Judas-Kisses…

Have you ever been betrayed? Betrayal comes in many forms, but the common-thread which runs through all of them is the destruction of trust. Whether it is something as “simple” as being tattled-on when you were a child, or as life-shattering as a lover or spouse going to live with someone else, they all have destroyed your trust in that person. I wish that I could say that betrayal is rare, but it is far too common.

What originally brought this topic to mind was reading a post by a young lady whose blog I follow entitled “Blueberry Kisses“. Her little daughter had woken her earlier one morning than she was prepared to face the day, so she gave her little girl a Pop-Tart, a Blueberry Pop-Tart, for breakfast while she settled on the sofa to try to catch a few more winks of sleep. When her little daughter finished eating, she climbed up on the sofa and gave her mom a kiss, a “Blueberry Kiss“. As I thought about that, that image struck me as being one of the most beautiful pictures of pure, innocent love, and how great the privilege is to be able to enjoy that kind of love. As pure and innocent as that child’s love is now, she will grow up to experience far less innocent “love“, and maybe even betrayal.

I have experienced betrayal far too many times, but this isn’t about me. Jesus Christ was betrayed by Judas, with a kiss, hence “Judas-kisses“, and that betrayal resulted in Jesus being tortured and crucified on a cross. A kiss was a common form of greeting at that time, so betraying Jesus with a kiss was the ultimate in betrayal. Even though we know that Judas’s betrayal was part of God’s master-plan, that doesn’t make it any more excusable.

Lest we think that Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was a “quirk of fate” or an “unfortunate circumstance“, David had foretold this event many centuries before in Psalm 41:9:
Even my close friend in whom I trusted,
Who ate my bread,
Has lifted up his heel against me.

47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.

Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.”

Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. (Matthew 26:47-50)

Judas greeted Jesus with “Rabbi“, which was a greeting of respect, and then the KISS, the kiss of betrayal, because Judas had arranged that as the signal to point Jesus out as the person to arrest. Maybe Judas had snarled “Rabbi” before the coup de gras, the KISS.

Traitors in the military are tried for treason and hung, but we have no such recourse. We are left to pick up the pieces of our shattered-lives and try to move on, asking “WHY?” Will our traitor ever get their comeuppance? Will they really ever understand the magnitude of the damage they caused? Will they even feel “remorse“?

Even though we may not get “justice” in this life, and they may never acknowledge the hurt they caused, Judas certainly did.

3 Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” 5 And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3-5)

What did Judas think would actually happen after Jesus got arrested? Did he think that he could “force” Jesus’ hand and use this to start a “revolution“? Judas, as had all the other disciples, had been “schooled” in the prevailing-view” of what the Messiah was going to do. Jesus certainly DID become a King; King of kings and Lord of lords, but it was by way of the Cross, not an earthly-revolution.

Betrayal will affect ALL of our lives, sooner or late, even if you haven’t felt the sting of betrayal, it is incumbent on you that YOU do not betray someone else. I have that same obligation, and I take it seriously. We can never “earn” the “right” to betray someone.

May our next kiss NOT be a “Judas-kiss”.

In Christ,
Steve

Bible Study – The True Vine

This passage is a continuation of Jesus’ “Farewell Discourse” which He gave after the Last Supper and before they went out to the Garden of Gethsemane. There are three core themes in this section, our relationship with Christ, our relationship with one another in the household of faith, and our relationship with the outside-world. Without a strong relationship with Christ, we will not be able to have a proper-relationship with our fellow believers, and without this core “framework“, we won’t be effective ministers of the Gospels or be able to withstand the onslaught of the forces of evil which will seek to destroy us.

Jesus Is the Vine—Followers Are Branches
15 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. 9 Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

Today we continue our study of Jesus’ remarks to the disciples in the Upper Room. Our passage is one of the best known in all of Scripture in which Jesus uses the illustration of a vine to describe key relationships within the Christian Life. The text moves to its climax in verse 16 with the word “so that” giving us a conditional statement that if our relationships are working together properly, “then” our requests will be granted.

This is the seventh and final “I Am” statement in the Gospel of John, and it is intended as an illustration of the relationship between the Father, the Son and the Church. Jesus is the vine, the Father is the gardener and the disciples are the branches. Notice that Jesus points out the fact that, in a vine, a branch has the function of bearing fruit, and no fruit can be borne by a branch that has been removed from the vine. His point here is that the disciples must remain in Him in order to accomplish their purpose. The Father, as gardener, will remove any branches that do not bear fruit, and prune the ones that do so that they may bear even more fruit… but what is “fruit”?

It is easy to say that He is referring to the making of new disciples, and certainly this is part of the answer. Considering that the Father will be pruning individual branches as well as the entire vine, however there would seem to be something more involved. In this case, it would be the removal of sin from our lives so that we will not only build new disciples, but that we would live such a life of love and purity that we would produce even more disciples than before. One could say that this pruning involves God’s fine-tuning of our spiritual lives so as to bring about maximum growth, not only in ourselves, but as a result in the entire Christian community.

Here Jesus restates the “I Am” in verses 5-6 and adds that we must remain in Him or we cannot produce anything. Consider what happens when we attempt to produce spiritual fruit apart from Christ, entirely on our own… what is the result? Usually the result is either nothing at all or the entry point for sin and wickedness into the community of believers. One might even suggest that this is the formula for the development of cults in the extreme case. Much has been made of verse 6 in certain circles, and for good reason. Many people claim to have accepted Christ as their Savior and Lord, but their lives don’t show any evidence of truly being “saved”. While we can never know their hearts and we can’t judge them, we are certainly called to be “fruit-inspectors”. Jesus, in Matthew 7:20, said; “Therefore by their fruits you will know them”.

There may be times in our own lives when we may wonder who’s “side” we are on, when we need to “inspect” our own “fruit” and ask God to help us make whatever “changes” are needed. I left a Meetup group I had belonged to for several months because it was counter to what I believe the Bible teaches about intimate-relationships. After doing a LOT of studying the Bible, some “soul-searching”, and asking God for wisdom, I became convinced that it wasn’t good for my “spiritual-health”. It is also incumbent on me, as a Minister of the Gospel, to live a life which is “above reproach”. If I am going to “talk-the-talk”, I need to “walk-the-walk”.

Verses 7-8 establish clear linkage between “remaining” and being disciples. If we remain in Him… we will be seen as His disciples. Remember that a disciple is one who knows what the Master knows (and my words remain in you) and who does what the Master does (bear fruit). Thus, if we are His disciples in reality then He will answer our requests for His purpose. It would go without saying that we wouldn’t be making selfish requests.

Jesus now introduces a second analogy to illustrate this relationship, and that is the relationship between the Father and the Son. The illustration is Father/Son is the same relationship that is between Son/disciple. The Father has loved the Son, and the Son has responded with love and obedience. Therefore, since the Son has loved us, we must respond with obedience. To remain in His love is to have our joy made complete.

Disciples’ Relation to Each Other
12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. 17 This I command you, that you love one another.”

Going one step further now in 12-13, Jesus tells us exactly what obedience looks like: “Love one another as I have loved you.” This is the command He is talking about, and as we saw a few sections back, this means putting others ahead of ourselves: always. The Christian life has no room for self! Verse 13 goes still further when Jesus mentions that the greatest love is to lay down your life for your friends. In His case, this meant the cross. In our case, who knows the future? One thing is clear however, to lay down our life of selfishness is paramount.

There is an interesting contrast between “servant” and “friend” in the last 3 verses, one that is even stronger than the NIV gives us, for the Greek word rendered “servant” (doulos) is the word for “slave”. The contrast is clear: A slave is an inferior relationship while a friend is an equal relationship. Don’t get crazy just yet, for this equality is entirely conditional. Go and bear fruit. Love one another. These are the conditions, and realize that the first will not happen until we accomplish the second. Then the Father will grant whatever we ask. This is the conditional nature of the Christian life, and the challenge before us today. As our culture continues to crumble and the church falters what will we do? We will remain in Him, love one another and bear fruit!

Disciples’ Relation to the World
18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He who hates Me hates My Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. 25 But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’

While the first 17 verses of chapter 15 discuss relationships within the Christian community, verses 18 and following discuss the relationship between the Christian community and the outside world. In the first instance, the relationship is characterized by love, but in the second it is characterized by hate. This is a new reality that the disciples must deal with, one that exists to this day. To begin to understand this phenomenon, we must remind ourselves that the world Jesus speaks of is continuing to live in rebellion against God. Jesus brought this contrast between God and Rebellion into the harsh light of day and the people didn’t like it. His disciples will do the same thing with the same result. We too will make this contrast easy to see if we live according to His teachings. We will also cause some to believe and be saved, but the majority will not appreciate our work. For this reason, Christians in “tolerant” America are ridiculed in the press, movies and television, and are often singled out in the public square for derision.

Christians are not “of this world” but instead “our citizenship is in heaven.” (Phil. 3:18-20) The world we live in today is “post-modern” meaning that the overriding standard of morality is what is right for me. Post-modernism doesn’t allow anyone to say that something is “right” or “wrong” based on some “moral-absolute“, but calls on individuals to seek that which is right for them and demands “tolerance” from everyone else.

Obviously, post-modernism is not the philosophical basis of the Bible, and as we all know people have a hard time listening to anyone tell them differently. This entire philosophy demonstrates that most people do not wish to be reconciled to God, or as Jesus put it, to “know the One who sent me.”

As a result of Jesus’ ministry, the world was left “without excuse.” He has spoken the truth of sin, death, right and wrong, and He topped it all off by confirming His teachings with miraculous signs so that there would be no way for anyone to claim that His teachings were simply another random philosophy: They were the very words of God. As a result, rebellious humanity in large part hated both Jesus and His Father, as the prophets had foretold.

26 “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, 27 and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”

Jesus reminds the disciples about the coming of the Holy Spirit. Note that this is not a teaching about the Holy Spirit as much as it is teaching about what their responsibility would be. The presence of the Holy Spirit is beneficial in a great many ways, but it doesn’t mean that we have no work to do; our part is to teach people about the Gospel and make disciples.

Jesus, in John 14, promised that when He went away, He would send the Holy Spirit, another “Comforter” and “Councilor”, who would lead and guide them into all truth. It is only through the empowering of the Holy Spirit that we are able to do as Jesus did, and to carry out the ministry He has called us to. As we can’t live the Christian life without Christ in us, we can’t minister without the Holy Spirit.

Blessings,
Steve

Bible Study – Speaking Comfort

Jesus knew that the next few days were going to be some of the toughest in the lives of His disciples, so as He continues His “Farewell Discourse“, He does so by reassuring them that everything is under His control.

Jesus Comforts His Disciples
14 “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

14 “Do not let your heart be troubled;” When we are facing a difficult situation, there are times when the best thing someone can do is to come along-side us and reassure us that we are NOT alone and we don’t have to walk this road alone. When I went to my wife’s funeral, after she committed suicide, I faced a very-hostile situation, and had I gone alone, it might have gotten even uglier than it did. She was a “home-town-girl“, and was probably related to at least half the people in the town. Because she had committed suicide, her death was “suspicious“. Some people were convinced that I had murdered her, and the preacher said as much from the pulpit. BUT, I DIDN’T go alone. My parents went with me, as did two friends, who were both pastors. I was sandwiched between those pastors during the service. I was NOT alone, and both of those pastors continued ministering to me for several months thereafter.

“Believe in God, believe also in Me.” Jesus issues this in the form of a command – believe! We have an even-greater source for strength and guidance, God Himself.

2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way where I am going.” THIS earth is NOT our home. Our ultimate-home is with God, in the New Heavens and the New Earth. God has been busy preparing our dwellings, where we will live for all eternity. If you could custom-design your home in Heaven, what would it be, a mansion or a cottage, or something in between? Would it be in a city, or would it be in the country? God knows your deepest-desires. This is far-more than just a promise that God is preparing our future-home, it is also the promise that Christ WILL return to take us “home“. Someday, our wander-lust will be no more, because we will finally be HOME.

5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus had just told them where He was going, to Heaven to prepare everything in His Father’s house, but that must have bypassed Thomas completely.

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” People are constantly trying to make their own way to God, whether it is by being “spiritual“, obeying God’s Law to the letter, as did the Pharisees, or by other means of their own devising. There is also an insidious form of “Universalism“, which causes even people who should know better, to believe that if someone was “good” or “nice“, God is “obligated” to allow them in Heaven, but all of this is thoroughly-debunked by Jesus’ statement. There is ONLY ONE WAY to God, and that is through Jesus Christ.

Having left off in verse 4 by telling them that they know the way to where he is going, he now responds to the insistence of Thomas that they don’t even know the where, much less the how…Jesus, with evident patience tells them again what he has been telling them for a long time: He is the Way, you can only come to the Father through Jesus Himself. He is the Truth; you can know no other truth, for no other truth is genuine. He is the Life, for there is no other life that is eternal. He expands on this in verse 7 by pointing out to them that he and the Father are one. If we want to know the Father we will see Him revealed in His Son. If we want to see the Father, we will see Him in His Son.

Oneness with the Father
7 If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” Jesus didn’t just come to earth to talk about God, although He did that many times. Jesus didn’t just come to earth to experience what it is like to be human, although He did that for over thirty-three years. Jesus didn’t just come to earth to perform many sign and miracles, although He did. Jesus didn’t just come to earth to give us wise teaching, although He did that all throughout His ministry. Jesus also didn’t just come to earth to live a sinless life, die on the cross and be resurrected on the third day, although He did that too. Jesus came to this earth to be Emanuel, God with us, God revealed in human flesh. God, whose Presence in the Old Testament, was so Holy and Awesome that the children of Israel shrunk back in terror from Mount Sinai, encased the Holy in human flesh to walk among His people.

8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. 12 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” If we didn’t know any better, we might be tempted to conclude that Philip had just joined the “party“, but he hadn’t. He had been with Jesus since His ministry began. Was Philip, like the Jewish religious leaders, still looking for more “evidence” that Jesus was the Messiah?

All of them should know that no one has ever seen the Father (John 1:18). It was considered by the Jews impossible for a mere mortal to look directly upon the glory of God, not even Moses had looked directly at Him. Jesus explains that we see God revealed in him through spiritual discernment. He indicates also that his miracles were revelations of God’s presence in him. In truth, the logic is that since it isn’t possible for a mortal man to look directly at God and live to tell the story, God has been made manifest in Jesus Christ, having become a man so that direct interaction can occur, a foundational premise of Christian Theology.

Jesus mentions that those who have faith in Him will continue to do what He had been doing, and that they will do even greater things because He will grant them whatever they ask of Him in His name. This has been the source of considerable confusion and discussion in our time. Are we doing what He was doing… what was He doing anyway?

The ministry of Jesus on the earth was not one designed to advance my interests, desires, wants or needs. Its purpose was to advance the redemptive plan of God. Are we living our lives to advance the redemptive plan of God? Jesus is not telling us to use the ‘magic words’ at the end of our prayers, “In Jesus’ name. Amen.” He is telling His disciples, soon to become His Apostles that He will do great works through them and in fact He did; they are recorded as answered promises in Acts including many miraculous signs that were performed for the specific purpose of confirming the Gospel message. With that said, it is possible, even requisite that we as Christians have an active and powerful prayer life; I can’t imagine how we can follow Him through life without it. However, in no way did Jesus promise anybody that He would give them a “blank check” to live selfish lives of demanding benefits from Him; this is simply inconsistent with every word of Scripture. He will give us whatever we ask for in His name to accomplish God’s purposes.

15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” This is where the rubber meets the road. If we truly love God, we will do as He has commanded, but not out of “obligation“, but in gratitude for what He has done for us.

Role of the Spirit
16 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.

Jesus has just told the remaining disciples that anything they ask in his name will be given to them. Keep in mind that in context this was no blank check, but was all about doing the things that he had been doing. As we continue with his discussion, we now move into further elaboration of how this will all work: There will be a new Counselor. The word translated “counselor” is parakletos which in the ancient world meant “one who give legal advice”. Today, we often refer to a lawyer as “counsel” which comes from this meaning.

In verses 15-17 Jesus teaches us three things about the Holy Spirit. 1) The Holy Spirit is our Eternal Advocate who intercedes for us before the Father (1 John 2:1). 2) The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth that unveils for us our relationship with God and thus sets us free from sin, death and the traditions of men. 3) The Holy Spirit is within you. It cannot be taken it can only be received. Thus, this world cannot take it away and cannot even comprehend it for it is not compatible with the world of men. Wherever there is a Christian, there is also the presence of the Holy Spirit.

As we go through life, we are tempted to find our “validation“, our “identity” and our “significance” in our achievements, our roles, and even in our relationships, however, these things can all be taken away from us, setting us adrift. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt, and it may be the worst feeling in the world to not even know “who” you are. When we find our “validation“, our “identity” and our “significance” in being Sons and Daughters of God, as attested to by the Holy Spirit, we have an “anchor” that is so rock-solid that we can withstand those “up’s” and “downs” in life. That is one of the most important works of the Holy Spirit, because we can’t ever “lose” what we have in Christ.

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. 20 In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. 21 He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. 24 He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.

Jesus goes further still in vv. 18-21 with the concept of his being “in the Father” and being “in you” and “you in me.” By extension of course that means that we are “in the Father” through Jesus. If we have his commands and obey them, then we will be considered to love Jesus. If we love Jesus, the Father will love us. Be sure to catch the “if” here; it goes back to obey. If we obey Jesus’ commands the Father will love us in a special way, and Jesus will show himself to us. Will he literally and bodily do so? No! It’s actually better than that: He will show himself through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

The Judas in 22 ff. is the Thaddeus of Matthew and Mark. His question should sound familiar as it has already been asked by Jesus’ own brothers in 7:3-4. Jesus will not show himself to the world because he doesn’t do things the way the world does. You will never see Jesus as a guest on The Factor or Oprah because he is not out to win the praise of men; he is doing the Father’s work of redemption.

25 “These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. 28 You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe. 30 I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me; 31 but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. Get up, let us go from here. (John 14)

Finally, he introduces another element of the Christian life: Peace. This is not merely the absence of war; it amounts to the full renewal of fellowship between Man and God. With this peace, we need not be afraid, for no matter what the world may do, we are in a place where our future is assured. The chapter concludes with the urgency of the hour. Satan is busy at work and the time for face to face discussion is very nearly over, yet there is still time for a little more yet to come when Jesus talks about vines and branches in the next chapter.

Final thoughts…
Even though we may not face the same kinds of trials and persecution the Apostles endured, we aren’t promised an easy journey. As our society becomes increasingly secular and godless, Christians may face persecution, even death for our faith. The promises Jesus gave to His disciples before He went to the cross are our promises too. Anchoring our faith in God’s promises may make the difference between being able to endure and caving into pressure to renounce our faith. I pray that my faith, and your faith, may be anchored in our relationship with Christ.

Blessings,
Steve

Christian Naturist Festival 2016 Lake Como Resort

We had another great weekend! Many kudos to Pam and her crew for putting together a delightful and inspiring weekend. While it was called a “Festival“, “Retreat” might be a better way to describe it. In spite of all the evil in the world, it was a time for us to “retreat“, to put aside the cares and concerns of what was going on outside, and concentrate on what the Lord was in our midst to teach us and encourage us with.

For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst. (Matthew 18:20)

We were certainly more than “two or three“, more like 20 to 25, and there was a lot of Christian unity and love in our gathering. Our featured speaker was Matthew Neal, author of The Biblical Naturist, and he came well-prepared. The theme for the weekend was “The Image Matters“.

Friday evening…
We gathered Friday evening for fellowship, ice-cream and to worship and adore our awesome God. Matthew introduced us to the need for Christian Naturists to impact the textile Christian Theology and Culture.

He asked five questions:
* What does the church say about porn?
* What does the church say about sexual-objectification?
* What does the church say about homosexuality?
* What does the church say about transgenderism?
* What does the church say about marriage?

The sad fact is that the church has lost its biblical understanding of mankind being created in God’s image, and replaced that with the Gnostic heresy that the body is “evil“. Thus, a “pornographic“, “hypersexualized” view of the body has arisen from that false doctrine. Is it any wonder that the church has lost its prophetic-voice in our culture, that porn consumption is rampant among church members and leaders, because if there is no “real” reason behind “Thou shalt not…“, why not; “If it feels good, do it“? If there is no “reason” for the rules, why not chuck them in the garbage?

The bottom line is that the church’s answers fall far-short of the truth of the Bible.

Saturday…
Our morning began with a catered breakfast provided by CNA (Christian Naturists of America). After a time for fellowship, we sang a couple of praise songs to get our hearts and minds ready to concentrate on God and His Word.

The topic for the morning session was: The Importance of the Imago Dei as a foundational Theological Concept and the culturally-relevent implications for reclaiming a Biblical understanding in the doctrine of the Church.

1) We have a hole in our Theology:
*We give lip-service to this doctrine
*Imago Dei – in the image of God
*We acknowledge “likeness” – moral, volitional, emotional, intellectual and relational.

2) We have neglected “image
*Image means “looks alike
*Our neglect has caused a big hole in our understanding of Imago Dei.

3) We have actively rejected “likeness
*God has no body??? God is “spirit“???
*We use anthropormorphisms to “explain” God’s appearances
*Imago Dei does NOT restrict God

4) God presents Himself:
*Walking in the Garden: 8 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. ( Genesis 3:8)

*Talking to Aaron and Miriam: With him I speak mouth to mouth, even openly, and not in dark sayings, and he beholds the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant, against Moses?” (Numbers 12:8)

*Moses: 17 The Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.” 18 Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” 19 And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” 20 But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” 21 Then the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; 22 and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.” (Exodus 33:18-32)

5) God reveals Himself in human form
*General, special and personal revelation
*If we deny the Imago Dei, we miss what our bodies mean.
*Our Theology is defective

6) We need a Biblical Theology of the Body
*What does the body tell us about God?
*What does the Imago Dei mean to the purpose of our bodies, mankind?

7) The Church does have a Theology of the Body, but it is wrong.

Is the body an aid, or is it an impediment to righteousness?

* Temple of the Holy Spirit: 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? (1 Corinthians 6:19)

* Glorify God with your body: 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. (1 Cor. 6:20)

* Present your bodies as living sacrifices: Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. (Rom. 12:1)

* Present yourselves to God: But present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. ( Rom: 6:13b)

8) What is the purpose of sex in marriage?
*Procreation
*Strengthening the marriage bond
*Recreation

9) What are we expected to think when we see the exposed human form?
*Disgust?
*Give glory to God?

10) “Modesty doctrine”
*The church has it all wrong.
*Biblical “modesty” refers to carriage and demeanor, not clothing

11) What is the source of the current Theology of the Body?
*Satan loves to twist and pervert the truth
*This Theology of the Body has failed the church
*It has been a failure for many generations

We are called to expose this lie!

12) We must recover the glory of God
*As revealed in our bodies
*We must proclaim this truth

13) Theology of the Body
*Our visible bodies reveal how God has proclaimed Himself

Splendor and majesty are before Him,
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary. (Psalm 96:6)

Strength and beauty are not mutually-exclusive, which is why God has revealed Himself in the strength of a man and the beauty of a woman. There is also a certain beauty in the strength of a man, because the physique of the masculine body has its own functional-beauty. While nobody will deny that women are the most beautiful of all of God’s creatures, they aren’t left out of displaying strength either. Men who tackle the job of being “Mr. Mom” marvel at how seemingly effortlessly women do what they struggle with. Why? Because God has gifted them with strength also.

Have you ever known any women who were both beautiful and strong? I have.

After the morning session, we had a time of prayer before lunch.

Lunch was provided by Garden of Eden Church, and while we ate, Cameron Bennett presented the Vision, Purpose and Mission of CNA. After his presentation, all of the pastors and ministry leaders who were present gathered around him to commission him to a new ministry at Rock Haven. He was commissioned by the laying on of hands and prayers, and then the pastors and ministry leaders offered him the right hand of fellowship.

The afternoon session focused on how we can impact others in our Christian Communities (without using the N-words), and how we can live the truth in a way that challenges other’s preconceptions.

How to influence the Church
1) Recognize that it is a Theological issue.
* Without a Biblical understanding of the Imago Dei, the Church can’t get its Theology straight.

2) Be alert for the many ways that the lie is expressed.
* “Modesty” rules – seeking to “protect” men from lust by laying the blame for men’s lust on women, and shaming them into “mitigating” men’s lust by dressing “modestly“.

* Double-standards – Men can dress almost any way they want, but women have to dress “modestly”.

* Jesus specifically refuted this false “modesty-dogma” in Mark 7:14-21, by teaching that lust and sexual sin come from the heart, not from what a person sees with their eyes.

3) We must remember that NO-ONE can convince ANYONE. That is the Holy Spirit’s job, so all we can do is present the Biblical “evidence“.

4) We must be ready to speak.

5) We must trust God with the results AND the consequences. There may be consequences for believing and proclaiming the truth.

Sunday…
A few hardy souls gathered early to walk come of the nature trails at Lake Como.

Morning worship…
We opened the service with several praise and worship hymns.

Pastor Dan shared some thoughts on 1 Cor. 1:26-31:
26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

We were NOT wise, we were NOT mighty, we were NOT noble, and we were, in fact, FOOLISH, however God sees us as being “in Christ“, who is everything that we are not. We didn’t contribute ANYTHINGgood” to our salvation, God did it ALL, so our only boasting must be in the Lord.

The topic for the message was: The Body and Redemption
1) To be human is to have a body.

2) We will have a body for all eternity: 20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Cor. 15:20-22)

3) Jesus was fully-human: 9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, (Col. 2:9)

Why did Jesus need a human body to redeem us?

* Incarnation: 4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)

* Anticipation: 22 And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

23 Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; 25 nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, 28 so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. (Hebrews 9:22-28)

* Substitution: 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, “Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, But a body You have prepared for Me; 6 In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have taken no pleasure. 7 “Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come (In the scroll of the book it is written of Me) To do Your will, O God.’” (Hebrews 10:4-7)

* Propitiation: 24 And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. (1 Peter 2:24), 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. (1 John 2:2), 19 And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. (Luke 22:19, 20)

* Intercession: 11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; 12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:11-14)

* Resurrection: 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)

* Ascension: 9 And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. 11 They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)

* This is what Jesus did: 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ, who, 6 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 has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)

Communion:
While the Bread was being passed around, one of the ministry leaders served the Cup to each person. After everything was distributed, we all partook together.

We sang two more hymns before we were dismissed with prayer by Pastor Dan.

The worship service concluded another rewarding Christian Naturists Festival, and there is already talk about having another Festival next year.

Final thoughts…
Besides being able to spend two full days au naturel, it was a great weekend. The fellowship was wonderful, and being able to worship our God naturally was an awesome experience. That is the epitome of coming to God “Just as I am”.

Jesus said, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)

In Christ,
Steve

Bible Study – The Last Supper

Because John only alludes to the Last Supper in John 13, we are going to take a brief detour into Luke and pick-up this event. It is also recorded in Matthew 26:17-29 and Mark 14:22-25. We will resume our study of the Upper Room Discourse next time.

Jesus went into Jerusalem specifically for Passover, as it was one of the most important feasts on the Jewish calendar. His “hour” was also rapidly-approaching, the time when He would be crucified, and He wanted to eat the Passover meal for one last time. What was only symbolic in Passover was soon going to become true spiritual-reality.

Jesus had washed His disciple’s feet and dismissed Judas Iscariot in the last section, and now their feast begins in earnest. Judas only got to see the feast, but he didn’t get to partake.

The Preparation…
7 Then came the first day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 And Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, so that we may eat it.” 9 They said to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare it?” 10 And He said to them, “When you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house that he enters. 11 And you shall say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’ 12 And he will show you a large, furnished upper room; prepare it there.” 13 And they left and found everything just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover. (Luke 22:7-13)

We find some interesting details in this scene, along with begging some questions. Had Jesus prearranged to have His Passover meal hosted in that particular home? If He had, He had kept the location secret from His disciples. Was the man carrying the pitcher of water also prearranged?

Jesus sent two of His most trusted disciples, Peter and John, to get the Passover meal ready for them to partake. They had to get their lamb or kid slaughtered, roast it, acquire the unleavened-bread and the wine, and set the table for dinner. By the time of Christ, since the animals were no longer slaughtered by the individual families, but were slaughtered in the Temple, the time for sacrificing them had been moved up to between noon and three PM rather than at twilight. The animal had to be slaughtered and roasted whole, which meant that this meal couldn’t take place until after dark. We saw in John 13:30 that it was “night” when Judas went on his dastardly-errand. It was quite fitting that he did his dastardly-deed under the cover of darkness.

A man carrying a pitcher of water would have stuck out like a sore-thumb, because only women carried pitchers of water. If a man carried water, it was in a water-skin.

To answer those questions, I believe that we are seeing another instance of Jesus’ divine foreknowledge, rather than meticulous pre-planning. We saw this foreknowledge in John 1:48, when Jesus “saw” Nathanael under a fig tree, and in Matthew 21:1-3, when Jesus “knew” that there would be a donkey and her colt tied up in the next town. Jesus “knew” that He and His disciples would be welcome in a certain person’s home, and that, at the appropriate time, a man would be carrying a pitcher of water who would lead them to the home. None of these events were “coincidental“.

14 When the hour had come, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. 15 And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; 18 for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. (Luke 22:14-20)

When all was ready, Jesus and His disciples gathered in the upper room to eat their meal. Even though they had probably eaten several Passover meals together, this one had special significance. 15 And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;” He was on the final count-down to His crucifixion, so this would be their last meal together before He went to the cross.

16 for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Jesus was not only speaking of the imminence of His death, but also His confidence in His resurrection and His eventual return, when the kingdom of God will reach its ultimate fulfillment.

As much as we would like to think that Jesus’ disciples were “special“, they weren’t. They were still broken men. James and John had egos the size of Texas and had argued over which one of them would be “first” in the kingdom of God. Oh, and they both had fiery-tempers. Peter was bold and brash, and he had the nasty-habit of running his mouth at all the wrong times. He rebuked Jesus just a few days before. Simon the Zealot would have loved it if Jesus had raised an army and gone after the Romans. Matthew was an ex-tax- collector, a “traitor“, and it is probably a safe bet that there was no love lost between him and Simon Z. In a few hours, most of them would cut and run when Jesus got arrested, not to mention that Peter would also deny Him three times. Only John had the moxie to follow Jesus all the way to the cross. There were a few gutsy women there too. Jesus didn’t “fence the table“, as many pastors do today, when He served this special meal to His disciples, He served it to broken men.

17 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves;” Jesus didn’t restrict any one of His disciples from partaking in this special meal, because after He died on the cross and rose again from the dead, it would take on an even greater significance. 20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” ALL covenants were ratified with blood, binding both parties to the terms of the agreement, and the New Covenant, which Jesus ratified on the cross, was no different.

19 And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” We looked at the Bread of Life discourse a few weeks ago, and this “living bread” was His body, which was broken so that we might be saved.

As the Lord’s Supper is intended as a Table of Restoration, this study is intended to segue into “Come And Eat(https://pipermac5.wordpress.com/2015/06/14/come-and-eat/) , which I posted several months ago.

In Christ,
Steve

Moments…

What IS a “moment“? Moment: a) An indefinite, short period of time. b) A precise point in time.

We use “moment” in many ways in our daily speech and lives because it quantifies what we couldn’t quantify otherwise, periods of time or points in time. With that in mind, let’s explore some significant “moments“.

Just a moment…
How many times have you said; “Just a moment” when you were “indisposed” and couldn’t take care of something immediately? That “moment” may last from a few seconds to a few minutes, but it means that you will get to it when you can.

Our first moment…
We all had a first “moment“, and even though our lifespan is usually counted from the time of our birth, our “first moment” was nine months or so before that. God, in Genesis 2:24, said; “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” “One flesh” is far more than just sexual-union, its ultimate fulfillment is in conception, when the man’s sperm and the woman’s egg becomes a single, fertilized unit, able to grow and multiply into a living, breathing, human being. Each half of that conception-equation, the sperm and the egg, contain half of the genetic-blueprint for what the child will become. Either a boy is conceived, or a girl is conceived, and the baby will develop in accordance with that composite-blueprint. As marvelous and wonderful as child-birth is, it pales in comparison to conception, because conception is what makes child-birth possible.

The “hinge-pin” moment…
The birth of Christ was the “hinge-pin” of both human and redemption history; however, it was His conception in the womb of His mother which made it all possible. John the Apostle captured that moment in John 1:14; “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…

God, the Infinite, became a tiny speck, a single cell. God, the Omnipotent, became powerless and fragile. God, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, became dependent on the nourishment of His mother, a young, peasant girl. God, the All-Glorious, became hidden in His mother’s womb, far from His glorious throne in Heaven. That all happened in a moment, when God took on human-flesh.

The Apostle Paul captured that moment in Galatians 4:4-5; “4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (NASB)

4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.” (NIV)

The passage gives us the sense that God placed His finger on the timeline of human-history and said; “This is the moment when I will become human“. As with all things that God plans, this event happened right on schedule.

We aren’t quite that good at making things happen when we want them to. Robert Burns captured our inability to make things happen on time with; “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry“.

The most ignominious moment…
Jesus was born to die, and a cross-shaped shadow hovered over Him from the moment He was conceived in His mother’s womb, but that doesn’t make His crucifixion any less horrible, any less ignominious. John the Apostle captured that moment in John 19:28-30; “28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. 30 Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit”.

God’s plan for our redemption, which had been put in place before time began, was fulfilled in the ignominious moment.

The most glorious moment…
If the Crucifixion was the most ignominious moment, Christ’s resurrection was the most glorious moment. While the Crucifixion secured our redemption, His resurrection secured our own resurrection. It took all three “moments” to fully-secure our salvation. Thanks be to God for those “moments“.

Our final moment…
If the Lord tarries until after we pass from this mortal life, we will have a final moment, the moment when we take our last breath, the moment when our eternal-destiny is sealed. While we don’t like to think about our demise, it is a reality which awaits us. It will either become our “entrance-ramp” into God’s presence, or it will become our “exit-ramp” into Hell. There is no “middle-ground“. Either you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior and enjoy the glories of Heaven, or if you reject God’s offer of salvation, you will suffer His eternal punishment in Hell.

Our final glorious moment…
50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:50-57)

Think about that “moment” for a moment… In a moment, every person who has ever lived will be resurrected, given new life. Every one of those countless-millions of babies that have been aborted, miscarried, still-born, or died in infancy, will be resurrected, given the life that they were denied on Earth. I can’t claim to know the mind of God, nor can I speak from any real authority, but I believe, based on what I know from the Bible, that those babies will be ushered into the presence of God, to live in His presence for all eternity. Their untimely-demise may have spared them from the difficulties of this life and the tortures of Hell for all eternity.

Thank you for a few moments of you time. I hope you have gained a great appreciation of some significant moments in history and in your life.

Blessings,
Steve

Bible Study – Humility Exemplified

“Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.”

This is the beginning of the second section of John’s Gospel; there are no more scenes of Jesus teaching the crowds. The pattern of chapters 2-12 where there is a miracle or sign followed by Jesus giving an explanation are replaced by Jesus explaining the greatest sign of all, his death, burial and resurrection before it happens. These are called the “Farewell” or “Upper Room Discourses”. The scene opens just before the Passover meal on the night that Jesus would be betrayed. Jesus demonstrates an act of humility that would normally be done by a slave; the washing of the feet of the dinner guests.

John uses these verses to set the scene by placing the time at the very beginning of the meal. They had not yet begun to eat, Judas had already been prompted to go astray, and yet Jesus was confident in his destiny and had received all power from God. It is particularly pointed that John mentions this fact: Jesus had received all power, had had everything placed in his control and was about to return to God… when all of the sudden what did He do?

The Lord’s Supper
13 Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. 2 During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, 4 got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.

What was going through the minds of Jesus’ disciples as this scene unfolds? Over the last three-plus years, they had seen Him perform countless miracles, including turning water into wine, feeding multitudes with “sack-lunches“, healing so many people that they had lost track of how many, casting out demons, walking on water, calming a storm with a word, and even raising the dead. It wasn’t like they had never seen Him naked before, because, after all, He was still a “good-Jew” who followed the requirements of the Ceremonial Law, including all the prescribed washings, but they were totally-unprepared for THIS… Why THIS, and why NOW? Passover was the most solemn feast of the year…

Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet
5 Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. 6 So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” 8 Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” 9 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” 10 Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.”

Jesus gets up from the table, takes off his clothes, grabs a towel and begins washing the feet of the disciples. It is important to note that even though the NIV adds the word “outer” to garments, there is no such indication in the Greek. Commentators rise to this and many describe Jesus as in his “undergarments”. Undergarments for men were invented around the time of George Washington and were not widely worn until the late 19th century; they did not exist in ancient times. If Jesus had indeed removed an outer garment, then it would have been a cloak, comparable to a modern-day coat, and obviously this is not likely. I do not join the NIV in protecting modern-day sensibilities here because it is vital that we get an accurate picture of exactly what was going on in order to get the full value of what Jesus is demonstrating in this act of humility, for it is in total and complete contradiction to what was stated in verse 3, and it actually becomes the whole point of this incident. Jesus was not only washing the feet of men who weren’t qualified to carry his briefcase (so to speak) but he had utterly and totally humbled himself in the process! (Can you imagine yourself doing this?) The NIV also states that he had a towel wrapped around him, while the KJV says he “girded” himself with the towel. Was the towel providing a modesty covering, and at the same time being used to dry their feet after washing? I seriously doubt it, because He was going to be far more “humiliated” when He was crucified.

Peter seems to have understood that he was not worthy to be treated in this way by Jesus who was so much greater than he. Jesus’ reply to him is also understood… sort of. Well, in that case, how about washing my hands and head too. Peter believed Jesus when he told him that he must be “cleaned” by him, but he still didn’t quite grasp the metaphor that was playing out in that room.

Jesus’ comments in verses 10-11 refer to the fact that a person attending a dinner would bathe before leaving their house, so that when they arrived at the dinner, only their feet would have gotten dirty on the walk to the dinner venue; thus the custom of having your feet washed by a slave prior to reclining at table, which their host had failed to provide for this dinner. Was this a “failure” on the part of their host, or was it “planned“? Remember that dinner tables were not like the ones we use today, and the “reclining” was literal. The comment that “not all were clean” gives us a hint that Jesus is not really concerned about hygiene, for he knew what was afoot with Judas; his concern was that they be spiritually clean. (I have yet to see an artist’s rendering of this scene which portrays it accurately.)

12 So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. 18 I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me.’ 19 From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He. 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”

Jesus gets dressed and resumes his seat; then he explains what he has done. He has set for them an example, a twofold example. First, we as His servants must be willing to humble ourselves in His service. Do we dare humble ourselves as He has done? Second, our service must be to clean the filth of sin from one another, to help one another to obey all that he has commanded us, and to be willing to get our hands dirty in the process. We can never do this by glorifying ourselves; we can only accomplish this mission by humbling ourselves. We are to follow his example!

Jesus had even washed Judas Iscariot’s feet, knowing full-well that Judas had already made his dastardly-deal with the Jewish religious leaders. Talk about adding insult to injury; however it was totally in keeping with Jesus’s character and teachings. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48) The Christian walk and life ARE counterintuitive because we are called to be and live like Christ.

18 I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me.’ We may wonder WHY Jesus called Judas Iscariot to be one of His disciples, because that also seems to be counterintuitive, however God’s master-plan for redemption required that there be a traitor in their midst. A wise military commander would never knowingly have a traitor in his unit, but Jesus was no ordinary “military-commander“. Talk about counterintuitive, He even picked me.

19 From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He. 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” Jesus was giving His disciples fair-warning about the events which were going to occur over the next twenty-four hours or so, but it would take until after Pentecost before many of these events actually “sunk-in“. They were STILL looking to Him to become their “conquering-king“.

Jesus Predicts His Betrayal
21 When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.” 22 The disciples began looking at one another, at a loss to know of which one He was speaking. 23 There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. 24 So Simon Peter gestured to him, and said to him, “Tell us who it is of whom He is speaking.” 25 He, leaning back thus on Jesus’ bosom, said to Him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus then answered, “That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him.” So when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 After the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Therefore Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” 28 Now no one of those reclining at the table knew for what purpose He had said this to him. 29 For some were supposing, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus was saying to him, “Buy the things we have need of for the feast”; or else, that he should give something to the poor. 30 So after receiving the morsel he went out immediately; and it was night.

As Jesus sets the stage for sending Judas on his dastardly-errand, there is a battle raging within Him. His Humanity is screaming “DON’T DO IT!“, while His Divinity is whispering “This is why you came to earth. You were born to die.“ He knew that, within twenty-four hours, He would be dead and buried. The full impact of God’s eternal plan for redemption was bearing-down on Him. 21 When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.”

There was murmuring among His disciples, “Tell us who it is of whom He is speaking.

They had been together for over three years, and it was inconceivable that there was a traitor in their midst, but there was. Jesus then answered, “That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him.” So when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.

27 After the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Therefore Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” Even after Jesus dismissed Judas, His disciples still didn’t have a clue what was going on, but Judas did. He sold his soul to Satan when he accepted and ate the morsel. The die was cast; his plan was on-track. Judas may have even been thinking “Why did I tolerate Him this long?

While the rest of the disciples were thinking that Judas had gone in some honorable-errand, he had gone to make final-arrangements to betray Jesus.

31 Therefore when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him; 32 if God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him immediately. 33 Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

31 Therefore when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him; 32 if God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him immediately. This statement seems counterintuitive to us, because we wonder how Jesus dying an ignominious-death can bring glory to God. The answer lies in God’s perfect character. Besides being a God of perfect love, grace and mercy, God is also a God of perfect-justice. His just-requirements are absolute, because He cannot allow anything or anyone unholy in His presence. If He is going to build a family out of sinful-humans, their sin and debt must be paid-in-full. That is what Jesus came to do, to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves, to fully-pay the debt of sin that we owe, so that we can be brought into a right-relationship with God.

God’s forgiveness is costly. We owe a debt was cannot pay, so if we are going to be forgiven, the debt must be paid, one way or another. Either we pay it and suffer in Hell forever, which means that we can’t be part of God’s family, or someone else has to pay it, which is what Jesus Christ came to do. By way of example; suppose someone knocks an heirloom lamp off of a table in your home and breaks it, who is going to pay for that lamp? If you hold the person accountable for breaking your lamp, and require them to pay for another one, that isn’t forgiveness, it is justice. However, if you forgive the person for breaking your lamp, and replace it yourself, that is forgiveness, but YOU have to pay to replace the lamp. You are atoning for what they did out of your own pocket. That is what God’s plan for redemption was designed to do. God, through Jesus Christ, fully-paid our debt so that He can forgive us and restore us to a right-relationship with Him. His perfect-justice is fully-satisfied, we are redeemed, and that brings glory to Him.

33 Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Jesus repeats here what he has previously told the Jews, that they cannot come where he is going, referring to the right hand of the Father in heaven. This is a statement that establishes His authority, and is followed by a new commandment: Love one another. As you might expect, the Greek word used here is agape, which is a godly, unselfish love. It is a commitment to serve and value one another with no expectation whatsoever of anything in return. It is just what the unbelieving world will notice, for it is seldom if ever found amongst them. By this sign all will recognize the difference between the Christian and everyone else. This is the most important lesson from today’s text: We must love one another. Imagine what the reaction of the rest of the world would be if they saw this kind of powerful love at work in the lives of millions of Christians! Would you like to ‘change the world’? Love one another!

36 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered, “Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later.” 37 Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times. (John 13)

Simon Peter STILL doesn’t “get-it“, and Jesus’ “New Commandment” goes in one ear and right out the other. Peter is boldly-confident that he will follow Christ even to his death. Jesus knows better, because He knows that Peter’s bold-confidence will turn to denial when the going gets tough. He will deny His Lord, not just once, not just twice, but three times. Peter has to fall, hard, VERY-HARD, which will set the stage for his three-fold restoration after Jesus’ resurrection.

How many of us have fallen hard, “splattered on the pavement” spiritually, before God picked us up and restored us to fellowship with Him. I have been there, done that, too many times, and it is only by God’s grace that I am where I am today.

The ultimate take-away from this lesson is that we are to love one another as He loves us, sacrificially. Jesus has led the way by coming to earth and dying on the Cross. He gave Himself for us so that we may live. Can we, as His followers, do any less?

In Christ,
Steve

Bible Study – Jesus Foretells His Death

As Jesus continues His relentless march to the Cross, He makes it very clear that He is going to die a gruesome death on the Cross. He also makes it very clear that dying on the Cross has been His ultimate-mission all along, that it isn’t some “gotcha” which has been sprung on Him at the last moment.

We also see the Jew’s false-perception that the Messiah will be an earthly-king who will reestablish the Davidic-dynasty in Israel. They weren’t completely-wrong, because that promise was given to King David by God, but it was not going to happen in the way they were anticipating.

Greeks Seek Jesus
20 Now there were some Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast; 21 these then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip came and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip came and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. 26 If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:20-26)

Passover was such an important festival that it brought in converts from all over the known world, so it should come as no surprise that there were Greeks present in Jerusalem. Bethsaida was an important fishing village which was on the east side of the Jordan River where it fed the Sea of Galilee. It was also at the intersection where those traveling down the Jordan River Road could easily connect with the roads which went down both sides of the Sea of Galilee. Thus, it is not unlikely that locals spoke enough Greek to be able to converse with travelers. Philip and Andrew both had Greek names, and may have adopted Greek customs and attire, so it would have been easy for the Greeks to pick them out as men who could lead them to Jesus.

They had a simple request, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” In this case, “see” was much more than just physically “seeing” Jesus. This is much like “the doctor will be in to see you shortly“. They wanted to talk to Jesus. Even though we can’t physically “see” Jesus, we can still “see” Him through His Word. Have you “seen” Jesus?

22 Philip came and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip came and told Jesus. We first saw Andrew as an “introducer” back in John 1:40-42, when he found Peter and took him to meet Jesus. Jesus is always the “keynote speaker” or “center of attention“, but not everyone knows Him. We are called to be like Andrew. We are called to “introduce” people to Jesus, and leave the rest to Him.

23 And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Jesus is stating unequivocally that the final count-down has begun, and the next time He completely-leaves Jerusalem will be after His resurrection.

24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Does a seed actually “die” when we plant it? No, but it must be planted for that “spark” of new life to begin doing what it is intended to do. Jesus, however, must die and be buried before He can rise again to accomplish our salvation (eternal life). Salvation without the Cross is no “salvation” at all.

25 He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. We can’t cling to our old life of sin and expect to gain eternal life. We must die to “self” before we can enter into God’s kingdom.

Dr. Rosaria Butterfield was a proud “leftist-lesbian-feminist“, a tenured college professor, and in a same-sex relationship with another woman when she encountered the God of the Bible. She thought she “had it ALL“. She was well-known in the LGBT community, she lived with “the love of her life“, and they seemed to be living the “good life“. That was, until a local pastor and his wife responded to an article she had written for the local paper. They showed her the love of Christ and started presenting her with the claims of the Gospel, which got her started reading the Bible, which she had previously despised. One night, it seemed as if all of her world came crashing down around her ears, because the truth of the Bible was unmistakable. If she was going to follow Christ, she was going to have to “lose-everything“, including her “identity“. She realized that following Christ was an “all or nothing” decision. If she clung to what she already had, she couldn’t follow Christ. If she was going to follow Christ, she had to leave everything behind. Salvation and eternal life required “radical-surgery” which was going to be painful. Was she going to “gain” more that she was “losing“? Was following Christ “worth it“? She describes her conversion as a “train wreck“. Yes, she DID lose a lot, but look at her bio now:

Dr. Rosaria Butterfield is a pastor’s wife, full-time mother, and speaker. She is author of The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, a book detailing the experiences of her journey to Christianity. A former tenured professor of English at Syracuse University, Dr. Butterfield started a college ministry upon her conversion to Christianity in 1999. Dr. Butterfield is a member of First Reformed Presbyterian Church of Durham, N.C., where her husband, Rev. Kent Butterfield, serves as senior pastor.

I can tell you, from experience that I still struggle with what I have “lost” in order to carry-out the commission I have been given to take the Gospel to the nudist community. I can relate to her feeling that her conversion was a “train wreck” because I have had many “train wrecks” in my life. I am far more “at peace” with my situation than I have been in MANY years. Why? Because, even though I have “lost” a lot, what I have been given is far-better than what I “lost“. God may yet bring the love and companionship of a wife into my life, but it will be in His way and in His time, not mine. I am far-more “fulfilled” than I have been in my years.

26 If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him. Jesus is calling us into a relationship with Him, not just a casual “follow from afar” kind of “relationship“. Being a follower of Christ isn’t a “spectator-sport“. We must “get in the game“, and when we do, He has promised us not only eternal-life, but honor from God the Father.

There were many people who “believed in His name“, but they never became true “followers of Christ” and their “belief” made no lasting impact on their lives. They were “spectators” who liked what He had to say, may have eaten from His “table” or been healed by Him, but they went back home spiritually-unchanged. They may even have been part of the adoring-crowd during His Triumphal Entry, but they may have joined the jeering-masses that demanded His crucifixion.

Jesus Foretells His Death
27 “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, “An angel has spoken to Him.” 30 Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes. 31 Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. 32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” 33 But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die. 34 The crowd then answered Him, “We have heard out of the Law that the Christ is to remain forever; and how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 So Jesus said to them, “For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. 36 While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.” (John 12:27-36a)

Verses 27-28 reveal that Jesus was troubled by what He was about to face in going to the cross to die a horrible death. Remember that He is both Divine and human and had the same instincts of survival that we all have. How would you feel about things if you knew that you were soon going to be taken away for torture and death? I would be on my way out of town! Jesus has a different response, for this is the very reason He has been brought to this point. It is interesting that John tells us about this encounter that is begun with the arrival of the Greeks. Maybe Jesus was tempted to go off with them and take His message to a whole different audience to avoid His date with the cross… In any case, He will not be swayed from His purpose, and God confirms His approval with a rare vocal endorsement.

The people heard the voice and stunned, await some clarification. Jesus explains that the voice was for their benefit, so they would know that everything is going according to God’s plan. Then, He demonstrates the point in three amazing ways:

First, the time has come for “judgment on this world”. Since the Greek word rendered “judgment” is krisis, if we leave it un-translated, the statement would read “Now is the crisis of this world.” A crisis for this world would surely come when Jesus is murdered in front of everyone when all were aware of His total innocence. This would expose the sin that has the entire world in its grip for all of its stinking rottenness. Second, it is the time when “the prince of this world will be driven out.” Satan, who has the world in his pocket through their slavery to sin, will lose his grip on those who will follow Jesus, those who will be set free from bondage to sin. Third, that Jesus will die by being “lifted up” gives His listeners the method by which all of this will be accomplished; He will die on a cross. The result of this will be that all peoples who look to the cross in faith will see not merely a method of execution, but the means by which they can be saved from sin and death.

We reach a major turning point in Johns’ Gospel at this point. The crowd has come to discuss national liberation from Rome, and Jesus is talking about death and redemption. They object and refer to Daniel 7:14 which teaches that the Messiah will be with them forever. Jesus doesn’t engage. He does offer one last bit of advice: Darkness is about to descend, their only hope is to believe in Jesus (“trust in the light”) which will enable them to resist the oppressive spiritual darkness, for they will become “sons of light”. With that, Jesus slips away. The rest of the Gospel will describe Jesus’ answer to the question they have posed: “Who is this Son of Man?

These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them. 37 But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they did not believe in Him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted and I heal them.” 41 These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him. 42 Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God. (John 12:36b-43)

Jesus performing many signs hadn’t translated into true faith for those who heard Him and saw the signs. They may have “Oooh’d” and “Awww’d” at the spectacle, but in many cases, they only followed Jesus around to see what He was going to do next, maybe even hoping to get a free meal out of Him. Isaiah had prophesied about their hard-hearts several hundred years earlier. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted and I heal them.” 41 These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him.

42 Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God. How strong was their “belief“? It obviously wasn’t life-changing, because they valued the approval of their peers over being accepted by God. I have to wonder how many of these “believers” were in the jeering-crowd screaming “Crucify Him!, Crucify Him!” just a few days later. Even demons, before Jesus cast them out, acknowledged who He is, the Son of the Living God, but that didn’t change what they were, demons hell-bent on destroying whoever they were in.

What if I was dissuaded from carrying out this ministry by people who have told me; “You can’t do that“, or “That’s just plain WRONG!“? I wouldn’t be doing it, but I don’t need man’s “approval“, since my commission and approval come from God.

44 And Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. 45 He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me. 46 I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness. 47 If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. 50 I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.” (John 12:44-50)

44 And Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. 45 He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me. Jesus begins by tying belief in Him to belief in God the Father. His hearers can’t believe in Him unless they also believe in God the Father. He then makes an explicit-claim to deity, because unless He is God in the flesh, God incarnate, He can’t reveal or be the visible Image of God. This is one of the reasons the Jewish religious-leaders have been opposing Him, because He was making explicit-claims to being God.

46 I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness. We have seen this “Light” metaphor many times before, going all the way back to the opening-verses of John’s Gospel. “Light” has been compared to “life“, and that is what Jesus is promising, eternal life through Him.

47 If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. Unbelief WILL be judged, but only when those unbelievers stand before God during the final-judgment. Jesus didn’t come to earth to judge people in the moment, but to provide the means for separating those who believe from those who don’t believe. We know that, when a person takes their last breath, their destiny is sealed for all eternity. There is no “universalism” and God doesn’t give any “second-chances” beyond the grave.

In the wake of the Orlando Massacre, a friend of mine posted “Heaven has some new angels” on Facebook, thinking that because they were “good” or “nice“, they automatically went to Heaven. Yes, Heaven may have gotten some new residents, but Hell claimed its fair-share of victims also. Only God knows their eternal-destiny.

49 For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. 50 I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.” Jesus Christ and His Father were unified in His mission on earth, such that the words He spoke were the very words of God. Jesus had never been separated from His Father until He bore our sins on the Cross, at which time, God the Father turned His back on His Son.

Which “camp” are YOU in? Do YOU have saving-faith in Christ-alone for your salvation, or are you an “unbeliever“? I pray that you seal your eternal-destiny in Christ before it is too late.

In Christ,
Steve

 

God Uses “Insignificant” People

As we read and study the Bible, we are tempted to look for the “heroes“, those people whom we would expect to see in God’s “Hall of Fame“, and yet those great “heroes” are outnumbered by “insignificant” people God has used down through the ages to accomplish His purposes. God called some people out of relative-obscurity to become great heroes of the faith, however, there were many people who passed their lives in relative-obscurity, whose names we only know because God saw-fit to include them in the Canon of Scripture. We are going to look at a few from each “category“, beginning back in Genesis.

Who is THAT?
She was the unloved-wife of a scheming, conniving man who was trying to get what he wanted by hook or by crook, the girl who her father had pawned-off on a man who wanted to marry her younger sister. He had gotten the shock of his life when he woke up next to her on the morning after their wedding-night. Who was she?

She was the daughter-in-law her father-in-law grew to be afraid of. She had buried two of his sons, so he was afraid to give her his third son to be her husband. Her grandmother-in-law was the unloved-wife. Who was she?

She was a prostitute in a city God planned on destroying so that His people could enter the Promised Land. Who was she?

She was a foreign-born widow. Who was she?

There is a common-thread which ties these women together. What is it? Some of them are also mentioned in the New Testament. Any ideas?

She was a captive in a foreign land. Who was she?

She was a young peasant-girl from an obscure village. She was also an unwed-mother. Who was she?

Two of these women have Old Testament books named after them. Which two?

Do you recognize these men?
He was a nomadic sheep-herder. Who was he?

He was a shepherd-boy. Who was he?

He was the son of a slave? Who was he?

He prophesied naked. Who was he?

He married a prostitute. Who was he?

He had to take cold-showers for over nine months. Who was he?

He was a tax-collector? Who was he?

He fled the scene naked. Who was he?

He was a physician. Who was he?

They were fishermen. Who were they?

Who were they?

The unloved-wife…
Leah was the unloved-wife, the girl nobody wanted, including by her husband, Jacob. She was also the mother of Judah, from whom the Messiah was descended, and Levi, from whom the Aaronic priesthood was descended.

The “scary” daughter-in-law…
Tamar was Judah’s daughter-in-law, and after she buried Er and Onan, Judah didn’t want anything to do with her. She conned Judah into having sex with her by pretending to be a prostitute. Their son, Perez, was an ancestor of the Messiah.

The prostitute…
Rahab is described as being a “harlot“, a woman of “ill-repute“, who lived in Jericho. When Moses sent spies to check the land out before they began their conquest of the Promised Land, the spies who checked out Jericho found refuge from capture in Rahab’s home. When the children of Israel captured Jericho, she and her family were spared death, and she ultimately became an ancestor of the Messiah.

The foreign-born widow…
Ruth was the foreign-born widow, who, after she married Boaz, became the great-grandmother of David, whose “greater-son” was Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. That story is recounted in the book of Ruth.

The captive in a foreign-land…
Esther was a teenage-girl, and a captive in a foreign-land. After she became the Queen of her adopted country, she was instrumental in saving her people, the children of Israel, from annihilation. That story is recounted in the book of Esther. The Jewish festival, Purim, celebrates this event.

The unwed-mother…
Mary was the unwed-mother, and her first-born son was Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. Without her, our redemption, and the entire New Testament, would not have been possible.

The nomadic sheep-herder…
Abram (Abraham) was an idol-worshiping, nomadic sheep-herder before God called him to become the father of a nation. God told him that He would bless all nations through his seed. That ultimate-blessing came through the shed-blood and finished-work of Jesus Christ.

The shepherd-boy…
David was a young shepherd-boy, the “runt” of the family, before God chose him to be the next King of Israel. God promised David that one of his “sons” would rule and reign forever. Jesus Christ is that “greater-son“.

The son of a slave…
Moses was the son of a slave in Egypt, and even though he was raised in the palace by Pharaoh’s daughter, he was an exile in a foreign-land tending sheep when God called him to go back to Egypt and liberate His people. He is credited with giving us the first five books of the Bible.

He prophesied naked…
Isaiah was one of the greatest prophets in the Old Testament, but few people realize that he prophesied naked and bare-foot against Egypt and Ethiopia for three years. That event is recounted in Isaiah 20.

He married a prostitute…
God called Hosea to marry a prostitute and to have children with her, as symbolic of how the children of Israel had whored after false-gods.

He “took cold showers”…
Joseph, Mary’s husband, kept her a virgin until she had given-birth to her first-born son, Jesus of Nazareth. He took full responsibility for raising Jesus, along with their other children, into adult-hood.

He was a tax-collector…
Matthew was a tax-collector before Jesus Christ called him to be His disciple. He gave us the Gospel of Matthew.

He fled the scene naked…
Mark came to the Garden of Gethsemane clad only in a linen sheet, and when one of the guards tried to nab him, he left his sheet behind and fled the scene naked. Mark became a ministry-companion with Birnbaums. He gave us the Gospel of Mark.

The physician…
The Apostle Paul called him “the beloved physician“, and we are indebted to Luke for the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. He was a close companion of Paul during several of Paul’s travels.

They were fishermen…
Fishing was nasty, tiring work, but someone had to do, and that is what Peter, Andrew, James and John were doing before Jesus Christ called them to be “fishers of men“. It would have been difficult for four men to get a more “obscure” start than by fishing. Peter, who had the habit of getting his foot caught in his mouth-trap, became the spokesman and leader of the church after Pentecost. He gave us 1st and 2nd Peter. John, the “beloved-disciple“, gave us the Gospel of John and the Book of the Revelation. Andrew didn’t write a book, but he introduced Peter to Jesus. James also served in the background.

From obscurity…
As should be obvious from this brief survey of characters from the Bible, God doesn’t always pick the “most-likely” candidates to do His work. He picked many “losers“, people we would have never known of if they didn’t appear in the pages of Scripture, but they all had significant roles in God’s plan of redemption. Some of them continued on in obscurity, while some of them became well-known, but they were all important.

God STILL calls people from obscurity to labor in His kingdom, and even though they may labor in obscurity, their labors are NOTinsignificant“. They are NOinsignificant” people in God’s kingdom. We ALL matter to Him, regardless of what He has called us to do.

Blessings,
Steve

“HATE” Is NOT An Option!

We live in tumultuous-times and we are facing an election which may “make” or “break” America, so it is no wonder that emotions are running very-high about this election and its candidates. Many people have already chosen “their” candidate, and if it looks like “their” candidate is losing…well, there is plenty of blame to go around. While vitriolic and hateful speech from unbelievers doesn’t really surprise me, it REALLY distresses me when it comes from professing-Christians. Christians are supposed to be “new-creations“, not “religionized-heathens“. We are supposed to be “different“…

The way we were…
Before the grace of God got a hold of us and released us from our bondage, we were enslaved by “the ruler of this world“, the “father of lies“, the being that hates even God’s image, the most evil being in the universe, Satan. We acted like that “master” acts, we talked like that “master” talks, and we had that “master’s” values. We were like our “master“, Satan, because we were in bondage to him. It should come as no surprise to us that our world and society are in shambles, because all Satan can do is destroy, and he is VERY-GOOD at destroying. He destroys everything he touches. We see his destructive “handiwork” all around us.

We were born into the kingdom of Satan, and unless God intervenes in our lives, we will remain citizens of Satan’s kingdom for all eternity. Unlike national-citizenship, which a person can renounce if they leave that country permanently, we are NOT free to renounce our citizenship in Satan’s kingdom. We are “stuck“. Some people are simply “stuck“, while others are citizens by choice because they have chosen to serve Satan and his interests.

We have a different “Master”…
When we come to faith in Jesus Christ, we are set-free from the bondage to Satan. We not only get a new “address“, we get a new “identity“. We have renounced our “citizenship” in Satan’s kingdom and we have been made part of a different kingdom, the kingdom of God, and not unlike a person renouncing their US citizenship and taking up citizenship in another country, we have a new “leader“, new customs to learn and even a new language to learn. Part of learning that new language is learning which words we used to say are no longer appropriate. The Apostle Paul reminds us, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29) We can’t continue to talk like the world while we are claiming to be Christians.

Along with learning a new language, we have new customs and new values to learn also. Make no mistake, God can “save” us from anything, but unless we leave the old way of life behind with its values and customs, we are little more that “religionized-heathens“. We may “look-good” and “smell-good“, but we are still rotten to the core. We can’t have one foot in each kingdom. Following Christ is an “all-or-nothing” lifestyle-change.

A person may think that they can be a “Christian swinger” or a “Christian homosexual“, but “Christian” and swinger or homosexual are mutually-exclusive. They are trying to keep a foot in each “kingdom“, and that doesn’t work. Yes, sanctification IS progressive, but progress in sanctification is stunted and held-back if a person refuses to let go of their old habits and customs.

Hate” is another “custom” we must let-go of, because we have a new Master with a new set of standards. Jesus not only said “Love your neighbor as yourself“, He also said;
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)

We see two distinct commands; “love your enemies“, and “pray for those who persecute you“. They are NOToptional“, because ignoring them has consequences, while following them brings blessings; “so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven“. Jesus also gave us a reason; “for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” If God gives grace even to those who don’t “deserve” it, how much more, as those who have been given grace, even though we don’t “deserve” it either, are we to extend grace, even to our enemies. As such, “hate” is NOT an option.

A world at war…
Yes, this world IS at war, but it isn’t just on the ground, it is a cosmic-battle, a spiritual-battle, a battle which has been raging since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. It is a war of “evil” versus “good“, of Satan versus God. Satan has been trying to dethrone God since before he was cast out of Heaven. What is going on, on the ground, is a “symptom” of this cosmic-battle.

We are to wage spiritual-warfare also, and one way we do this is by NOT acting and talking like unbelievers do. This is where “the rubber meets the road“; because it should affect everything we do, including what we say and what we post on Facebook and other social-media sites.

Tall orders…
Maybe we need a refresher on God’s “tall-orders“;

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly before your God? (Micah 6:8)

In Christ,
Steve