Studies in John’s Epistles – 3rd John

Some Things Never Change

3rd John is another personal-letter, which is also his last letter. So short, so telling. John is writing to his friend and brother Gaius. He seems to have been a leader in the church, and even though there are other mentions of men with this name in Scripture, it was a very common name; we can’t be sure if he has other mentions or not. Gaius was obviously serving others, and sharing God’s love with them. He was hosting a group of missionaries, and these workers were people he didn’t know.

You Walk in the Truth
1 The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.

2 Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. 3 For I was very glad when brethren came and testified to your truth, that is, how you are walking in truth. 4 I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.

As we saw also in 2nd John, his personal greetings are warm and tender. Wishing “prosperity” and “good health” was a common Greek greeting, so we should not be surprised that John greets Gaius this way, but what wasn’t “common” was tying physical prosperity and health together with spiritual-health, so in that regard, this is no “ordinary” letter. Messengers have brought news to John that Gaius is acting in an exemplary-manner, which brings great joy to the Apostle.

5 Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers; 6 and they have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. 7 For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. 8 Therefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth.

Gaius is the kind of Christian who is worthy of imitation. He is serving in love, he is putting others first, he is doing the kinds of things we should be doing. John encourages Gaius to keep up the good work. But there is another guy who comes up in the letter…

9 I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. 10 For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church.

Uh-oh! Looks like John had a wannabe “big-shot” on his hands, a “big-shot” who thought that he knew more than John, who was an Apostle.

This dude Diotrephes is all too common in our day, and obviously they had this sort of nonsense going on even in John’s day. Did you catch what John said about him at the beginning? He said that Diotrephes “loves to be first.” Well that about sums it up! Do you know others who love to be first? They are the important ones, they are the ones who can’t be inconvenienced, they are the ones who always have the last word, who always get their way, and who must always be in charge. They want to be the bride at every wedding, and the corpse at every funeral. No doubt we are reminded of the words of Jesus when He said “the first will be last and the last will be first!

Diotrephes won’t welcome the Apostle to the church, and kicks others out for welcoming the strangers that Gaius has taken in. Diotrephes seems to have much to say about others. A bunch of nonsense (or gossip) is being spread about people like John himself, who should be given the respect they are due. I wonder if Diotrephes is doing this because he must be in the spotlight, and just can’t handle it when someone else gets attention.

I cringe when I see a ministry named after its founding-father and guiding-light, even though I know that there are many GOOD ministries so-named. All I can ask is “Why?

Maybe we’ll never know the exact motivation, but I think we recognize the person, and John is telling us not to emulate them or their behavior. Who can argue with that advice?

People follow all kinds of “role models” these days, but unfortunately, many people are following the wrong kinds of “role models“. We see big-name sports-stars get rewarded with even juicier contracts after an episode of wrong-behavior. What is wrong with that picture? Who do you know who would be a GOODrole model” for people to follow?

11 Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God. 12 Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself; and we add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true.

Finally, another good guy is mentioned: Demetrius. So there you have it, two brothers who are serving faithfully, and one bad apple. It seems that the bad apple makes the most noise, but the faithful servants are making a difference for the Gospel. I’d say there might be a lesson in this for us!

13 I had many things to write to you, but I am not willing to write them to you with pen and ink; 14 but I hope to see you shortly, and we will speak face to face.

As we saw in 2nd John, the Apostle had many more things to say, but he wanted to say them in person. We read the words of Jesus in the Gospels, and read the Apostle’s writings, and yet, if Jesus or one of the Apostles walked through the door of this room, we would turn our attention to them and would be all-ears for what they had to say. Nothing beats face-to-face interaction.

Jesus and the Apostles said many things which were never recorded, but as John wrote in John 20:30, we have a very-adequate record for our needs and purposes, and while the ministries of Jesus and the Apostles only reached a few people during their lifetimes; countless millions of people have been reached by the written word they left behind.

15 Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends by name.

As John is closing this personal letter, he sends greetings from those who are with him, and Gaius would know who else to greet by name.

Sola Deo Gloria!

Studies in John’s Epistles – 2 John 1

Unlike 1st John, which was very likely a chain-letter, 2nd John is addressed to very specific people, “the chosen lady and her children.” John isn’t breaking any “new-ground“; rather he is summarizing specific teachings into concise “bullet-points“.

Since the “chosen lady” is NOT identified, nor are we told where she lived, any speculation is useless. It IS quite-likely that she had read John’s 1st Epistle, because John only summarizes and reinforces the key teachings of his first Epistle.

2nd John is only one of many “personal-letters” (Epistles) which have been preserved for us in the New Testament. John wrote two, 2nd and 3rd John, Paul wrote four, 1st and 2nd Timothy, Titus and Philemon, and we must not forget that Luke addressed both his Gospel (Luke) and Acts to Theophilus. The New Testament would be much “emptier” without these books.

1 The elder to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth; and not only I, but also all who know the truth, 2 for the sake of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever: 3 Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.

As we saw in 1st John, John calls himself “the elder“. “Elder” is otherwise known as “Teacher“, “Pastor“, “Bishop” or “Minister” in the New Testament. The Pastor in many churches is also known as the “Teaching Elder“, as distinguished from “Ruling Elders”.

Chosen lady“…”chosen” by whom? “Chosen” by God. John didn’t just pull “chosen” out of thin-air, because everyone would acknowledge that the Jews were God’s “chosen people“. God “chose” Abraham to be the father of the nation whose ultimate goal was to bring forth the Messiah, the “seed of the woman” who would “crush the head of the serpent” (Genesis 3:15), and through whom “all the nations of the earth would be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3). God then “chose” Judah to be the father of the tribe from which the Messiah would arise. Furthermore, God then “chose” David to bear a “greater Son“, the Messiah. If we dig back to the “root” of “chosen“, it will take us all the way back to Adam, and the son God “chose” to be the ancestor of the Messiah, and to Noah’s son whom God “chose” to be the ancestor of the Messiah.

John’s understanding of “chosen” was cemented in his mind and heart by his interactions with, and the teachings of Jesus, the Messiah. “Chosen” and “elect” are used virtually interchangeably throughout the New Testament. That would be an intensive study in and of itself, so I won’t delve into it here.

John not only addresses this letter to “the chosen lady“, but also to “her children“. These “children” may have either been her own “children“, or if she was a “spiritual-mother” to many other people, it could have meant to them too. “Whom I love in truth“, John had a deep affection, a spiritual-affection, for this particular group of people. John then enjoins everyone “who knows the truth” to be part of this great “love-circle“, “for the sake of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever.” As the result of being part of this beloved-gathering, he says; “Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.” If we know and love the truth, this result will be in us as well, because “grace“, “mercy” and “peace” are ours in Christ. Even though we may have a lot of turmoil and trouble in this world, we are at peace with God through Jesus Christ, His finished-work and shed-blood on our behalf. We have been declared “righteous” before God, and that should give us an unshakable “inner-peace“.

4 I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, just as we have received commandment to do from the Father. 5 Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. 6 And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.

The glad-news had reached John that some members of this family were practicing what he had taught them earlier. How disappointing would it have been to get news that they had abandoned the truth, as evidenced by their un-Christ-like behavior? John reiterates his admonishment that they KEEP on loving one-another. Jesus, in John 13:35 said “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the Antichrist. 8 Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. 9 Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; 11 for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.

7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the Antichrist.

Where have we seen this theme before? Didn’t John just address this theme in a significant-portion of 1st John? He is reiterating the point that our Christology (doctrine of Christ) matters, a LOT. It is easy to have a “soft” or “faultyChristology. All we have to do is “follow-the-crowd” and not study the Bible for ourselves. Having a strong and robust Christology is even counter-cultural in some religious-circles.

I think that many people who have a faulty-understanding of the Imago Dei (image of God in man) also have a “soft” or “faultyChristology, because, if they look upon our human-bodies with disdain, it is quite easy for them to disdain Christ’s full-humanity as well.

Even as they mouth the words of the Apostle’s Creed; “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried; He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen!” they are thankful that it doesn’t go into any more detail about His life as a Man, and they certainly don’t want us “filling in the blanks“. Yet, if Jesus Christ wasn’t fully-human, we aren’t saved, and we are wasting our time here. It is no exaggeration that our salvation hinges on the full-humanity of Jesus Christ. These are warnings we still desperately-need today.

8 Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. 9 Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; WOW! Another bold-warning. Tenaciously cling to the TRUTH so that you get your full-reward, but what was “the teaching of Christ“? Have we forgotten about the two “Great Commandments“? Have we forgotten how Jesus commanded us to love one-another? Jesus said; “Love God above all else“, “Love your neighbor as yourself“, and “Love one another as I have loved you“. That is where “the rubber meets the road“. Do not forsake the truth that you have received, because, if you do, you DON’T EVEN HAVE GOD. We are to demonstrate, by our actions, that we are obeying “the teaching of Christ“. That is why, in addition to teaching sound-doctrine, I believe that our “greatest-asset” as a community of Believers is that we also having a “loving-community“. While others here at the Cove may reject the Gospel, it won’t be because we don’t love one another.

9b The one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If we abide in the “teaching of Christ“, we have the assurance that we are in Christ, and are accepted by the Father also. We have ASSURANCE OF OUR SALVATION. It is as simple as that.

10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; 11 for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.

WOW!! We aren’t to even associate or fellowship with these false-teachers, because, if we do associate and fellowship with these false-teachers, we are PARTICIPATING IN THEIR EVIL DEEDS. We are to shun and dis-fellowship them from our church-family, i.e., excommunicate them. I know from experience that they DON’T want to have their “eyes-opened” to the truth. They are so “set in their ways” that, no matter how much “evidence” you give them from the Bible, they will STILL refuse the truth. Some would even prefer that there was no “bodily-resurrection“, that they could spend their days in Heaven as “disembodied-spirits“, because they DISDAIN OUR HUMAN-BODIES THAT MUCH.

12 Though I have many things to write to you, I do not want to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, so that your joy may be made full.

In this day of “instant-communications“, there are still many things we CAN’T do “long-distance“. “Virtual-hugs” are better than none at all, but we all need real hugs, or try eating together – long-distance. I am a member of the CNA Board, and because we are geographically spread-out, we have had to have our Board meetings by phone-conference. Yes, we planned the CNA Spring Conference by email and phone-conference, but we also scheduled a Board meeting during the Conference when we could all meet face-to-face.

We may not have done any more business than we would have done by phone-conference, but there was something extra-special having the five of us gathered in a circle, in the same room, doing the business of CNA. That meeting will be long-remembered for being our first face-to-face meeting as a Board.

John understood this too, and he was looking-forward, as we did, to being with those he loved and cared deeply about. We were created for personal-relationships with one-another. I love this quote from Eugene Peterson, “Wonder can’t be packaged, and it can’t be worked up. It requires some sense of being there and some sense of engagement.”

13 The children of your chosen sister greet you. (2 John 1)

John is sending greetings from the children of another “chosen sister“, because everyone who is a child of God IS a “Brother” or a “Sister“. It is quite common for visiting-Pastors to bring greetings from their home-church, and when I speak at other venues, I always bring greetings in the name of the Lord from Cypress Cove Bible Fellowship. That reinforces the truth that, while we are geographically-diverse, we are still a part of the same body of Christ, the Church.

Sola Deo Gloria!

Studies In John’s Epistles – 1 John 2

John continues his theme of sin and forgiveness which he began in chapter 1. While it is inevitable that Christians WILL sin, we have God’s guarantee of forgiveness and restoration, mediated through the finished work of Christ on our behalf and Christ himself, as our Advocate.

This passage covers several “mini-topics” which we will examine in more detail as we move through it.

Christ Is Our Advocate
2 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

The Test Of Knowing Him
3 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

Love and Hate; Light and Darkness
7 Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. 8 On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining. 9 The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. 10 The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Their Spiritual State
12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake. 13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. 14 I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

Do Not Love the World
15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

Deceptions Of The Last Hour
18 Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that Antichrist is coming, even now many Antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. 20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. 21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the Antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.

Let Truth Abide In You
24 As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.

Warnings
26 These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. 27 As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.

The Children Of God
28 Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him. (1 John 2)

***********************************************************************Christ is our Advocate
My little children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2)

Here at the beginning of the second chapter, John restates what came at the end of chapter one about the forgiveness of sins, although here, he adds a different vantage point. Rather than simply saying that if we acknowledge our sins, God is faithful to forgive them, thus putting forgiveness in a covenant context, (faithful being a covenant term) now John reminds us of how this is accomplished. It is because of the death and finished-work of our “Advocate“, Jesus Christ.

He has also spoken as the Elder, starting out with the words “my little children.” John is the last of the Apostles of Christ remaining alive in the body, and his writings in this vein are filled with truth, grace and love for his “children.” His desire is that we shouldn’t sin, thus he compares and contrasts light and darkness that we might clearly understand the difference as we journey through this life. Knowing that we will all stumble, he gives us the reassurance that all will be made right, thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ… and this is always a comfort to me, I don’t know about you, for I am prone to stumbling.

I also would mention that at the end of verse two, John tells us that Jesus has paved the way for our sins to be forgiven, just as He has for the sins of the entire world. Sometimes, I think that many of us might have the feeling that Jesus has enabled us to have been forgiven, and then we look at the world, and the forgiveness of the world. We share this with others that they too can be forgiven, and then we stumble ourselves again and forget that our new sin is forgiven also, just like our previous sins. In fact, I have watched many faithful followers struggle with this concept, and if this is ever our plight, take heart with John’s words here in verse 2.

The Test Of Knowing Him
We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. (1 John 2:3-6)

I read with interest, and sometimes sadness, when people write that we need never do anything as Christians because there are no conditions in the New Covenant. They seem to suggest that since grace is free, if we accept it, and then we’re set for life, so to speak, with no obligation to ever do anything or behave in any particular way. Most of the time, I conclude that they are probably just wording things a little bit wrong, and don’t really mean to go quite that far, but sometimes, I think they entirely misunderstand the Christian walk. John makes it quite clear in these verses that we are to obey the commands that Jesus gave us. In fact, Jesus commanded that we should teach others to obey Him also. (Matt. 28:18-20)

The overriding standard in this obedience is to live our lives as Jesus lived. How is that? Love your neighbor; serve others by putting their interests ahead of our own. Spread the Good News to the lost.

Love God, and place His priorities above our own, and to love our brother. John seems to me to be pretty clear that we must live as Jesus did, and if we are not willing to do so, we may have a serious problem.

Love and Hate; Light and Dark
Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them. (1 John 2:7-11)

In these verses, John gives one more comparison and contrast. This time it is love and hate, light and darkness. If we are in Christ, then we must love our brothers and sisters. If we claim to be in Christ, yet we hate our brother or sister, then we cannot be in Christ; I think this is a fair summary of John’s point.

In the opening sections of this letter, John has made the point that if we are in Christ, we must live our lives like Christ. In fact he has made this point several times in various ways, but recall in particular 2:3-6. Where in the Gospels can we find any indication whatsoever that Jesus ever hated anyone? Far from it! We see Him showing love in all cases, even when He let the Pharisees have it with the seven woes. Remember, right after that, Jesus is lamenting the fact that despite all that God has done, they insisted on turning against Him; Jesus was clearly grieved by this. (Matt. 23:37 ff.) When you reduce the Christian faith down to its simplest form, and I am a fan of doing this, its central idea is love God; love your neighbor. There is no room for hate in that formula.

Our brother may irritate us now and then, and may even let us down. In truth, our brother may well be every bit as imperfect as we are, but we are to love him anyway, just as he is to love us anyway, just as Jesus loves all of us anyway. Remember that love means that we put the interests of the other person ahead of our own.

To this message from John, I’d like to add my own observation: How much damage do you suppose has been done over the years to the Gospel by people who call themselves Christians, but who fail to demonstrate His love to others? How many thousands have said “no” to Christ because of some so-called believers who show an attitude of hatred for other people? How many have left the faith because of this behavior in the church?

Those who hate rather than love can call themselves whatever they like, they may fool many people, but they cannot fool God, and I would respectfully suggest they repent, and do so quickly.

I Write to You Because…
This is a transitional passage between John’s introductory section and the rest of the letter. In verses 1:1-2:11, John has been going through this comparison and contrast which shows his readers who is and who is not in Christ. Great section, lots of insight! Now, he is giving the reasons he has written the letter, and after this he gets into some very deep thoughts. We often just blow by this little transition and wade into the content that begins in verse 15, but hold on a minute; the transition is amazing!

I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of His name. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.

I write to you, little children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one. (1 John 2:12-14)

Do you see what this is? It isn’t so much about the “who” John is addressing, it’s the “why” that is important, contrary to so much that has been written and discussed over the years! Let’s restructure these verses:

If you are in Christ, John is writing to you BECAUSE:
1. YOUR sins have been forgiven on account of His name.

2. YOU know Him who is from the beginning.

3. YOU have overcome the evil one.

4. YOU know the Father.

5. YOU know Him who is from the beginning.

6. YOU are strong.

7. The Word of God lives in YOU.

8. YOU have overcome the evil one.

Did you notice the tense used here? Each of these “because” statements is either in present or past tense, indicating that they are facts at this very moment, not something to come in the future. I’m sure that I need not mention that there are no “buts” in any of these statements. Now, as for the “who,” there are three “who’s” in the passage, “little children“, “fathers” and “young men.”

Little children“, as we have already seen, is one of the ways that John addressed the community of believers; is an inclusive term. “Fathers” can either be literally a father of children, or it can refer to the heads of the households, and in Scripture this is often the case; certainly it is when referring to a patriarch. In those cases, something that is true of the father is true of the household. It seems to me that here, because of the inclusive reference at the beginning, the inclusive meaning is also true of fathers, particularly since there is nothing in the text that would indicate specificity of intent. It could also refer to those we call “church fathers”. “Young men” are the heads of households yet to be born, and I think we can take this reference to mean that not only are these things true in believing households of today, but they will also be true of future generations of believing households. You might wonder about a household of one, but remember that in John’s day, households of one were extremely unusual if not non-existent; they are actually quite a modern development. Looking at the list of statements again, it seems that we can take them to refer to all of us who are in Christ. That is also the context of the previous and following sections…

Notice that there is some repetition. Numbers 2 and 5 are the same, but 2 comes after a reference to the Son, while 5 comes after a reference to the Father. If you know Jesus, then you also know the Father. Having overcome the evil one is mentioned twice also, numbers 3 and 8. Both are directed to young men, and it seems to me interesting that it is repeated the second time in a series of three statements made to young men. Now if we have an accurate understanding of “young men,” then let’s consider these future heads of household. They are the future, but they are also young. They are the ones who need encouragement and the mentoring of the Elder Apostle the most, and so they, who will bear the spiritual battle in the future need a little more instruction than those who are experienced, the veterans. Here, John gives an extra assurance that they are strong, filled with the Word, and have overcome. I would guess that this is as much comfort to John’s “young men” in their day, as this whole list should be to us in our day. This is particularly true when we get into the rest of this letter; John is getting his readers prepared for what is coming.

What About This World?
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

Now that John has shown us who we are in Christ, and what the realities of life in Christ are supposed to be, he turns to the world around us. John isn’t referring to the natural world, God’s creation, rather he is referring to the world of Mankind; the culture, society, the impulses, the way things are here. John isn’t speaking of “culture” in the sense that he is against literature, or art, or music, or opera; the things which enrich our lives. Instead, he is referring to the impulses and ways of men and society. If we were to say that we live in a “dog eat dog world“, we would be referring to the impulses and ways of this world; that is more like what John is getting at. John is telling us that we are not to love the world or anything in it and if we do, we have a spiritual problem for sure.

The “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” are often cited as the three main categories of sin. Clearly these do not come from God, for as John puts it, they come from the world. If you think about it, so much of what people consider important has more to do with impressing others than with anything else. Why are we so often driven by career advancement? Why do we need so much stuff? Why is your living room fancier than your bedrooms? Why do you need the fancy car instead of the economy car? Must I spend $100.00 on a tie? Why do we want what somebody else has? Our knee-jerk answer to these kinds of questions might be sin, but John goes deeper than that; this comes from the world. Jesus nailed that down when He said that we “prefer the praise of men.”

In the final analysis, this world, its ways, and everything in it will pass away, but the love of God endures forever. Our Lord showed us a life that was lived for the love of God. Isn’t that where our love should be? I’ve heard people say that we are here to fix the world, but I must state clearly that this is a mistake. We were never commanded to fix the world. The world is passing away! We are commanded to share the love of God through Jesus Christ with people, so that they may be saved from the world’s fate.

Deceptions Of The Last Hour
So far in this letter, John has given us a reminder of the supremacy of Jesus Christ; who He is, what He is, what He has done, and His nature. John gave us a comparison and contrast of what the “Light” is, and who is and who is not “in the light.” Then John reminded us of who we are in Christ and how amazing that is. In the previous section, John warns us not to love this world, and now John is taking us to the front lines on a battlefield, where it becomes plain why he has taken us on this journey to show us just who we are, and just who “they” are.

Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many Antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. (1 John 2:18-19)

This is the first mention of the term “Antichrist” in the Bible. It means someone who is against or in place of the Messiah. In these verses, John mentions twice that we are in the “last hour“, which is interesting when you consider that many will suggest today that there are more hours to come.

On the Cross, Jesus accomplished two very-important things; He paid the price of our sins and purchased our redemption, and, He sealed the eternal-destiny of Satan and his followers. In that sense, the “last hour” began at the Cross, because Satan’s days are numbered. “What” and “who” we are in Christ is the result of His shed-blood and finished-work on the Cross. When He said “it is finished”, those results were a “done-deal”.

Whoever these Antichrists were, or are, they appear to have been hanging around us, and then to have gone rogue. If nothing else, in these two verses, we can be sure that these rogues were hanging around, but they were never “us“. Recall the descriptions of in the light and in the darkness in vv. 1:5-2:11… These characters were the ones in darkness.

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the Antichrist, denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. (1 John 2:20-23)

Now we have a little more information: The rogues John is talking about deny that Jesus is the Messiah. That is a bald-faced lie, and those who are in the truth would never make such an assertion, so these guys were not in the light. No person who denies that Jesus is the Messiah is in the Son, and if a person is not in the Son, they are also not in the Father. They are Antichrist, and there are many of those in the world. Virtually every pseudo-Christian cult that is in existence today has redefined who and what Jesus is. Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are glaring examples of this heresy. Both cults, NOT coincidently, were formed by disaffected “Christians” who rejected the clear teachings and doctrines of the Bible, so it should come as no surprise that their doctrines of Christ are seriously-flawed.

Let Truth Abide In You
As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—eternal life. (1 John 2:24-25)

These two verses are the warning: Make sure that you hang on to what you know about Jesus Christ. If you do, you will remain in Him and inherit eternal life. Do not listen to the rogues. By the way, this is why I said above that John has taken us to the front lines on a battlefield. It is a spiritual battlefield in a spiritual war, where the Antichrists in our midst will attempt to pry us away from the Truth. Resist, and do not listen to their lies!

Warnings
I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in Him. (1 John 2:26-27)

John invokes the anointing of the indwelling Holy Spirit in urging us to remain in Christ in these verses. Consider this: Here is a warning that there are those who will try to lead us astray, to turn our backs on our Lord. They are fighting against us in a spiritual war, and this can sound really scary.

Take heart! John is pointing out to us that we have within us, at our disposal, greater firepower by tenfold! It is the very Holy Spirit of God, the third Person of the Godhead! If we are focused on our relationship with our Lord, and we take these “battles” to Him, there isn’t even a contest, for “greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world.”

One of the vital-functions of the Church is to provide a “spiritual-support-system” to us when we engage in spiritual-warfare. No soldier in his right-mind goes into combat alone because he is easy-pickings if he does. Instead, he goes with his unit, even if his “unit” is a rag-tag band of survivors from other units. “Lone-ranger” Christians are also much easier to “pick-off” by Satan and his minions than are well-connected Christians, those who avail themselves of the teaching and means of grace of a local church.

Peter, in 1 Peter 5:8, gives this warning; “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking who he may devour.” Our adversary is vigilant and persistent in trying to trip us up, so we must likewise be vigilant. We have a solution; stand on the truth of the Word of God, and reject the lies. We also have the Holy Spirit to remind us of the truth and apply it to our hearts.

As simple as this is, many will be so creeped out by the stories and the idea of spiritual warfare, that it almost makes me wonder if these stories of myth, legend and popular fiction are actually part of the lie itself, so that we won’t fight back, and our superior firepower will never be brought to bear on our foe. Hmmm… Do you think we need to have a healthy relationship with the Lord? I do!

Continue in Him
And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him. (1 John 2:28-29)

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I sit back and think about everything involved in following our Lord and it all just seems a bit overwhelming. Thinking about who He is, what He is, His love for us, His call to us… and all of the implications of these things… Wow! I don’t want to mess this all up!

Oh sure, I’m confident in forgiveness for sins, and I understand that He is loving, merciful and not interested in a “gotcha” moment, no that isn’t it at all; I don’t want to grieve Him or let Him down. In the text we’ve been looking at, John seems to sense the same kind of thing. He’s taken us through all of these amazing attributes, and he’s taken us through the facts of life in a spiritual battlefield, and now suddenly, he seems to take a little step back to survey the scene, and just as though he were reading our minds, he writes these two verses.

Wow! What do we do now? John’s answer is “continue in Him.” Yes, that’s right; continue in Him, so that when He appears, we may be confident and unscathed by this world of ours. By “continue in Him,” I think John means that we should simply keep on living in Christ’s image, as He taught us, doing what He did, following His Father’s purpose and not being distracted. We do know that He is righteous; so then, we do know that everyone who does right is born of Him. By “right,” John must mean that they do the things that He would do, so while Jesus is the Model for all of us to follow, when those around us follow His model, we have someone to show us the way when we are confused.

Wow! Once again, even though the answer is simple, it isn’t always exactly easy.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Bible Study – Jesus On Trial

We now come to the most disturbing, evil part of the account of the life of Christ, His mock “trial” by what can best be described as a “kangaroo-court“, and His crucifixion. We are only going to look at the first part of His “trial” this week, and we will look at the second part of His “trial” and the “verdict” next week.

This was a cosmic miscarriage of “justice“, crucifying the Incarnate Son of God.

Jesus before the Priests
12 So the Roman cohort and the commander and the officers of the Jews, arrested Jesus and bound Him, 13 and led Him to Annas first; for he was father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. 14 Now Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was expedient for one man to die on behalf of the people. (John 18:12-14)

Jesus went willingly…

Annas was one of the most influential Jewish leaders of that era, and although he had been deposed from the high priesthood by the Romans, he still wielded significant clout. That Jesus was being tried at night was a significant irregularity, and capitol-crimes were not supposed to be tried on the eve of a Sabbath or feast day. They were violating their own laws!

Jesus’ appearance before Annas was probably a “preliminary-hearing“, because He also appeared before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, where He was finally “convicted“. As if the Jewish religious leaders weren’t corrupt enough on their own, they even sought out “false-witnesses” to bolster their “case” against Jesus. “Truth” didn’t matter. All they cared about was carrying out their “agenda“. They not only violated the Law of God, they also violated their own regulations for legal-proceedings.

15 Simon Peter was following Jesus, and so was another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and entered with Jesus into the court of the high priest, 16 but Peter was standing at the door outside. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the doorkeeper, and brought Peter in. 17 Then the slave-girl who kept the door said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” 18 Now the slaves and the officers were standing there, having made a charcoal fire, for it was cold and they were warming themselves; and Peter was also with them, standing and warming himself. (John 18:15-18)

Simon Peter followed Jesus to this first “hearing“, as did John (another disciple). How or why John was “known” to the high priest is unknown, but he was, and he went into the court with Jesus. Simon Peter stayed outside in the court-yard, which sets up his denial of His Lord, which he had claimed that “he would never do“. John must have had some clout, because he was able to bring Peter inside with him. Of all the people who could have confronted Peter about one of Jesus’ disciples, the “slave-girl” who was the door-keeper would seem to have been the least “intimidating“, but Peter, possibly to avoid “trouble“, denied his Lord. So much for “Mr. Tough-guy“…

19 The high priest then questioned Jesus about His disciples, and about His teaching. 20 Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret. 21 Why do you question Me? Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; they know what I said.” 22 When He had said this, one of the officers standing nearby struck Jesus, saying, “Is that the way You answer the high priest?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify of the wrong; but if rightly, why do you strike Me?” 24 So Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. (John 18:19-24)

Annas wanted to know what kind of “corrupt” teaching Jesus had been doing, possibly trying to figure out why Jesus had such a loyal-following, but Jesus wasn’t going to give him any more “ammunition“. If he thought he was going to get Jesus to contradict Himself, that WASN’T going to happen. Jesus simply told him to ask other people about Him, but that answer wasn’t “good-enough” for Annas. Evidently one of the court-officers didn’t like it either, because he took a swing at Jesus. Never mind that what he did was illegal. This was a “kangaroo-court“, so “legal” or “illegal” didn’t matter. Unable to get the “answers” he was looking for, Annas sent Jesus to Caiaphas, who was just as corrupt as he was, if not worse.

Peter’s Denial of Jesus
25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You are not also one of His disciples, are you?” He denied it, and said, “I am not.” 26 One of the slaves of the high priest, being a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off, said, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?” 27 Peter then denied it again, and immediately a rooster crowed. (John 18:25-27)

As Peter was warming himself by the fire, someone else confronted him about being one of Jesus’ disciples. His simple denial, “I am not“, wasn’t good enough for someone who had seen him in the Garden with Jesus, particularly since Peter had taken a swipe with his sword at one of his relatives. 74 Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know the man!” And immediately a rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:74-75) Poor Peter had been caught “red-handed“. Sorry Peter, “three-strikes, and you are OUT“. That fateful rooster crowed, and Peter realized that he had “blown-it” big-time. How could Jesus ever trust him again?

For many of us, myself included, there have been times in our lives when it was difficult to figure out which “side” we were on, because, while claiming to be a “Christian“, we were acting like a “heathen“. I wasn’t “pastor-material” twenty-five years ago, and neither was Peter or Paul, but God can uses “messes” like us to fulfill His purposes. It also during those times when God’s abundant grace, mercy and forgiveness are the sweetest. It is amazing what God can do.

Jesus faces the Sanhedrin
55 Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, and they were not finding any. 56 For many were giving false testimony against Him, but their testimony was not consistent. 57 Some stood up and began to give false testimony against Him, saying, 58 “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.’” 59 Not even in this respect was their testimony consistent.

60 The high priest stood up and came forward and questioned Jesus, saying, “Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?” 61 But He kept silent and did not answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63 Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? 64 You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. 65 Some began to spit at Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists, and to say to Him, “Prophesy!” And the officers received Him with slaps in the face. (Mark 14:55-65)

First of all, we must understand that the Jewish religious leaders had already given their verdict, that Jesus must die was a forgone conclusion, so now they are going to try to find “evidence” to support their verdict. Now, mind you, this was the same bunch of creeps who had tried to get Jesus arrested before and even tried to stone Him. Their hatred of Jesus was way over-the-top. Even though their corruption and hatred are obvious to us, there was nobody “grading their homework” back then. They WERE the “top-dogs“. When they were finally able to find some “witnesses” who were willing to give false-testimony against Jesus, no two agreed on their testimony.

At his wits-end, the high priest finally stood up and asked Jesus “Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?” Jesus wasn’t even going to straighten the false-witnesses out, so finally the high priest asked “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” This question was either going to make or break their case, because if Jesus said “No“, He would be lying, and if He said “Yes“, they could accuse Him of blasphemy, which was a capitol-offense.

62 And Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Jesus was either a liar or a fraud, or who He said He is, but His answer needed no further clarification. Notice that He used His favorite title for Himself, Son of Man, which He used more frequently than any other title throughout His earthly-ministry.

63 Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? 64 You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?” The high priest had caught Jesus in His own mouth-trap. He now had all the “evidence” he needed to render the verdict, and things were going to get even uglier from then on.

And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. 65 Some began to spit at Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists, and to say to Him, “Prophesy!” And the officers received Him with slaps in the face.

All pretenses of human-decency went out the window, as they who were supposed to be so “holy” started behaving like school-yard-bullies. Even though they claimed to be “children of Abraham“, they were acting like “children of the devil“. Jesus had nailed them back in John 8:44. “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Now, all they had to do was get Pilate to agree with their verdict…

Jesus before Pilate
28 Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and it was early; and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover. 29 Therefore Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this Man?” 30 They answered and said to him, “If this Man were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him to you.” 31 So Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law.” The Jews said to him, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death,” 32 to fulfill the word of Jesus which He spoke, signifying by what kind of death He was about to die. (John 18:28-32)

We have an interesting scene here. The Jews didn’t want to become “ceremonially-unclean” by entering the Roman governor’s mansion, which also doubled as a courthouse, so Pilate had to go out to them. One might wonder what their ceremonial condition was after the role they played in putting the Son of God to death! They were so concerned about ceremonial-purity, but it was all for outward-show.

What was their true spiritual-condition? Their hearts were totally-corrupt. Only the Romans could impose the death-penalty and execute prisoners, and since the Jews had been unable to “silence” Jesus any other way, the only way they could “get-rid” of Jesus was to have Him crucified, but they had to convince Pilate first.

29 Therefore Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this Man?” Pilate wanted to know why the Jews were bothering him with their “problems”, particularly first-thing in the morning. First, they had hornswoggled him out of a contingent of Roman soldiers, and now they were expecting him to try this poor guy. What was up with that? Couldn’t they handle their own problems?

30 They answered and said to him, “If this Man were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him to you.” Could they have gotten any LESS SPECIFIC? “Evildoer”? What kind of mischief had Jesus gotten Himself into to be an “evildoer”? They were grasping at straws that didn’t exist.

31 So Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law.” Get Him out of here and handle your own problems. DON’T BOTHER ME WITH YOUR PROBLEMS!!!

The Jews said to him, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death,” Since when? That hadn’t kept them from trying to stone Jesus, or wanting to stone the woman who had been “caught” in adultery (John 8:2-12). That also didn’t keep them from stoning Stephen in Acts 7:57-60. They wanted Pilate to do their dirty-work for them.

32 to fulfill the word of Jesus which He spoke, signifying by what kind of death He was about to die. ( As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; (John 3:14)) Jesus had made it abundantly clear that He was going to be crucified.

33 Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” 35 Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom was of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” 37 Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

38 Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”

There was no love-lost between the Jews and the Romans, and Pilate had no desire to be the Jew’s “hatchet-man“, BUT, if he didn’t placate the Jews somehow, he might have a riot on his hands, which would NOT have looked good if word got back to his superiors. His whole political-career was on the line, and one misstep could have sent him packing. Pilate was stuck between the proverbial “rock and a hard-spot“. How was he going to save his “neck” and save Jesus also? In the end, he couldn’t have it both ways.

“Are You the King of the Jews?” Was Jesus a threat to his authority and political-career? If Jesus was, Pilate would have to quash that rebellion immediately. After all, the Jews were looking for a “Messiah” who would throw the Romans out and liberate the Jews, which would be bad-news for the Romans.

34 Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” Jesus wasn’t very sympathetic with Pilate’s predicament. Had Pilate figured this out on his own, or had the Jews “snitched” on Jesus. 35 Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I?” Pilate WASN’T a Jew, so it was highly-unlikely that he would have known about the Messianic-prophesies on his own. “Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?” Pilate was basically asking Jesus “what He had done to tick the Jews off”. It must have been pretty-bad for them to drag Jesus before Pilate.

In our world, where we never know what or who to believe, where lies and half-truths are peddled to us constantly, where “political-correctness” and “situational-ethics” reign supreme, “What is truth?” remains the question of the ages. It wasn’t just poor Pilate who had no clue what the truth was, we also struggle with that same question.

Unknown to Pilate, but Jesus had answered that question for us, when He said “I am the way, the truth and the life”. The answer to the great question about truth is that Jesus is the very embodiment of Truth. I seek to proclaim the truth, but I am NOT the truth.

And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in Him…

Next time, we will look at “Jesus on Trial – The Verdict”, so stay tuned.

Sola Deo Gloria!
Steve

Bible Study – True Freedom

Jesus is now moving from “light” to “freedom” because they are intimately-related. In our natural state, we are NOTfree“; rather we are slaves to sin. Knowing the truth, as revealed in Scripture, will set us free. I find it ironic that this discourse occurred during the Feast of Tabernacles where part of what they were celebrating was being liberated from slavery in Egypt. The text for this study is John 8:31-59.

The Truth Will Make You Free
31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33 They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?”

This section opens with Jesus turning to address those among the crowd who have believed in Him. In speaking to them, Jesus issues a new challenge: discipleship. To become His disciple, they must “hold to my teachings.” The meaning of the original text is more like the rendering of the NRSV: “continue in my word.” This is much more than being a good Bible student, for John introduced Jesus as the Living Word (1:14) so that to “continue in my word” would require that they have a relationship with Him. In the following sentence, Jesus goes on to tell these people that they will know the truth (Jesus Himself) and that the truth will set them free. This is not a freedom from political or worldly oppression, but a freedom from spiritual oppression; freedom from slavery to sin. This is where His opponents resume their attack…

33 They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?” Had they forgotten that they had been slaves in Egypt? How about the other captivities since then? They must have forgotten what they were celebrating. Did they have amnesia? Had they forgotten that they were still under Roman occupation, such that their perceived “freedom” was subject to the whims of the Roman government? Their religious-heritage and ethnic-identity were a source of great pride, and what God had intended as a blessing turned into a curse because they idolized those things. The very people who should have been at the forefront in proclaiming that the Messiah had come were doing their best to silence and ultimately murder Him. It should be obvious to us by now that they were also enslaved to their “exalted-positions” and enormous-egos, among other things.

Even though the term “idol” may conjure up things like the Golden Calf or the great temples and statues of the “gods” of the Greco-Roman empire, we are surrounded by people who idolize wealth, fame, success and many other things. They have “sports-heroes” and “stars” whom they advertise and idolize. In reality, an “idol” is anything we place ahead of God in our lives.

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. 38 I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father.”

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin”. People wrap their whole lives around those things which they value the most. My neighbor-gal, in spite of having several bad experiences, including her life being threatened and being detained by the police overnight, kept going back to the same bar time after time to watch “her” football team. Watching “her” football team trumped everything else. She idolizes that team and its “star” quarterback. She was also really bummed-out when they lost the Super Bowl to the Denver Broncos, and that gave her even more reason to hate Payton Manning. Is football really THAT important to her? Well, since she has made football the “lord” of her life, IT REALLY IS THAT IMPORTANT to her. She is also a TV and movie “addict“. God has no place in her life.

35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. Jesus, as the Incarnate Son of God, is the only person who can make us free from our slavery to sin and give us a place in God’s family, but only if we become His disciples. We can’t “earn” our freedom.

37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. 38 I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father.” Jesus is acknowledging their heritage, but since they have rejected Him and His teaching, they are following a different “master“. Jesus was speaking the true things from God, but they have believed the lie that their heritage and religious-rituals will gain them entrance into God’s kingdom.

39 They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham. 40 But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do. 41 You are doing the deeds of your father.” They said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. 43 Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. 46 Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? 47 He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.”

39 They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” They again claim their “specialplace” because they are descended from Abraham, but… Jesus said to them, “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham”. Jesus is holding up Abraham as a shining-example of a man of faith, who, even though he never saw God’s promises fulfilled, continued to follow God and do what God called him to do, including offering his own son as a sacrifice. Jesus is calling them to live in faith and honor God as Abraham did.

This conversation is going to take a nasty turn for the worse. 40 But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do. 41 You are doing the deeds of your father.” Jesus is now identifying who their true “father” is, Satan, and all they can do is hurl insults back at Him.

They said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God.” Since Jesus was claiming someone other than Joseph as His “Father“, they assume that He was illegitimate, born of fornication. Okay…

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. 43 Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. 46 Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? 47 He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.”

They object to this saying that they are not “illegitimate” being Abraham’s descendants, and Jesus continues by pointing out that they are not acting like Abraham would act, instead they are following not Abraham but their own father. Now they say that their only father is God; they have fallen into His trap. Jesus tells them that if this were true they would love Him, not be plotting to murder Him. They are doing the work of their father the devil, who was a murderer and a liar from the beginning. They hate hearing the truth from Him because they are following the lead of their father “master” because they are slaves to sin (the devil). Jesus finishes this comment by telling them the obvious: If they belonged to God they would hear and comprehend His Word, but since they belong to the devil they cannot hear or comprehend.

48 The Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” 49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. 50 But I do not seek My glory; there is One who seeks and judges. 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death.” 52 The Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets also; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste of death.’ 53 Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; who do You make Yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God’; 55 and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do know Him and keep His word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM.” 59 Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.

The Jewish religious leaders STILL didn’t know when to shut-up, so their insults sunk to a new LOW. 48 The Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Their pride and arrogance wouldn’t allow them to see that they didn’t stand a chance in duking it out with Jesus.

This is where it is going to get VERY interesting: 49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. 50 But I do not seek My glory; there is One who seeks and judges. 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death.”

Once again the Jews respond in a way that seeks to marginalize His words, calling Him a Samaritan and demon-possessed. Jesus calmly tells them that He is neither and says that He is honoring God, and that anyone who keeps His word will never see death( v. 51).

52 The Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets also; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste of death.’ 53 Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; who do You make Yourself out to be?”

This section begins with the Jews asking Him more or less just exactly who He thinks He is, and Jesus is quick to tell them in vv. 54-55 that He is God’s Son. In the next verse He tells them that He knows Abraham’s thoughts as well when He says that Abraham looked forward to this day and rejoices in it, It is important to note that Jesus did not say this so as to speculate on what Abraham would have thought, but instead he is stating it as a fact; He is acting as a witness to it. This completely blows their minds.

54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God’; 55 and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do know Him and keep His word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”

57 So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM.” 59 Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.

Their response in verse 57 is not one of amazement but is instead ridicule; they are marginalizing Him again so as to reduce or eliminate His credibility with the rest of the people. Verse 58 is the tipping point in the discourse: Jesus claims to be God. To make the statement that Jesus made here is one that is direct, to the point and undeniable in its meaning. “Before Abraham was born, I AM!” Jesus is telling them two things, first that He has been around since before Abraham; He isn’t thirty-something, He’s at least 2,000 years old. Second, notice that Jesus didn’t say “before Abraham was born, I was alive” no, He said “I AM”. “I AM” is the name God used to identify Himself to Abraham, thus Jesus is telling them that He is none other than God in the flesh. They understood this, and since they knew blasphemy when they heard it, they proceeded to grab for stones with which to execute Him. Jesus slips away for His time had not yet come to die. It is worth pointing out that for all of the reasons Jesus cited, these people did not stop to consider the possibility that He might be telling the truth. These “great men of God“, these “teachers“, “lawyers” and “scholars” were actually following the devil, and their haste to shut Jesus up when He states the greatest truth of all is a poignant reminder to all of us that we must “continue in His word”.

Are you “continuing in His word”? That is the challenge we must all answer every day of our lives.

In Christ,
Steve

I Am

The phrase, “I am“, seems to be incomplete, as if it doesn’t give us enough information, but in reality, it stands nicely on its own. It is a statement of being, of existence, and of personhood. “I” is personal, and it can only refer to the person who says it. “Am” signifies constants and being, and unless it is modified by some descriptor, “I am” simply means that I exist. While we aren’t comfortable with the profound simplicity of “I am“, and feel that we need to modify it to give more information, God doesn’t have our problem.

The first “I AM”…

Moses was a fugitive, a man with no country to call his own. Even though he had grown up in the palace in Egypt, as the son of Pharoah’s daughter, he wasn’t an Egyptian, and he knew it. He was a Hebrew, and he knew it. The Hebrews were despised by the Egyptians and were used as slaves. Their Egyptian taskmasters, were far from kind, and were more like slave-drivers. One day Moses came upon and Egyptian slave-driver abusing one of the Hebrew slaves, and not seeing anyone else around, he killed the Egyptian. As much as he wanted to help his countrymen, they didn’t trust him either, so he had to flee for his life.

Far from Egypt, and certainly far from any palace, Moses found himself tending his father-in-law’s sheep. He had to keep his sheep moving so they didn’t over-graze the sparse, wilderness pastures. Before long, he knew every watering-hole, every pasture and every scrap of shelter, and that knowledge would stand him in good stead before he knew it.

One day something caught his attention, a bush, but not just any bush. It was a bush that was on fire. As he turned towards it, he noticed that it didn’t seem to be burning up. The heat was also far more intense than any fire he had ever seen. Then he heard something, a voice… Moses looked around, because he didn’t recall anyone else being in the area. Then he heard the voice again… This was spooky! Was he losing his mind? Had it been too long since he had eaten a hot meal or slept in his own bed? Depending on whether the weather had been kind to the wilderness pastures or not, he may have had to move his sheep frequently so that they could keep eating. We will pick up the Biblical account from Exodus 3:

Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

7 Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.”14 And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. (Exodus 3:1-15)

We don’t comprehend eternal-presence, God’s ability to be present and in the present at all times and in all places, because we are limited by time and space. God has no such limitations, and He graciously gave us His name as “I AM” to show us that He is great enough to take care of us and all of our needs. Could God have done anything more personal, more precious, than telling us Who He is by giving us His name?

Before Abraham was…

The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” 49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” 52 The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ 55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. (John 8:48-59)

When Jesus said “Before Abraham was, I am“, His claim to divinity was unambiguous. “I am” was the personal name for Jehovah God, and Jesus was claiming to be God, because He IS God. The Jewish leaders couldn’t get past His obvious humanity to acknowledge that Jesus IS the God-Man.

The Light of the world…

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Where else have we seen “light” attributed to Jesus Christ?

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, the gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’” (John 1:1-15)

Do you see how intimately these passage are joined together? John spoke first of Jesus Christ being the “light of the world“, and then Jesus said “I AM the light of the world“. The Word IS God. The Word IS “the light of the world“. The Word is Jesus. Jesus IS “the light of the world“.

The Lamb of God…

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ (John 1:29-30)

Does this statement by John ring a bell? John recognized that Jesus was the “Pre-existent one“. “Before Abraham was, I am”…

The Messiah…

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), 3 he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. 4 And he had to pass through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:25-26)

Jesus didn’t acknowledge His Messiah-ship to the Jews, because they had a very distorted idea of what the Messiah was coming to do, but this Samaritan woman had no such illusions. Not only did Jesus assert that He is the Messiah, He also said that “I am“, thus asserting His divinity. The “he” has been added by translators, but is not part of the original text. “Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you AM“… He could have simply said “I am“, and she would have understood Him perfectly well. There were no pesky Jewish leaders handy, so Jesus saw no need to veil His identity.

Do you see the other claim Jesus made while speaking to the woman? In verse 14, Jesus spoke of the water of life, which He is the source of. Where else is the River of Life mentioned?

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:1-2)

The Bread of Life…

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that athe Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—46 not that anyone has seen the Father except whe who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood lhas eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As othe living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. (John 6:35-59)

This is another incredible statement from the Lord Jesus, and it foreshadows both the institution of the Lord’s supper and His crucifixion.

The Truth Will Set You Free

31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

I am NOT the source, I am merely a conduit. I am NOT the message, I am merely a messenger. The truth that I try to proclaim is not MY truth, rather it is God’s truth, as revealed in the Bible, which is why I prefer to let the Bible speak for itself. It is His word which will set you free, NOT mine.

The Good Shepherd…

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:1-18)

This is an amazing discourse, because in it, Jesus takes us back to the 23rd Psalm, which speaks of the tender care of a shepherd for his sheep. We also get the first glimpse of the expansion of the kingdom of God to the Gentiles also (v16). The New Covenant, which was instituted at the cross, is one covenant encompassing both believing Jews and Gentiles into one eternal kingdom, not two separate covenants.

I and the Father Are One

22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” (John 10:22-30)

If there was ever any question or ambiguity about who Jesus was, He put it all to rest. At this point in His ministry, no one doubted His full humanity. What the religious leaders were having problems with were His claims of divinity. When He said, “I and the Father are one.”, His claim was unmistakable. Is your “Jesus Christ” both fully God AND fully man? If He isn’t, you have the wrong “Jesus Christ“…

The Resurrection and the Life…

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. 7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.4 Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (John 11:1-44)

In this incredibly tender story, we see Jesus weep, not because He was powerless to do anything about it, but because death, the ugly result of the curse, had struck close to home. Lives weren’t supposed to end this way, but they did, and Jesus had lost someone close and dear to Him, “he whom you love“. It still hurts that death robbed me of my wife, my best friend, over seventeen years ago. Death hurts, and it hurt Him too.

Jesus didn’t come trolliping into town to wave His hand and merely take care of the situation. He came to weep first, and then to conquer death, as only He could do. Before He called Lazarus from the tomb, He put Satan on notice that he wasn’t getting the last laugh this time. He proclaimed, “I AM the resurrection” and “I AM the life“. The Eternal God, the Creator of everything, was going to make things right. As the stench of decay reached His nostrils, He blew that stench right back in Satan’s face, and when He said, “Lazarus, come forth“, the stench of death was no more.

Yes, we all face the inevitability of our own death, should the Lord tarry beyond our last breath, but for those whose faith and trust is in Him, death is the entrance-ramp into our glorious eternity with Him. Yes, we will weep over loved-ones who go before us, but when we know the Resurrection and the Life, we know that we will be reunited with them in eternity.

The sisters got their brother back. Their mourning was turned into dancing. Death gave way to life, because “the Resurrection and the Life” came into town.

The Triumphal Entry

12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of spalm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,

15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion;
behold, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. 17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.” (John 12:12-19)

Perhaps you are asking why I slipped this scene in here, and if you still don’t understand that Jesus Christ wasn’t here to fit the mold of the Jew’s expectations of Him, this may start clearing things up for you.

The Jews were looking for a different kind of Messiah, a conquering warrior who would liberate them from Roman tyranny and establish an earthly kingdom. Aren’t we much the same way? Don’t we have unrealized dreams, hopes and aspirations? Don’t we say, with Mary and Martha, “Lord, if only you had been here…“? In spite of praying earnestly for a loved-one’s healing, we still lose them to cancer. Broken relationships are still as broken many years later, in spite of years of praying for restoration. When we think that things are starting to “go our way“, the next shoe drops, again.

The problem is not that God doesn’t act. The problem is that, when God doesn’t act in our time and in our way, we can’t accept that God isn’t beholden to us. God does things His way, and in His time, and we need to have the faith and patience to accept that we may never get the answers we want. God is not a vending-machine or the heavenly-butler. He doesn’t always meet our expectations.

A New Commandment…

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life

14 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can 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 except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever 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 authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. (John 14:1-11)

Jesus didn’t say that He is one of the ways. He said that He is THE way. People have been trying for thousands of years to get to God on their own terms, but that has never worked, nor will it ever work. Our only access to God is through Jesus Christ. Many people still believe that they can get to God by saying all the “right” things, doing all the “right” things, and more importantly, NOT doing all the “wrong” things. The sad truth is that we can never do enough “good” to merit God’s favor. Only through the finished work and shed blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, is “good enough” for us to gain a right-standing before Almighty God.

Jesus also didn’t say that He brought some truth along for the ride. Jesus Christ is THE truth that will set you free, and there is no real freedom apart from Him.

As our Creator, the Word, Jesus Christ is the source and author of ALL life. We do not, nor can we exist apart from Him.

He is our peace…

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27)

The True Vine…

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-dresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and 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 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as lI have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:1-11)

Do you know any “Loneranger” Christians? Have you ever met anyone who claims to be a Christian, but has no use for His church or fellow-believers? God created us to be in community, both with Him and with one-another. I know someone who would claim to be a Christian, but she has no use for going to church, and the fruit that she bears is more consistent with Satan-fruit than with God-fruit. A decision as a child may give her a fire-escape from Hell, but she isn’t bearing any fruit for Heaven. Her connection to the True Vine is tenuous at best.

He is our High Priest…

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but othey are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.1 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though jthe world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17)

I am He…

When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5 They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7 So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” 9 This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” 10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:1-11)

Final thoughts…

We have the opportunity to serve a great and awesome God, and He loves us so much that He has made a way for us to be reconciled to Him through Jesus Christ. God had every reason in the world to terminate His human-experiment after Adam and Eve rejected His lordship, but He didn’t. Even as He was bringing down a curse upon them and throwing them out of the Garden, He promised them a Savior, One who would ultimately undo all the evil that the curse had brought.

We stand on the other side of the Cross and look back at the Incarnation, when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have the benefit of all of salvation history, from His call of Abraham, through His revelation of Himself to Moses, to all of the wonders of the God-Man, who lived, suffered and died on our behalf, and Who has swung wide the gate of Heaven through His resurrection and ascention. Our flesh and blood, our great High Priest, is seated at the right hand of God the Father biding His time until it is time for Him to make all things new. The head of the serpent has already been crushed, and now we await the day when Satan will be judged and cast away forever.

What about you?

Have you had your own “burning-bush” experience, where you encountered the great I AM?

Has your spiritual eyesight been restored by The Light of the World?

Have you drunk deeply of the Water of Life?

Has the Bread of Life satisfied your deepest hunger?

Has Truth set you free?

Have you entered by the Door?

Is the Good Shepherd your shepherd?

Has the sting of death become less painful because you have met the Resurrection and the Life?

Has the Messiah ridden into your heart?

Are you strongly-connected to the True Vine?

Is He your High Priest?

Is your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life?

In Christ,

Steve

Twisting the Truth

What if, even though we have the truth right before our eyes, we refuse to recognize it because we have been so blinded by lies that we refuse to see truth for what it is…truth?

A Christian Brother, pastor and devoted student of the Bible has written a pair of articles entitled “Squeamish Translating” and “Rightly Dividing 1 Timothy 2:9“, where he has examined how Bible translators have deliberately mistranslated passages in the Bible because of cultural hangups they have.

This article is about how Bible commentators have often ignored the Scripture before them and “read-into” passages what they think they “should” mean. Sometimes they have an “axe to grind” and they use a passage to push that agenda.

Jesus said “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free“.(John 8:32) Only His truth sets us free.

All Scripture passages are taken from the New King James Version (NKJV) and the New American Standard Bible (NASB). I will be examining both the study-notes from a contemporary Study Bible (SB) and comments from an older commentary (COM). Since both are highly-regarded, it is best that I don’t name them. My comments will follow each section.

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Genesis 2:25
NKJV: And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

NASB: And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Commentaries:

SB: not ashamed – This statement does not idealize nudity, but shows why humans must wear clothes. With the Fall came a tragic loss of innocence (together with the resulting shame). When people’s minds are enlightened by the Gospel, they understand their moral frailty and practice customs of dress that shield them against sexual temptation.

COM: Our first parents needed no clothes for covering against cold or heat, for neither could hurt them: they needed none for ornament. Thus easy, thus happy, was man in his state of innocency.

Comments: It amazes me how the SB authors jumped from a state of innocence (COM) to a moral requirement for clothes. The problem with the “moral requirement for clothes“, is that customs of dress DO NOT shield us against sexual temptation. The opposite is more often true in reality. What is lightly-covered is often more tempting than that which is readily viewable. What is readily-viewable loses it novelty, and thus its temptation.

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Genesis 3:21
NKJV: Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.

NASB: The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.

Commentaries:

SB: tunics of skin – The fig-leaf “coverings” of v.7 were loincloths. God’s durable “tunics” contrast with the inadequate attempt by Adam and Eve to cover their shame. His provision also entailed killing an animal, perhaps suggesting a sacrifice for sin.

COM: See also God’s care for our first parents, notwithstanding their sin. Clothes came in with sin. Little reason have we to be proud of our clothes, which are but the badges of our shame. When God made clothes for our first parents, he made them warm and strong, but coarse and very plain; not robes of scarlet, but coats of skin. Let those that are meanly clad, learn from hence not to complain. Having food and a covering, let them be content; they are as well off as Adam and Eve. And let those that are finely clad, learn not to make the putting on of apparel their adorning. The beasts, from whose skins they were clothed, it is supposed were slain, not for man’s food, but for sacrifice, to typify Christ, the great Sacrifice. Adam and Eve made for themselves aprons of fig-leaves, a covering too narrow for them to wrap themselves in, ( Isaiah 28:20 ) . Such are all the rags of our own righteousness. But God made them coats of skin, large, strong, durable, and fit for them: such is the righteousness of Christ; therefore put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Comments: There are many who liken the killing of that animal to being the first sacrifice. Taken in the context of the whole of Scripture, it seems an unlikely twist. Sacrifices were always GIVEN TO God, not performed BY God. Even though God gave Jesus Christ as the final and ultimate sacrifice, He was sacrificed (crucified) by sinful men, not by God the Father.

Adam and Eve’s fig-leaf coverings were a futile attempt to cover their shame, but their shame wasn’t their nakedness. Their shame was their sin. Clothing does in fact advertise our shame…the shame that we have been taught about our bodies. There is nothing shameful about our bodies, because they are created in God’s image, so whatever body-shame we have is learned, not real.

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Genesis 9:20-23
NKJV: 20 And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. 21 Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. 22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.

NASB: 20 Then Noah began [a]farming and planted a vineyard. 21 He drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were [b]turned away, so that they did not see their father’s nakedness.

Commentaries:

SB: 9:21 – drank of the wine – Scripture both favorably looks on wine and soberly warns of its dangers., particularly the moral laxity exemplified by self-exposure. Nazarites officiating priests, and rulers makig decisions were to obstain from it. was drunk – Just as Adam, the original head of the human race, sinned through eating (3:6), so Noah, the head of the human race after the Flood, sinned through drinking. The striking parallels between Adam and Noah, and the contrast between saintly Noah before the Flood and the drunken sinner after it, direct the reader to God, not man, for salvation. became uncovered – Self-exposure is both publicly demeaning and incompatible with living in God’s presence.
9:22 – saw the nakedness of his father – Gazing at another’s nakedness, either in lust or scorn, is morally wrong. Ham’s scornful leering at the father whom he should have revered was particularly reprehensible. told – If it is wrong to publicize another’s sin, how much more a father’s. The story further condemns the failure to respect one’s parents.

COM: The drunkenness of Noah is recorded in the Bible, with that fairness which is found only in the Scripture, as a case and proof of human weakness and imperfection, even though he may have been surprised into the sin; and to show that the best of men cannot stand upright, unless they depend upon Divine grace, and are upheld thereby. Ham appears to have been a bad man, and probably rejoiced to find his father in an unbecoming situation. It was said of Noah, that he was perfect in his generations, ch. 6:9 ; but this is meant of sincerity, not of a sinless perfection. Noah, who had kept sober in drunken company, is now drunk in sober company. Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall. We have need to be very careful when we use God’s good creatures plentifully, lest we use them to excess, Lu. 21:34 . The consequence of Noah’s sin was shame. Observe here the great evil of the sin of drunkenness. It discovers men; what infirmities they have, they betray when they are drunk; and secrets are then easily got out of them. Drunken porters keep open gates. It disgraces men, and exposes them to contempt. As it shows them, so it shames them. Men say and do that when drunken, which, when sober, they would blush to think of. Notice the care of Shem and Japheth to cover their father’s shame. There is a mantle of love to be thrown over the faults of all, ( 1 Peter. 4:8 ) thrown over the faults of parents and other superiors. The blessing of God attends on those who honour their parents, and his curse lights especially on those who dishonour them.

Comments: Did I miss something in this text that these commentators saw? I see nowhere in this account where God condemned Noah, and yet these commentators made a big deal out of the fact that Noah got drunk. There is no indication in Scripture how long after the Flood this event occured. Perhaps Noah hadn’t had any wine for several years, and it hit him a bit harder than he expected. No mention is made as to how “drunk” Noah was. He may have been just “drunk-enough” to be sleepy. In any case, he went into his tent to take a nap. There is NO support in this passage to conclude that Noah exposed himself in public. That is reading into the passage something that isn’t there.
Noah did the right thing by going into his tent and taking a nap. There is also no reason to condemn him for becoming exposed in his tent. His tent was his private quarters, much like our own homes are. Taking off his clothes in his tent was his right, just as we have the right to take our of in our own homes.

Ham DID do the wrong thing, and it WAS totally-disrespectful to his father. Ham is also the only person in this story that was condemned – cursed through his son.

Conclusion should only be drawn based on the facts presented in the story, not our opinion of how we think the facts “should” be.

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Isaiah 20:1-4
NKJV: 1 In the year that Tartan came to Ashdod, when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him and he fought against Ashdod and took it, 2 at the same time the LORD spoke by Isiah the son of Amoz, saying, “Go, and remove the sackcloth from your body, and take your sandals off your feet.” And He did so, walking naked and barefoot.

3 Then the LORD said, “Just as My servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot three years for a sigh and a wonder against Egypt and Ethiopia, 4 so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians as prisoners and the Ethiopians as captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.

NASB: 1 In the year that the commander came to Ashdod, when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him and he fought against Ashdod and captured it, 2 at that time the LORD spoke through Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, “Go and loosen the sackcloth from your hips, and take your shoes off your feet.” And he did so, going naked and barefoot,

3 And the LORD said, “Even as My servant Isiah has gone naked and barefoot three years as a sign and token against Egypt and Cush, 4 so the king of Assyria will lead away the captives of Egypt and the exiles of Cush, young and old, naked and barefoot with buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt.

Commentaries:

SB: 20:2 sackcloth…barefoot. The Lord ordered Isaiah to be partially clad like a captive going into exile. Sackcloth was a garment for mourning (15:3; 22:13; 37:1, 2; 58:5), or else the distinctive prophetic garment (2 Kings 1:8; Zech 13:4).
20:3 three years. It could designate the time that Isaiah walked about as a sign or the duration before the sign would be realized.
Sign and wonder. The prophetic style of life (8:18; Deut 13:1, 2: Jer 32:20) pointed out the folly of relying on Egypt, because Egypt, like any nation, was vulnerable.

COM: God here, as King of nations, brings a sore calamity upon Egypt and Ethiopia, but, as King of saints, brings good to his people out of it. Observe,

I. The date of this prophecy. It was in the year that Ashdod, a strong city of the Philistines (but which some think was lately recovered from them by Hezekiah, when he smote the Philistines even unto Gaza, 2 Kings 18:8), was besieged and taken by an army of the Assyrians. It is uncertain what year of Hezekiah that was, but the event was so remarkable that those who lived then could by that token fix the time to a year. He that was now king of Assyria is called Sargon, which some take to be the same with Sennacherib others think he was his immediate predecessor, and succeeded Shalmaneser. Tartan, who was general, or commander-in-chief, in this expedition, was one of Sennacherib’s officers, sent by him to bid defiance to Hezekiah, in concurrence with Rabshakeh, 2 Kings 18:17.

II. The making of Isaiah a sign, by his unusual dress when he walked abroad. He had been a sign to his own people of the melancholy times that had come and were coming upon them, by the sackcloth which for some time he had worn, of which he had a gown made, which he girt about him. Some think he put himself into that habit of a mourner upon occasion of the captivity of the ten tribes. Others think sackcloth was what he commonly wore as a prophet, to show himself mortified to the world, and that he might learn to endure hardness soft clothing better becomes those that attend in king’s palaces (Matthew 11:8) than those that go on God’s errands. Elijah wore hair-cloth (2 Kings 1:8), and John Baptist (Matthew 3:4) and those that pretended to be prophets supported their pretension by wearing rough garments (Zechariah 13:4) but Isaiah has orders given him to loose his sackcloth from his loins, not to exchange it for better clothing, but for none at all–no upper garment, no mantle, cloak, or coat, but only that which was next to him, we may suppose his shirt, waistcoat, and drawers and he must put off his shoes, and go barefoot so that compared with the dress of others, and what he himself usually wore, he might be said to go naked. This was a great hardship upon the prophet it was a blemish to his reputation, and would expose him to contempt and ridicule the boys in the streets would hoot at him, and those who sought occasion against him would say, The prophet is indeed a fool, and the spiritual man is mad, Hosea 9:7. It might likewise be a prejudice to his health he was in danger of catching a cold, which might throw him into a fever, and cost him his life but God bade him do it, that he might give a proof of his obedience to God in a most difficult command, and so shame the disobedience of his people to the most easy and reasonable precepts. When we are in the way of our duty we may trust God both with our credit and with our safety. The hearts of that people were strangely stupid, and would not be affected with what they only heard, but must be taught by signs, and therefore Isaiah must do this for their edification. If the dress was scandalous, yet the design was glorious, and what a prophet of the Lord needed not to be ashamed of.

III. The exposition of this sign, Isaiah 20:3,4. It was intended to signify that the Egyptians and the Ethiopians should be led away captive by the king of Assyria, thus stripped, or in rags, and very shabby clothing, as Isaiah was. God calls him his servant Isaiah, because in this matter particularly he had approved himself God’s willing, faithful, obedient servant and for this very thing, which perhaps others laughed at him for, God gloried in him. To obey is better than sacrifice it pleases God and praises him more, and shall be more praised by him. Isaiah is said to have walked naked and barefoot three years, whenever in that time he appeared as a prophet. But some refer the three years, not to the sign, but to the thing signified: He has walked naked and barefoot there is a stop in the original provided he did so once that was enough to give occasion to all about him to enquire what was the meaning of his doing so or, as some think, he did it three days, a day for a year and this for a three years’ sign and wonder, for a sign of that which should be done three years afterwards or which should be three years in the doing. Three campaigns successively shall the Assyrian army make, in spoiling the Egyptians and Ethiopians, and carrying them away captive in this barbarous manner, not only the soldiers taken in the field of battle, but the inhabitants, young and old and it being a very piteous sight, and such as must needs move compassion in those that had the least degree of tenderness left them to see those who had gone all their days well dressed now stripped, and scarcely having rags to cover their nakedness, that circumstance of their captivity is particularly taken notice of, and foretold, the more to affect those to whom this prophecy was delivered. It is particularly said to be to the shame of Egypt (Isaiah 20:4), because the Egyptians were a proud people, and therefore when they did fall into disgrace it was the more shameful to them and the higher they had lifted up themselves the lower was their fall, both in their own eyes and in the eyes of others.

Comments: Did I once again miss something, or several things, in this text that these commentators spotted? Did the LORD make a couple of verbal-typos when He told Isaiah to prophesy naked, and then go on to say that Isaiah had done so for three years? That would seem to be what these commentators are implying.

Isaiah was neither the first prophet to prophesy naked, nor was he the last. King Saul, after the Spirit came upon him, stripped naked and prophesied before Samuel(1 Samuel 19:23, 24). The prophet Micah likewise stripped naked in mourning because of the deplorable spiritual condition of the children of Israel (Micah 1:8, 9). The only thing out of the ordinary was the duration of Isaiah’s prophesy – three years.

What I see in these commentaries is the personal hang-ups of the commentators. For someone who is clothes-compulsive, even being told to preach one sermon in public naked would cause them to doubt God’s sanity. For Isaiah, this was just another prophesy God gave him to proclaim…all in a day’s work, so to speak.

* If it wasn’t so blatantly obvious that COM was reading into the text what he thinks “should” be there, he goes on to INVENT CLOTHING for Isaiah that didn’t even exist in Isaiah’s time…shirt, waistcoat and drawers. He then goes on to say that the Egyptians will be led away in rags, not naked, as God said. I suppose being dressed in rags would have been considered being “naked” by COM’s standards. Cultural-modification at its finest. And we wonder why the church has so much problem with any form of nudity…

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John 21:1-14
NKJV: After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberius, and in this way He showed Himself: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas call the twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing”.
They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately a got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. 4 But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.”

6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.

7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. 9 Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”

11 Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish.

14 This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.

15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”

He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”

He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”

16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”

He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”

He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”

17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?”

And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.”

NASB: 21 After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They *said to him, “We will also come with you.” They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.

4 But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 So Jesus said to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him, “No.” 6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. 7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved *said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish.

9 So when they got out on the land, they saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread. 10 Jesus *said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have now caught.” 11 Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn.

12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples ventured to question Him, “Who are You?” knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and the fish likewise. 14 This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead.

15 So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” 16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He *said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus *said to him, “Tend My sheep.”

Comments: This is a very touching, intimate story. Only a fews days after the Lord’s death and resurrection, while the Lord’s disciples were still mentally processing the events of the last few days, a group of them decided to go fishing. Simon Peter had badly disgraced himself, and was still feeling the full shame of his disgrace. Perhaps he no longer felt “worthy” to be one of the Lord’s disciples. They were fishing-buddies, and for several of them, fishing was their normal occupation…what they were doing when Jesus called them to be His disciples. Fishing was something very familiar. It was comforting. It was normal…

That Peter was “stripped for work” was considered normal for working-class people in that day and time. He may have thrown his garment on out of reverence for his Lord, but it probably was more practical than that. He didn’t want it buried under a bunch of slimy, smelly fish. This was NOT the first time the Lord had seen Peter naked, because Peter was quite likely naked when they first met. Jesus and His disciples also fully participated in Jewish religious life, which included all the necessary ceremonial washings. Being naked in each other’s company was an ordinary occurrence.

What is vitally-important about this story is that it is a story of fellowship and of restoration. Peter was restored to full fellowship with his Lord, and the disciples received a new commission. They were given a new occupation, an all-consuming occupation. Instead of fishing for fish, they were to become fishers of men…to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God.

While the commentators, which I didn’t quote in this segment, had their usual field-day denying that Peter was actually naked, and even bequeathed clothing items on him that he didn’t know he had, this is really about restoration. Restoration, and the love of God, are the most significant themes in Scripture. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20b)

This whole post is really about restoration…restoring an accurate understanding of Scripture, without modifying it to suit our 21st century culture. I am saddened that I felt compelled to expose the faulty understandings of Scripture of these great scholars, but it is truth that sets us free, not twisted truth. Twisted-truth brings bondage, and far too many believers are in bondage to twisted-truth. We are to view our culture through the lens of Scripture, not interpret Scripture through our culture.

God bless!

Sober…or FREE?

Addictions…the scourge of American culture, and the most frequent means by which we escape reality. Most of us have known, or know someone who is either in the depths of addiction, or who have gained some semblance of “sobriety”.

Sobriety” simply means that the person hasn’t “fallen” recently, whether it is sobriety from alcohol, drugs, or sexual acting-out. While most will settle for “sobriety”, shouldn’t they really want true FREEDOM? What if their addictive behavior no longer had any appeal at all…that they could be truly FREE of it?

Smith and Wilson did a great work when they formulated the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous(AA). Many other groups have sprung up using the twelve steps, including Narcotics Anonymous(NA), Sexaholics Anonymous(SA) and Sex Addicts Anonymous(SAA), as well as other similar programs. While all these groups do good work, are they really leading their members to FREEDOM, or are they really “dry-drunks”?

Note that this essay is NOT intended to bash or denigrate the good work they are doing, but to point out that true FREEDOM IS available in Christ, and that FREEDOM must come from the true Source of FREEDOMTHRUTH, as found in God’s Holy Word, the Bible. Jesus said: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you FREE!” (John 8:32)

Sexual addiction…

Sexual-addiction is the scourge of the church. Sexual addiction derails more Christian leaders than all other causes combined, because it is Satan’s favorite tool for destroying Christian men. The sad thing is that our churches foster an environment where sexual addiction not only can, but does thrive. Maybe that indictment sounds harsh, but please hear me out. I know, because I have been there, done that, got the T-shirt…

The church has an unholy-alliance with the pornography industry, and as long as the church treats our bodies with disdain, and sex as taboo, it will continue to help the pornography industry thrive and create generations of sex and porn addicts. (See “Sex…Holy-pursuit…or Guilty-pleasure?”)

Rev. David Hatton, RN asked this question in one of his essays; “How can American Christians not fall into porn problems, when they’ve sat for years under preaching that paints a pornographic image of the body on the video screens of their minds?”

The wrong approach…

The twelve-step program says: “Attend meetings, work the steps, call your sponsor, and be accountable.” The church says: “Go to church, read your Bible, pray for deliverance, don’t look, think “holy-thoughts”.” Then the church tells women: “Dress “modestly”. Don’t wear short skirts. Make sure you aren’t showing any cleavage. Act like a “lady”. Don’t “tempt” the men.”

What do all of these things have in common? They are all about “doing”, as if “doing” is going to make sexual-addiction go away. They are all “self” centered. If women don’t dress “modestly-enough”, then the church may blame THEM for men falling.

Regardless of how well a person does all these things, they will never know true freedom, because freedom doesn’t come by doing. It never has, and it never will. They may get some “sobriety”, but what they are really doing is trading one form of slavery for another one, the slavery to “doing”.

When we read the story of David and Bathsheba, we may come away with the notion that Bathsheba “tempted” David by bathing where he could see her (1 Samuel 11). However, God didn’t send the prophet Nathan to Bathsheba. God sent Nathan to David…the man who committed that grievous sin of committing adultery with Bathsheba, and then covered it up with murder. The penalty for that sin was that the child they had conceived together died, and David’s household would not know peace as long as he lived. After David confessed his sin, God blessed them with Solomon. David fell…HARD. David had a “heart” problem. He violated God’s laws against committing adultery and coveting his neighbor’s wife. David had LUSTED

The “results”…

Sexual and pornography addictions are an epidemic…even in the church. Faulty teaching doesn’t produce “right” behavior.

We sexualize those body-parts which we compulsively cover. Yes, you read that statement right. We sexualize those body-parts which we compulsively cover. Is it any wonder that some men describe themselves as “breastmen”, or “buttmen”, or “legmen”? If the only time a man sees one of those beautiful parts of a woman is for sex, and no other time, they become sexual, even if they aren’t. By compulsively-covering those body-parts, men gain a special attraction to them. Is it any wonder?

How bad is the problem? Several years ago, a dear friend of mine was caught with porn on his computer in his office – in a church. He was the minister of music for a large, conservative Presbyterian church, which also had a Christian school. Since he both worked in the church and taught music in the school, he had an office in the church. I was present during the service when it was announced that he was leaving the church and why. While I do not for a moment condone what he was doing, I was seriously disturbed by what happened after that service. Most of the congregation seemed to be in an even-greater hurry to leave the sanctuary than usual. Very few stuck around to bid him “good-bye”, and that was only those closest to him. I had sung in the choir under him, so I considered him a good friend. I did stick around to bid him “good-bye”, but I didn’t hear anyone expressing any degree of understanding or compassion. It was just “good-bye”… I did understand…and I told him so. We loved each other well. It should have taken several hours for everyone to get through the line to see him, but it didn’t…

How many people leaving that service were shaking their heads in disbelief? How many were saying to themselves…and even others…”How could he DO a thing like that?”, or “How DARE he do a thing like that?”? Where was the love? How many were even saying “I would NEVER do a thing like that”? Where was the compassion? It seems to me that pride, arrogance, and self-righteousness is an even bigger problem. Along with love and compassion, the most appropriate response should have been “There, but for the grace of God go I”. How many other men…and women…were fellow-strugglers?

Is there a “solution”?

Yes, there IS a solution…TRUTH. I am not going to present the solution here, because takes many long articles to present the whole solution, but I am excited to be able to point you in the right direction. A group of four pastors…yes…PASTORS, who have all struggled with sexual and porn addictions, have put together an excellent website, including telling their stories, detailing HOW they have become free from this bondage. It is called “My Chains Are Gone”(MCAG)…and the web address is mychainsaregone.org.

If you are still struggling with this, as I did for close to forty years, PLEASE open your heart to the MCAG message. “You shall know the TRUTH, and the TRUTH shall set you FREE!” (John 8:32) It is real, and there IS real freedom, through His Word and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Dear Loving and Gracious Heavenly Father,
I beseech You on behalf of Your children who are still struggling with sexual and porn addictions, that they may come to understand the TRUTH of Your Holy Word, and be enabled by the POWER of Your Holy Spirit to become FREE from this bondage. Break the chains of their bondage, and lead them to true freedom.

I beseech you Lord Jesus on behalf of Your church, which has fallen into error, by the wiles of the evil one, that Your church may also discover the TRUTH of Your Holy Word, repent of their error, and be enabled by the power of Your Holy Spirit to begin boldly proclaiming the TRUTH of Your Holy Word, so that many may see that You are turning the tide of this epidemic, and that Your church will once again become salt and light in this world…Your kingdom.

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory…forever and ever…AMEN!