

At the exodus we see the King. God rescues His people and though Moses and Aaron are the spokesmen, God clearly is the King. His authority as King is proven with the awful plagues and the awesome parting of the Sea. But the people begin to whine that Moses is taking too long and before you know it, a golden calf is presented for worship. And the King is rejected.

In the early days of Israel, we see the King. Though things are not always rosy as the young nation of Israel becomes established among bigger, nastier, and more powerful peoples, God protects His people through raising up judges to deliver them. But the people of God see how the other nations have a king and so they want one too and go to God’s servant Samuel “and the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them’.” (1 Samuel 8:6-7 NRSV) And so the King is rejected.

In the presence of the prophets we see the King. The prophets warned the rulers and people when repentance needed to burn, and encouraged when hope needed kindled. Though the people got their wish for human kings, God remained in their lives as the true King showing real concern through the prophets. But the words of the prophets often fell on deaf ears: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37 NRSV) The prophets were often killed and the King is rejected.

And standing before Pilate, bloodied and bruised with a crown of thorns and a makeshift robe we see the King. What shall be done with Jesus? “Away with him! Crucify him!” (John 19:15). What shall I do with your king asks Pilate? The chief priest respond with the most tragic words in all of history: “We have no king but Caesar!” (John 19:15)

This is already a dark moment in history with Jesus mocked by Rome and rejected by his own people. But here we see the depth of the darkness that has descended on humanity as the chief priests affirm that the Roman emperor is their real king. “We have no king but Caesar!” These are the chief priests, the very ones who should have been leading the people of God to know that God Himself was the true King of the world and of history. These are the very priests who should have been teaching that this King had promised and covenanted to bless His people, and through His people, to bless the world. And this was the festival of Passover, the very time they were to look back and see God, like a true and benevolent ruler, delivering His people from the enemy at the Exodus. But no, according to the chief priests, Caesar is king, and Caesar’s power will deliver us from the pest called Jesus. And so the King is rejected.

We have dark moments also. We have no king but Caesar when:

► Fear controls us.
► Emotions overpower us.
► Our logical minds overpower us.
► Drama, whether our own or not, consumes us.
► Situations determine our fate for us.
► Addictions ruin us.
► Religion enslaves us.
► World-views fail us.
► The people we want to please, own us.
► We try to be king or queen.

And in all this the King is rejected. We demonstrate that have no king but Caesar.

We see the King in the beginning and He is rejected. We see the King delivering His people at the Exodus and He is rejected. We see the King delivering His people through the judges and He is rejected. We see the King in the presence of the prophets and He is rejected. And we see the King standing before Pilate and the people in a crown of thorns and mock robe. And “He was despised and rejected; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3 NRSV) What happens next?

Easter happens next and the rejected King becomes the welcoming Saviour on the cross. Easter happens and the rejected King takes His place as the King of kings and Lord of lords. As we have seen, so often the King was rejected. Now you get to write a part of the story. By you the King is _________.

originally published in 2014 as “We Have No King But Caesar! – Ouch! (John 19)


September 1, 2015

Bowing Before God

Every Knee Will Bow and Every Tongue Confess

Occasionally we feature writing by young authors whose blogs are new to the various Alltop pages, this one is from Alltop – Christianity. The website is titled Your Bible Quotes, and the writer is Sonya Richards.

Glory of God the Father – Name Above All Names

Glory of God the Father

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall  bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11 (NIV)

Although Paul talked about this in his letter to the Philippians, the foundation of Philippians 2:9-11 comes from Isaiah.

I have sworn by Myself; The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, And shall not return, That to Me every knee shall bow, Every tongue shall take an oath. Isaiah 45:23 (NKJV)

The near, literal application (meaning its immediate, possibly symbolic, relevance at the time of its writing) of this scripture is to the Israelites in captivity in Babylon and to King Cyrus who would lead them back to their ancestral homeland to the glory of God. Although Cyrus was a pagan king, God used him to accomplish His work, showing that God can do whatever He chooses, and work through whomever He desires. Proverbs 21:1 says:

The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the LORD; he guides it wherever he pleases. Proverbs 21:2 (NLT)

It Shall Come to Pass

There is a principle that is applied to certain Biblical prophesies called “double fulfillment,” meaning it has a first fulfillment, often immediate, and a second, or even multiple, fulfillment(s) later on. All prophesies point to Jesus in some way to the glory of God. In some cases prophesies can even be split between current and future fulfillments with no specific designation as to what or when they refer to, such as in Matthew 24:2-3. Jesus prophesied that the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed and spoke of the signs of the second coming. In verse 2 He speaks of the literal destruction of the temple in 70 A.D., and in verse 3 speaks to the final judgment, and yet, they appear side-by-side.  They are not in succession chronologically, yet they are conceptually associated.

Some believers abstain from reading the Old Testament for various reasons. They think is too hard to understand, they think it is obsolete, or they think it is not important; nevertheless, the whole Bible is God’s Word. If the Old Testament were obsolete, or unimportant God would not supernaturally, as He does for the whole Bible, shield it from extinction. It is the foundation for the New Testament, which is why reading the whole Bible is important.

Paul refers to the aforementioned passage in Isaiah in his letter to the Romans regarding the Good News of salvation:

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Romans 14:10-12 (ESV)

The Second Coming of the Lord

Someday the Lord Jesus Christ will return to the Earth to take His children home, the committed, submitted, and sanctified, in the blink of an eye, and those left behind will try, out of fear, to strike a bargain to save themselves, unfortunately, it will be much too late in the game. If you have not accepted Jesus as your Savior, it is not too late now to turn to God; He is calling even now.

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52(NIV) Glory to God in the highest; forever, He reigns!

It is notable that our opening scripture from Philippians, is similar to Isaiah 45, and Romans 14 as quoted from Isaiah, in that it contains the same foundational reference of bending the knee and confessing, declaring, or taking an oath (to God), but there is a new and wider meaning added in Philippians to encompass not just believers, but also non-believers; essentially every person on earth will partake in “bending the knee” before Jesus.

In the Isaiah passage, echoed by Paul in Romans, God says every knee will bow to Him but in Philippians Paul said God gives Jesus a name above all names and every knee will bow at its utterance to the glory of God the Father. God takes the highest place, even in the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; therefore, even as the text refers to knees bowing at the name of Jesus, it is still for the glory of God the Father.

When Paul in Philippians says every knee will bow, it is clear that He is referring to believers, because the passage in Isaiah refers to the Jewish exiles, and the quote from Romans is also to believers because Paul calls them “brothers and sisters,” but the Philippians passage refers to all people, and, based on the verbiage, includes both believers and non-believers, meaning every knee will bow willingly or will be forced to bow. In the end, no one will be able to resist Him.

When Jesus comes on the scene to the glory of God, His brilliance, ten thousand times brighter than the noon-day sun, will blaze across the sky and we know “every eye will see Him.” I posit that everyone will fall to their knees, either out of pure joy for those who love His appearing, out of shock, or out of fear and a sense of self-preservation such as begging for their lives.

Every Eye Will See Him

In that day, when Jesus Christ the Lord comes on the clouds of Heaven with fire and every eye sees Him, those who ridicule Him now, who curse His holy name, will have to bow when it is spoken in their hearing (glory to God!), much the same as all were made to bow towards the statue of King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel Chapter 3; however, no one will be able to resist as Daniel did, because God, and His Son, rule supreme. And the tragic end for those who refuse to believe and be saved is that the Lord will delay as long as He can to allow as many as will come, to come before this age comes to a close, and yet, some will never yield.


December 29, 2014

God Desires Top Spot

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Our thoughts today are from one of the foremost Christian devotional sites, Daily Encouragement by Stephen and Brooksyne Weber. To read this at source, click the title below. Underneath the title is a link to an audio version, which the Webers try to post most days. If you know someone with a computer who would benefit from that, tell them about Daily Encouragement. Click the icon which follows:

Daily Encouragement dot Net banner

“Christ Preeminent”

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

“He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30). “He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent” (Colossians 1:18).

Child, for us sinners poor and in the manger,
We would embrace Thee, with love and awe;
Who would not love Thee, loving us so dearly?

We trust each of you had a delightful Christmas celebration with your family and friends yesterday. Of course some of you may still have plans over the next several days as you gather with others in the glorious celebration of our Lord’s birth.

Yesterday we enjoyed brunch with friends and afterwards visited a nursing home where we sang Christmas carols with the residents. So many of the familiar Christmas hymns we know by heart, including all the verses. What a joy to sing them out as the residents joined in as the familiar words struck some chord in their memory. After all, many of them have sung the beloved Christmas carols for 80 to 90 plus Christmas seasons.

For many years Brooksyne has enjoyed studying the hymns and has numerous books of hymn backgrounds which we sometimes share on this site. Some of the golden spiritual gems overlooked in familiar hymns are included in the verses deleted from modern hymn books. Our introductory stanza (above) is a lesser known verse from one of the best known Christmas hymns written by John F. Wade about 1743. It was trans­lat­ed from La­tin to Eng­lish by Fred­er­ick Oak­e­ley in 1841.

Most likely you will recognize the refrain:

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Millions declare that Christ is Lord. So today we ask the following heart-probing question to our readers,  Who is Christ to you?

1) For some Christ is popular. An ungodly entertainer may throw a shout-out thanking God at an awards ceremony. A politician may quote a Scripture text to score political points though he or she gives little regard to God in lifestyle choices or life principles. Consider the crowds and disciples that followed Jesus in John 6 at the height of His popularity, but when it got tough they abandoned Him and the cause for which He died. (See John 6:66)

2) For genuine followers, Christ is present in your life. The Psalmist declared, “Thou art with me.”  Jesus reassured the disciples on the mountain before He ascended to heaven, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Psalm 23:4, Matthew 28:16-20, Hebrews 13:5)

3) For some Christ is prominent. By prominent, I mean that it is well demonstrated and evidenced by others that you are a follower of Christ. Your family, co-workers, and neighbors know that you are a Christian. It is commendable that Christ is prominent.

John the Baptist is one of the great Bible characters. His God-ordained role was to prepare the way for the Lord Jesus. He did his work faithfully and earnestly desired that Christ become more and more prominent.  One of the simplest, yet profound, statements indicating this is found in the daily text, “He (Jesus Christ) must become greater; I must become less.” Another version states, “He must increase, I must decrease.”  That’s not only an appropriate statement for John but is a godly mindset and heart attitude for each of us!  This is an ongoing commitment that needs refreshing and renewal on a regular basis, whether in the mundane of everyday life or the major challenges we face over the years.  Every day we should awaken with this theme on our hearts; “He must become greater; I must become less.”

4) For a relative few Christ is preeminent. Yet this alone is the proper outlook for one who claims that Jesus Christ is Lord. This is God’s gold standard concerning what His Son should be to us. Christ Preeminent, what a glorious truth!

From the Miriam Webster dictionary we find the following synonyms to describe one’s preeminence: cardinal, chief, dominant, first, greatest, main, master, number one, sovereign, supreme. These adjectives well describe the attitude we should have toward Christ if He is preeminent in our lives.

This phrase from Colossians is translated differently in various translations. The NIV states, “In everything He might have the supremacy.” In the NASB it reads, “He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” The Greek word (proteuon) means “to be first, to have the first place, to hold the chief place.” He is reigning as the preeminent Being in the universe. He always has been and always will be. The ESV states, “that in everything He might be preeminent.”

I examine my life today and I encourage you to do the same. Is Christ preeminent in your life? Is He the reigning King of your heart’s allegiance? May Christ’s reign and preeminence be evident in each of our lives, not just during the Christmas season but all through the next year until we draw our final breath on this side!

  Daily prayer: Father, anything good or praiseworthy in me is simply a reflection of the abiding presence of Your Holy Spirit. I want to grow in Your grace and knowledge, and will do so if You are preeminent in my life. That means You will reign supreme and be of first importance to me, having greater influence than any other person or cause. I want to walk in humility today as I pray, “Jesus, must become greater in my life,  I must become less.” I ask You to be at the center of my thoughts, my attitudes, and my actions so that Your preeminence is seen in all I do and say. In the name of Jesus I pray.  Amen.

Thanks, Stephen and Brooksyne. As I read this, I really had to examine whether I had ever considered the distinction between #3 and #4. Christ is certainly prominent in my life, but that prominence is not the same as preeminence.