Studies in John’s Epistles – Introduction

John begins his first Epistle, as he did his Gospel, by affirming that Jesus is both fully-God AND fully-human. He goes on to assert that those who deny that Jesus was fully-human are not only NOT saved, but are possessed by a demonic-spirit, the spirit of the anti-Christ.

In some ways, John picks up where he left off in his Gospel, by presenting the physical-evidence that Jesus didn’t just “appear” to be human, but that He WAS fully-human. Our entire salvation hinges on this doctrine, as does the entire Word of God.

If anyone was in a position to make these assertions, John certainly was. He had spent over three years with Jesus, had seen Him be crucified and die, and was one of the first witnesses to the empty tomb. He had seen Jesus walk on water, but he had also seen Jesus tired, hungry and thirsty. He had witnessed many miracles, including when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. John had also seen Jesus’ majesty and glory on the Mount of Transfiguration. He was a “well-qualified eye-witness“.

What IF John was wrong, and Jesus was a hoax? Paul puts it succinctly in 1 Corinthians 15:1-19;

15 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Peter, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

12 Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.

If John was wrong about whom Jesus is, the consequences are catastrophic. If Jesus was ONLY a man;

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to”. (From Mere Christianity, Book Two, by C.S. Lewis)

Both John and Paul understood the consequences of mis-characterizing Jesus Christ, which was why John began this Letter, as he did his Gospel, by asserting that Jesus Christ IS fully-God AND fully-human.

Introduction, the Incarnate Word
1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. (1 John 1:1-4)

1:1-4 The central event of history is the appearance of eternal life in Jesus Christ. John is one of the chosen witnesses who saw, heard and touched the One who had existed from the beginning – the Son of God, whose eternal fellowship with the Father is now extended to others. This extension takes place through the apostolic proclamation, including the writing of 1st John itself.

1:1 the beginning. The verse echoes John 1:1, as that verse in turn echoes Genesis 1:1. The two New Testament verses highlight the Incarnation as an event as significant as creation itself.

The Word of life. The subject of John’s proclamation is Jesus, the Incarnate Word (John 1:1-14).

John has a way of telling the story of Jesus from a lofty, heavenly viewpoint, and this is surely one of those instances. His Gospel begins in a similar way, (see John 1:1-4) it provides a perfect parallel passage in fact. Of course, in Revelation, John’s vantage point is so lofty that most misread it entirely. Here in this short letter, John is setting forth two basic and wonderful facts: First, that Jesus is the Messiah, the anointed One of God. Second, He is setting forth the fact that he, himself, is an eyewitness of Jesus, and Apostle who lived and walked with Jesus for over three years, consequently he is able to give eyewitness testimony about Him.

In verse one, John is letting us know that he saw this Jesus with his own eyes, touched Him with his own hands, heard Him with his own ears, and that now he (John) is proclaiming as the Word of Life, the Word that was with God and that was in fact God from the very beginning, a beginning that predates time itself.

Heard…seen…looked upon…handled. These vivid verbs defend the reality of the human nature of Christ against the Docetic speculation that is later rejected explicitly (2:22, 4:2, 3) (The Docetic view was that Jesus Christ only “appeared” to be human, that He only “appeared” to die and only “appeared” to be raised from the dead.)

If John was addressing an American audience today, he might put it this way; “Listen up folks, because I am going to tell you something which is far more important than who is going to occupy the Oval Office for the next four years. This will affect your eternal-destiny. I was an eye-witness to these events, so I know that they are true.”

In verse two, John takes a step further, as he did in John 1:2. This Word of Life really appeared, and John saw Him, John was there. This eternal life that came from the Father Himself John is now going to proclaim to us! John will proclaim this great news of the Word of Life so that we may have fellowship with John and with Jesus, the Son as well as with the Father. And in doing so, our entry into fellowship will make John’s joy complete.

Fellowship is an interesting word, from the Greek word koinōnia meaning “association, community, communion, joint participation, intercourse; the share which one has in anything, participation.” This participation is not only in relationship, but in purpose, for we really cannot separate the Person of Christ from the purpose of the Father. John’s joy will be complete, because by the proclamation of the Word of Life, we will be in relationship and purpose with John, our fellow believers, and with the Lord Himself.

4 These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. Those who proclaim the Gospel of Christ derive great joy from proclaiming it and helping those they teach understand it and make it their own. That is the essence of “making disciples” (Luke 24:46-48).

God Is Light
5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (1 John 1)

1:5-10 Like John’s Gospel, 1st John begins with a contrast between light and darkness. In the Gospel, the Incarnate Christ is the light that continues to shine in the darkness of a world that tries to exclude Him. Believers are faced with a choice: either to “walk in the light“, coming to Him and opening their hearts to Him in confession of sin, or to “walk in the darkness“, denying that they are sinners. The contrast between “light” and “darkness” is inseparably linked to a contrast between those who “practice the truth” and agree with God, and those who make God a “liar“. It is an inescapable reality that believers sin; the remedy for sin – confession, and cleansing by the blood of Jesus – is God’s continuing irrevocable gift to believers. Because Jesus’ death has paid in full the penalty for sin, and because God has recognized Jesus as His true Son by raising Him from the dead, God grants forgiveness and cleansing as a matter of faithfulness and justice. He will not and cannot refuse.

Earlier we looked at the introduction to this letter, and here, we enter the first section of the letter which begins at verse 5 and continues through 2:14. This section is given context in verse 5: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. Thus, this section is all about John’s declaration of light versus darkness, and it contains comparisons and contrasts.

1:5 God is light. This description of God emphasizes His attributes of moral purity and omniscience, reinforcing John’s focus on our need to confess sin.

Before we take a look at it, keep in mind what John wrote in John 1:4 “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” All through the Gospel story, John used “light” as signifying the presence of Jesus, contrasted with “darkness” denoting His absence. Keeping this in mind, let’s take a look at our text. After proclaiming that God is light, John gets down to his explanation, claiming that if we claim to be in fellowship with God, but walk in darkness, we lie, and are not in the truth. This is a rather easy statement to understand, for if we are in darkness, then we aren’t in His presence, and if we aren’t in His presence, we couldn’t possibly be in fellowship. There is no half-way!

The contrast is that if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship… because we are with Him in the light. If we have this fellowship in the light of His presence and truth, then His blood purifies us from all sin. The reality of the statement is that we can’t be in fellowship with Him until our sins have been forgiven by His sacrifice on the cross.

1:7 the blood of Jesus Christ. As Hebrews 9:22 indicates, “without the shedding of blood there is no remission“. The shedding of the blood of Christ was a voluntary substitutionary sacrifice of infinite value for the elect; it paid in full God’s penalty for sin (Hebrews 9:27, 28)

Sometimes, we may walk a ways in darkness, and by this I mean that we may stray from time-to-time. John doesn’t suggest that our errors kick us out of fellowship as we will see a little farther through this text, but that there is a way to return to the light of His presence, by confessing our sins, as we see in the next paragraph:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)

1:9 If we confess our sins. God’s forgiveness is given as soon as we admit our need for it, not on the basis of any acts we have done to earn it, but solely because of His grace. The free gift of forgiveness carries with it purification from unrighteousness. God accepts us as righteous because He imputes the righteousness of Christ to us. That is, the very righteousness of Christ, our sin-bearer, is reckoned to our account.

1:10 If we say that we have not sinned. Perhaps the “sin leading to death” mentioned in 5:16 is a stubborn-refusal to accept God’s diagnosis of our need and His offer of forgiveness.

I think we all would agree that a claim by any one of us to have never sinned would be little short of crazy. John seems to think it’s worse than that! All have sinned, but take heart, for there is a way out, confess your sins and He will forgive; this is our covenant promise.

There is simply no need for us to wring our hands and carry around a burden of guilt and shame before God, for when we confess our sins (acknowledge them) He will forgive; we have His Word on that!

Sola Deo Gloria!

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Why I Celebrate The Birth Of Christ

Around this time of year, the anti-Christmas folks come out in full-force to try to shame and demean fellow-Christians into not celebrating the birth of Christ, and while their “reasons” may seem plausible on the surface, they are built on a false-pretext. Part of their pretext is that “it isn’t commanded in the Bible“, so if we are going to celebrate anything, we should still celebrate the Jewish feasts and festivals. I won’t go into why we no longer celebrate the Jewish feast and festivals, but only a handful of cults do.

I believe the real question comes down to; “Do we have good reason to celebrate the birth of Christ?“, to which I believe that the answer is a resounding “YES“. So, I am going to present my reasons for celebrating the birth of Christ. They are; its importance to our redemption, and the precedent for celebrating it.

Its importance to our redemption…

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…

The birth of Jesus Christ was THE most important event in human history, because, without His birth, there would have been no crucifixion or resurrection, thus no redemption. The birth of Jesus Christ was also the hinge-pin of redemption-history, tying the Old Testament to the New Testament and the Promises to their fulfillment.

The first promise of a Redeemer was given to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and it is recorded in Genesis 3:15. They had disobeyed God by eating the forbidden-fruit, and thus they had broken their relationship with God. Sin entered the world by their disobedience to God’s command, and we have inherited that sinful-nature. God did NOT accept this broken-relationship as the “new-normal“; rather He instituted a plan of redemption, whereby a “seed of the woman” would come someday to “crush the serpent’s head“. God wanted us to be restored to a right-relationship with Him, and in His love and grace, He was willing to do what it took to accomplish His goal.

Down through the annals of time, God gave many promises to select-people who would carry-on that special lineage from which this Redeemer would come. God also spoke through His prophets to remind His people that the Redeemer, the Messiah was yet to come.

This Redeemer would be no “ordinary man” because an “ordinary-man” could not live up to the righteous standards God demands. Adam had failed, and he only had ONE command to obey. This Redeemer had to be fully-human, yet perfect in all respects. He would be the “second-Adam“, the one who would perfectly fulfill all of God’s just requirements. He came to bring a “new-humanity” to mankind.

John the Baptist, in John 1:29-34, called Jesus “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Our deepest, most-urgent need is for a Savior, someone who will save us from our sins, because it is our sins which separate and exile us from God. Jesus came to be our Savior, to reconcile us to God by paying the just-price for our sins and imputing His perfect-righteousness on us. We gain, through Christ, the sinless-record we could never produce on our own.

That is why the Birth of Christ is SO important.

The precedent for celebrating….
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.

15 When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 The shepherds went back; glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them. (Luke 2:8-20)

Even though Jesus was born into humble-circumstances, God orchestrated a celebration of His birth. Angels serenaded a bewildered group of shepherds who were camped nearby for the night. I wonder if anyone else saw the heavenly-show. The shepherds didn’t waste any time checking out the marvelous news, and with the shepherds, we should glorify and praise our wonderful God.

Why did God orchestrate that celebration? “I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” A Savior had been born, and not just any savior, He was Christ the Lord. God, in the person of Jesus Christ, had entered our time and our space as a human-being. God, who’s very Presence was so awesome and holy that He was unapproachable by any human, was lying in a manger, and He was here to become THE solution to man’s deepest-need, the need for salvation.

Not celebrating would be unthinkable to me because it would covey a “ho-hum” attitude towards God’s most marvelous gift. THAT is why I celebrate the birth of Christ.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

Sola Deo Gloria!

The Incarnation – Promises and Prophesies – Part I

As we look forward to celebrating the birth of Christ, we are going to go back to where it all started, to the Garden of Eden, and over the next two weeks, we are going to look at the Promises and Prophesies which led up to the birth of Christ, “In the fullness of time“, culminating in the accounts in the Gospels of the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with us.

This study will focus; beginning in Genesis, on the first Promises, given by God, to the people He had chosen to advance the lineage of the Messiah.

The Incarnation…
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us… (John 1:14a)

I believe that the Incarnation is the hinge-pin of redemption-history, and since we are coming into the Advent season, I think that it is appropriate to pause and spend some time contemplating the Incarnation and all it means to us.

The Promise…
Adam and Eve’s fall into sin, which God didn’t accept as the “new-normal“, evoked God’s promise to restore what had been destroyed, man’s relationship with God. God could have “rebooted” His “human-project” after Adam and Eve sinned by simply annihilating them and starting over, but He didn’t. Instead, in His grace and mercy, He promised them a Redeemer who would restore what had been lost.

14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,
“Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers;
He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:14-15)

Contrary to what some people believe, God’s promise of a Redeemer was NOT some “Plan-B“. God didn’t simply “react” to what Adam and Eve did, because in His infinite foreknowledge and wisdom, He knew exactly what would happen on the fateful day before He breathed life into them. When He asked Adam “Where are you?” that question was for Adam and Eve’s benefit, not His. God wanted Adam and Eve to realize that they mattered to Him, and that even though they had broken their intimate relationship with Him, He would do what it would take to restore that relationship.

The Prophesies…
Throughout the rest of the Old Testament, God gave periodic word through His prophets about the coming Redeemer. In the coming weeks leading up to Christmas, we will look at some of the Messianic Promises and Prophesies which were fulfilled when “The Word became flesh”

Dwelt among us…
Throughout the history of the children of Israel, God’s “Presence“, His Glory, dwelt periodically in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle or Temple, but it was not a “touchable“, physical presence, and only the High Priest could enter that sacred space, and only once a year. A huge change in God’s “Presence” occurred when the Word became flesh, because God became visible and touchable. It also wasn’t just an “appearance“, because God, in the person of Jesus Christ, walked this earth for over thirty-three years. The Infinite became touchable, and the Almighty became breakable, when the Promise of Genesis 3:15 became reality.

Promises to Abram…
The next Promise was given to Abram; however, there was one condition…

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; 2 And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; 3 And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)

God was going to make him a great nation, and more importantly, all the families of the earth will be blessed through his offspring. God was also going to make Abram’s name great, however, there was a “fly-in-the-ointment“, Abram and Sarai were childless, and they were OLD

God’s covenant with Abram…
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; your reward shall be very great.”

2 Abram said, “O Lord God, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.” 4 Then behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.” 5 And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6 Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:1-6)

Notice what God told Abram; “but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.” He and Sarai were going to become parents to a son, an heir. Even though their son would be a “miracle-baby“, this was no “immaculate-conception“. Naturally, Abram wondered how these things were going to come to be, so God made a covenant with Abram in Genesis 15:7-20. God, by making a covenant with Abram, “upped-the-ante“, was basically saying; “As I live, this WILL happen“.

The Sign of the covenant…
17 Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless. 2 “I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you exceedingly.”

3 Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying, 4 “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you will be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 “No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.

6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you. 7 I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. 8 I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”

9 God said further to Abraham, “Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. 10 This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. 12 And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a servant who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants. 13 A servant who is born in your house or who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised; thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”

15 Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before You!” 19 But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.

20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. 21 But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year.” 22 When He finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham. (Genesis 17:1-22)

Birth of Isaac Promised
18 Now the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. 2 When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth, 3 and said, “My Lord, if now I have found favor in Your sight, please do not pass Your servant by. 4 Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree; 5 and I will bring a piece of bread, that you may refresh yourselves; after that you may go on, since you have visited your servant.” And they said, “So do, as you have said.”

6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Quickly, prepare three measures of fine flour, knead it and make bread cakes.” 7 Abraham also ran to the herd, and took a tender and choice calf and gave it to the servant, and he hurried to prepare it. 8 He took curds and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and placed it before them; and he was standing by them under the tree as they ate.

9 Then they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” 10 He said, “I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past childbearing. 12 Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” 13 And the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?’ 14 Is anything too difficult for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” 15 Sarah denied it however, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. And He said, “No, but you did laugh.” (Genesis 17:1-22, 18:1-15)

Isaac Is Born
21 Then the Lord took note of Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had promised. 2 So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him. 3 Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac. 4 Then Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. 5 Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6 Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” 7 And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

8 The child grew and was weaned, and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. (Genesis 21:1-8)

God, in His providence, always maintained a line of godly men and women down through the annals of time, men and women who were destined to be part of the lineage of the coming Savior. God hadn’t given up on His human image-bearers, and He was willing to do what it took to restore fallen humanity to a right relationship with Himself. We are privileged to be able to look back in time at these important events.

Sola Deo Gloria!

“HATE” Is NOT An Option!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ,
Steve

Do You Want To Be Humble? Emulate Christ!

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)

He who is the eternal Word, very God of very God, entered into our humanity in much the same way we did, as a divinely-fertilized egg, a single cell, an embryo, totally-dependent on His young, teenage mother for His very existence. She wasn’t a princess, living in a fine palace; rather, she was a country-girl. He was born in the same manner countless babies have been born, through His mother’s birth-canal, not in a palace or even a hospital room, but in a stable. His incarnation began His descent from glory into the depths of Hell itself. He traded Heaven for a smelly stable. He traded His crown for a crown of thorns. He traded His throne for a cross, and ultimately He traded His life for ours, that we might be able to live with Him forever.

He was only eight days old when He experienced the pain of being circumcised. Circumcision wasn’t a clean, tidy hospital-procedure; rather it was done in the Temple with one of the crude cutting-implements of the day. He wasn’t dressed in cute little baby-outfits; rather, he was dressed in strips of coarse, hand-woven cloth. He wasn’t born walking and talking, potty-trained and able to feed Himself, rather, He was a baby with all its infant limitations. He and His parents became fugitives in Egypt from a ruthless king who had dozens of young boys slaughtered in hopes of “eliminating” Him. He grew and learned as any normal child does, and He experienced the trials of puberty as countless boys have since time began.

He was perfectly-obedient to His parents and to His Father, fulfilling all the requirements of the Law. A debate has been raging for centuries about whether Jesus could have sinned, and its answer has enormous-consequences on our salvation. If it would have been impossible for Jesus to sin, His righteous fulfillment of the Law would have been passive, because He could not do differently. If it was possible for Jesus to sin, His obedience was active and deliberate, which I believe the Bible supports. If Jesus could not sin, He has no righteousness to impute to us in our salvation, however, if He could have sinned, but didn’t, His perfect righteousness CAN be imputed to us in our salvation. We are the beneficiaries of His perfect righteousness, of His perfect obedience.

His humanity wasn’t just an “appearance“, He was, and is, as fully-human as you are, as I am. He had all the same physical “equipment” every male human has had or has. John the Apostle, in his Gospel, penned these beautiful words: And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14a)

He felt all of our human-feelings and experienced all of our human-emotions. He hurt. He was hungry and thirsty. He felt anger, sorrow and even grief. He worked with His hands and didn’t have an entourage of Angels to cater to His every whim. He came not to be served, but to serve, and just before His crucifixion, He took upon Himself the lowliest position as a Servant, stripped naked and washed His disciple’s feet. Ultimately He served us by taking our sin upon Himself and taking the full-wrath of God for our sin on the cross.

Jesus didn’t just die-physically; He experienced the wrath of God, including being separated from His Father’s presence. He plumbed the depths of Hell, experiencing all of its horrors. As the first Adam began mankind’s descent into disobedience in a Garden, the Garden of Eden, so the second Adam, Jesus Christ, began His journey for our redemption in a Garden, the Garden of Gethsemane.

Before Jesus Christ was arrested, tried, tortured and crucified, God the Father gave Him a foretaste of what lie ahead. As He entered the Garden of Gethsemane, He started feeling the weight, the gravity of what was about to happen. He wasn’t just afraid, He was overwhelmed. As He clawed at the ground praying to His Father, He was staring into the gaping hole that is the abyss, Hell. He could see the never-ending flames, feel the heat, smell the acrid smoke, and hear the screams of those already trapped there. There was only one entrance, and there was no exit. That was where He was going, for you, for me.

His closest friends had all-but deserted Him, so He had no human moral-support. The question came down to whether He loved them, whether He loves us, enough to continue that journey. Had it been left totally up to Him, He might have avoided the cross, forsaking us and our salvation, but He had a job to do, a mission to accomplish. God’s whole plan of redemption was on the line. Ultimately, He never wavered. The mission went on final-countdown when He said Not as I will, but as You will“.(Matthew 26:39) The physical-agony of being tortured and crucified was a walk in the park compared to what He was going to endure in Hell, but He didn’t shrink back from those who came to arrest Him. He was totally-confident that He could, and would, accomplish His ultimate mission, our redemption.

As Jesus hung there on the cross, between Heaven and Earth, and saw the gaping-entrance to Hell open up, He cried out; “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” His Father had abandoned Him. He was utterly-alone. When He took His last breath, He fell head-long into Hell, the cosmic-incinerator of sin and evil, as the wrath of a Holy and Just God was poured-out on Him. He died, not for His own sin, but for OUR sin. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Our response…
As we consider what our Lord has done for us, how can we think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think? How can we not serve Him and those around us in loving, gentle humility? I’ll leave you with the passage we opened with:

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)

In Christ,
Steve

Bible Study – Healing A Blind Man

This scene takes place downhill from the Temple, in the old part of Jerusalem which was called “The City of David“. Jerusalem had been expanded many times throughout the centuries as its population grew and it became the capitol city of Israel. Built over seven-hundred years earlier, the Pool of Siloam was the principle source of water for that part of the city, and also served as an appropriate place where the Jews could take their ritual purification baths. It was fed by a spring over a third of a mile away through a tunnel or aqueduct. Jesus encounters a blind man, and heals him on the Sabbath.

Healing the Man Born Blind
9 As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” 6 When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing. 8 Therefore the neighbors, and those who previously saw him as a beggar, were saying, “Is not this the one who used to sit and beg?” 9 Others were saying, “This is he,” still others were saying, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the one.” 10 So they were saying to him, “How then were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man who is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash’; so I went away and washed, and I received sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is He?” He said, “I do not know.”

9 As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Many Jews, Like Job’s friends, believed that every temporal misfortune was God’s punishment for a specific sin. With a congenital affliction, the explanation could be that the sin had been committed in the womb, or by parents whose sinful act victimized their child.

3 Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him”. Jesus dismisses these as improper explanations, but this is not to say that certain trials are not God-ordained punishment for certain sins (e.g., getting an STD from having sex with someone other than one’s spouse). Neither does Jesus here dismiss the doctrine of original sin, which teaches that all suffering is the consequence of our corporate sin and rebellion in Adam. It is unwise and uncharitable to judge that the sufferings of others are specifically punitive. The question put to Jesus presents a false dilemma. Only two possibilities were given as reasons for the man’s affliction, his own sin or the sin of his parents. Jesus offered a third option, that God will be glorified through his healing.

As tempting as it is to judge or point fingers at someone who has a catastrophic-defect or has a life-threatening illness or injury, we don’t know everything, so it is not our place to judge them. We DO have the responsibility to treat them with respect, kindness and compassion. One of the families in my church has adopted a young boy who is autistic, a problem which is still baffling doctors and scientists. He is one of three siblings which were adopted by the family, and the other two are normal. My oldest daughter started showing symptoms of endometriosis when she was about thirteen years old. Our responsibility, as her parents, was to get her the best care, and do what we could to mitigate her symptoms so that she could live a normal life. Endometriosis runs in her mother’s family, and has popped up randomly in the women of the family. She also has asthma, which runs in my side of the family. Likewise, a college buddy of mine died of MS before he turned thirty-five. MS had also claimed his mother’s life before she turned thirty-five.

4 “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” As we will see, John will use day and night, light and dark, to illustrate Jesus’ presence. As we continue to move closer and closer to the time of His arrest, Jesus will continue to say things like “while it is still day” and “the night is approaching.” In fact, as we will see later in the book, Jesus describes the period from His arrest up until His resurrection as “night” or “darkness”. So, at the point of this story, it is still day and there is work to be done to glorify God.

6 When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing.

There is some very interesting imagery in this account, there must be since spit and dirt are seldom known as a restorative for sight; if they were I’d have tried them myself! When Jesus spit into the dirt, that saliva came from His mouth, as does His Word. Recall the Word in the beginning that was with God, and which was God, and then which became flesh and made its dwelling among us? That is what is being pictured here. As for the dirt, do you recall what God made Adam from? Ah yes, it was dirt! So the Word comes from the mouth of Jesus and is combined with the soil which represents humanity and is applied directly to the part of the man that isn’t whole. Then the man, who has never seen Jesus, does what Jesus has commanded him in perfect obedience and is made whole again, in this instance receiving his sight for the first time. In fact, we wouldn’t be far off track if we said here that the man had seen the light.

Did you notice verse 7? The Pool of Siloam “which means sent.” Think about this for just a moment: Jesus combined His Word with humanity and then they are sent out on a mission. What happens when we receive Christ? His Word combines with our humanity and we are sent to make disciples, and when we respond in obedience, we are made whole. Now in saying this, I don’t mean just that our sins have been forgiven, for that is only the first step in life’s adventure with Christ. For it is within the adventure of following Him, over time you might say, that we are made entirely whole, as we see the light of His Truth at work within us… and so it was with this man. What an amazing little story this is!

8 Therefore the neighbors, and those who previously saw him as a beggar, were saying, “Is not this the one who used to sit and beg?” 9 Others were saying, “This is he,” still others were saying, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the one.” 10 So they were saying to him, “How then were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man who is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash’; so I went away and washed, and I received sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is He?” He said, “I do not know.” The man’s neighbors had lots of questions, and so do our neighbors when they see Jesus at work in us, but unfortunately, the Pharisees are about to weigh in on this, and that is a whole different story, just as it is for us when the modern-day Pharisees get involved…

Controversy over the Man
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who was formerly blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also were asking him again how he received his sight. And he said to them, “He applied clay to my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” But others were saying, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And there was a division among them. 17 So they *said to the blind man again, “What do you say about Him, since He opened your eyes?” And he said, “He is a prophet.”

18 The Jews then did not believe it of him, that he had been blind and had received sight, until they called the parents of the very one who had received his sight, 19 and questioned them, saying, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? Then how does he now see?” 20 His parents answered them and said, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but how he now sees, we do not know; or who opened his eyes, we do not know. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. 23 For this reason his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24 So a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, “Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He then answered, “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 So they said to him, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to become His disciples too, do you?” 28 They reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He is from.” 30 The man answered and said to them, “Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him. 32 Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?” So they put him out.

Jesus healed a man who had been born blind with a curious mixture of dirt and spit in John 9:1-12, and now we reach the time when this has come to the attention of the Pharisees; an official investigation of this lawlessness has been opened.

What’s that you say- what’s lawless about healing a blind man?

Oh sorry, didn’t I mention it? Jesus healed the guy on the Sabbath, and we know how they feel about that don’t we?

Look at this text; can’t you just see these Pharisees who have already decided the outcome, trying to get the answers they needed to justify what they have already decided they are going to do? Those Pharisees might even make a Congressman blush!

They question the man, but not satisfied, they question his parents, after all how can they be sure he was ever really blind? The parents say he was blind and he is their son; they should know. Yet when asked who had healed their son, they are afraid to be associated with Jesus, for the corruption of their leaders is well known; they throw the question back to their son. The Pharisees question him a second time.

They ask him again to tell them who did this, only this time, they want the truth: He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?” (v. 27)

This is one of those times I wish I could see their faces; “would you like to become his disciples too?”

You can almost see their noses in the air and hear the smugness in the voice of their spokesman as: Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.” (vv. 28-29)

If you have been following along, then you will remember that it was only a couple of chapters back that the Pharisees were sure Jesus wasn’t the Messiah because they knew where He came from; a tangled web indeed!

The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (vv. 30-33)

The parents might have been afraid of the Pharisees, but this guy is on fire! If I were advising the Pharisees, I would tell them to end this interview in a hurry before they screw it up even further… and they did: To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.

Like any other group of mediocre politicians, they avoided the truth by calling the guy some names and having him tossed out. After all, isn’t that what you do when the issue becomes too hot to handle?

We’ve already seen the way that the issue of healing on the Sabbath plays out between the Pharisees and Jesus, yet the Pharisees just know they can trip Jesus up so they will have an excuse to murder Him. Their minds are closed, their hearts are hardened and their backs are turned on God, now it’s just the small matter of doing away with the inconvenient truth. Does this remind you of anything today?

Jesus Affirms His Deity
35 Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.” 38 And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him. 39 And Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” 40 Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, “We are not blind too, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains. (John 9)

Jesus heard that the Pharisees had thrown the man out who was blind from birth because he wasn’t going along with what the Pharisees wanted. When He caught up with the man, the man came to believe in Him and worshipped Him. This brings us to verse 39; why doesn’t anyone ever quote it?

Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” John 9:39

I would expect that if my next post was titled “Jesus Came to Judge the World” many, probably most, of you would object, but there you are in His own words! Of course He also said that He had not come to judge, as the atheists like to point out as they search for something to claim is a contradiction.

What shall we say then?

This is an unusual context, isn’t it? Jesus is playing on these words to show that the Pharisees have condemned themselves by their ruthless arrogance, for they claim to know all and see all, and yet when confronted with an amazing manifestation of the power and glory of God, as they were when this poor man received his sight, all they can think of is how to downplay the whole thing so they can keep their influence. So they conjure up their little investigation into the facts of the case, but not before they have already determined its outcome, and in the end, they have kicked the once blind man out of the assembly because he had the audacity to tell the truth.

There were some Pharisees present who overheard this exchange; look at their condescension: Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” (v. 40)

Can you imagine having that much attitude at that precise moment? Jesus explained: Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” (v. 41)

In a simple one-liner Jesus smashes any hope they might have of saving the situation. Have you ever noticed that often it is the very person or persons who should know best, who refuse to accept the obvious if it proves a threat to their position and influence? Since they admit they have the knowledge, that they should know better, they cannot claim innocence, no, not ever.

Do we behave like the Pharisees? Do we have our minds made up before we even hear the evidence?

In Christ,
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

Bible Study – Miraculous Healings

After Jesus has been warmly-welcomed in Galilee, He again shows His power in healing two people, one in Capernaum, and the second one back in Jerusalem. We are going to focus on those healings in today’s study. Jesus, the eternal Word, was the principal-agent of creation, and He could heal anyone of anything.

Healing a Nobleman’s Son
46 Therefore He came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a royal official whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and was imploring Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death. 48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.” 49 The royal official said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son lives.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off. 51 As he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was living. 52 So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives”; and he himself believed and his whole household. 54 This is again a second sign that Jesus performed when He had come out of Judea into Galilee. (John 4:46-54)

Jesus was back in Cana of Galilee, where He had turned water into wine. News about Him had spread to Capernaum, the home of a “royal official“. Capernaum was an important fishing-center which was located on the northwest edge of the Sea of Galilee, and Cana was about twenty miles southwest, about halfway between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea. There is a ridge of mountains between them. Cana is also about ten miles due-north of Nazareth, where Jesus grew up. Was this “royal official” a Roman dignitary, a Gentile? We aren’t told, but we see the father’s faith that Jesus could and would heal his son, because he made the trek to Cana to see Jesus. His son was dying, so Jesus was his only hope.

Was Jesus trying to put him off by saying “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.”, or was Jesus testing his sincerity? Either way, the father wasn’t taking “No” for an answer, because he said “Sir, come down before my child dies.

Jesus said to him, “Go; your son lives.” Jesus, once again, shows His divine authority by healing the man’s son from afar. We find another “spoken-word-healing” in Luke 7:1-10, when Jesus healed a centurion’s servant.

The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off. Notice that he DIDN’T say “Why aren’t you going with me?“. He believed, and headed back home.

As he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was living. Can you imagine the excitement when his slaves told him that his son was okay? Friends and family had hovered over him for agonizing hour after agonizing hour watching as his fever went ever-higher. They had tried everything they could think of, but nothing worked. He kept getting sicker and sicker, until he was on the brink of death. Then, in a moment in time, the fever broke and he was WELL. Had they been hoping and praying?

As a parent also, I can relate, because my son had a lot of problems when he was very young. Croup put him in the hospital for three days, and we took turns huddling over the croup-tent he was in, watching as a respiratory-therapist gave him breathing-treatments very four hours. We were very happy to take him back home to his sisters and HOME. Recurrent ear-infections also turned him from being a happy-go-lucky toddler into an inconsolable baby. I will never forget the day he got tubes put in his ears. He went into the hospital cranky and came out happy. We had our happy-go-lucky boy back.

52 So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives”; and he himself believed and his whole household. Twenty miles is an easy drive for us, but it wasn’t an easy hike for him. He didn’t get close-enough to home for his slaves to meet him until the next day. Traveling alone at night was dangerous, so he had probably stopped somewhere for the night. He may have set out again at first-light. Jewish time-reckoning began at 6 am, so his son had been healed at about 1 pm, so it had been over twelve hours since the healing. Faith had turned into belief, and after the miraculous-healing, he and his whole household believed in Jesus.

This is again a second sign that Jesus performed when He had come out of Judea into Galilee. Signs and miracles validated Jesus’s message, but He didn’t do them as “magic-tricks” to impress people, rather He did what would meet the needs of people in the moment.

The Healing at Bethesda
5 After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. 3 In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, waiting for the moving of the waters; 4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted. 5 A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” 7 The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” 9 Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk.

Now it was the Sabbath on that day. 10 So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.” 11 But he answered them, “He who made me well was the one who said to me, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk.’” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk’?” 13 But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.” 15 The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16 For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” (John 5:1-17)

As this scene opens, Jesus has returned to Jerusalem for one of the annual feasts. The last time we saw Jesus in Jerusalem was during Passover when He had cleansed the Temple. Jesus is going to rattle some more chains this time also by declaring that He was equal with God.

Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. The pools in Jerusalem were a place where Jews could perform their ceremonial-cleansing rituals, not places of recreation. The Romans had their public-baths which Jews may have used for ordinary bathing, but when they needed to get ceremonially-clean, they went to one of the pools. There was a list of things which caused a person to become “ceremonially-unclean” in the Old Testament, and if a person was “unclean“, they couldn’t participate in worship in the Tabernacle or Temple. As you may recall, the water that Jesus turned into wine in Cana was for “ceremonial-purification“.

In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, waiting for the moving of the waters; 4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted. “Bethesda” means “House of mercy” or “House of kindness“, and God showed mercy on His people by sending an Angel to stir the waters. Healing was “first-come-first-served” which sets this scene up for Jesus to perform another miracle, and His next encounter with the Jewish leaders.

A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” 7 The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” 9 Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk.

We aren’t told how old this man was, but he had been lame for 38 years, and maybe since he was young. How long had he been coming to the pool hoping to get healed? How did he even get there? Jesus knew everything He needed to know about him, and took care of his problem in an instant. The man had been depending on others to help him get into the pool, but he hadn’t gotten there yet. Jesus didn’t ask him if he had the faith to be healed, rather He asked him if he WANTED to be healed. When Jesus said “Get up“, he was healed. Period. No questions asked. He got up, grabbed his pallet and walked.

My baby brother is a semi-quadriplegic as the result of a spinal-cord injury he suffered as the result of a motorcycle accident. Yes, he has recovered an amazing amount of movement in his hands, arms and legs, but he is by no means “well“. He is still wheelchair-bound and dependent on my sister for some of his needs. It would be marvelous if he was granted complete-healing, but God hasn’t seen fit to heal him completely.

Now it was the Sabbath on that day. 10 So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.” There was just one hitch – it was the Sabbath, and the Jewish leaders confronted him about carrying something on the Sabbath. The Jewish leaders weren’t content with God’s Sabbath-commandment, so they had built a long list of “do’s” and “don’t’s“, mostly “don’t’s” which they loved to club people over the head with. They thought that they were doing God a “favor“, but in reality, they were making legalism more important than obeying God.

They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk’?” 13 But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place. Jesus had an uncanny knack for slipping through crowds and away from the scene of action, and the man was probably so shocked that he had been healed and was now walking that he didn’t immediately recognize Jesus.

Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.” While it is true that some sins can bring physical-consequences, but Jesus wasn’t insinuating that the man was crippled because he was a “sinner“. Jesus just cautioned him against doing anything which might bring physical-consequences.

My dad had syphilis when he died, and you don’t get syphilis by drinking the water. There are numerous other examples of a person’s actions causing physical-consequences.

The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Why did he go back to the Jewish leaders? Was he trying to shift the blame for getting caught carrying his pallet onto Jesus?

For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. The Jewish leaders started turning up the heat on Jesus, and that gave them even more reasons to hate Him.

But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” This is the clearest and most unmistakable claim to Deity that Jesus had made up to this point, and the Jewish leaders picked up on it immediately. They went ballistic!

We will pick this conversation up from here next week, when Jesus reaffirmed His claims.

In Christ,
Steve

Have You Seen Jesus?

If you painted a portrait of Jesus, what moment in His life would you try to portray? If an artist were to try to capture the complete essence of His life and ministry, it would be a collosal project. What is your favorite “snapshot“?

As a baby in the manger?

Presented in the Temple?

Talking in the Temple with the teachers?

Baptized by John the Baptist?

Confronting Satan?

Calling His disciples?

Turning water into wine?

Feeding the multitudes?

Raising the dead?

Healing the sick?

Walking on water?

On the mount of transfiguration?

In the Garden of Gethsemane?

Nailed to the Cross?

Risen from the dead?

Ascending into heaven?

Over seven-hundred years before His birth, Isaiah the Prophet penned the last of his four “Suffering-Servant” Songs, and he captured the essence of why Jesus came to Earth in just a few, short verses. Isaiah 53 is the most-quoted Old Testament prophesy in all of the New Testament.

Who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,
And as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
3 He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

4 Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
9 And they made His grave with the wicked—
But with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth.

10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.
11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.
By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,
For He shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great,
And He shall divide the spoil with the strong,
Because He poured out His soul unto death,
And He was numbered with the transgressors,
And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53)

Forget the pasty-white complexion, the elegant flowing robes, the dainty, manicured hands and the flowing-locks. Who was the REAL Jesus?

Had John the Baptist not known who Jesus was, He would not have stood out in the crowd of those who came to hear him preach and get baptized. Jesus didn’t have a stately-stature or kingly-appearance. Throughout His ministry, He was often identified by people around Him as “the son of Joseph and Mary” because He looked like “one of the boys“. He was born into an ordinary working-class Jewish family, so He looked like any other Jewish man, and as much as artists would like to portray Him in “regal” attire, He told some of those who wanted to follow Him that He didn’t even have a place to call His own. He is recorded as having spent time in the home of Peter and Andrew in Capernaum, and that may have been His “headquarters” when he was in that area.

The hands that touched the eyes of the blind were strong, tough and calloused from working as a carpenter for most of His life. The arms that embraced little children and swung the whip when He cleansed the Temple were strong and muscular from hefting heavy pieces of wood and swinging a hammer. Heavily-muscled legs and calloused-feet carried Him all those miles He walked during His earthly-ministry. He was a man’s-man, strong yet gentle.

The only thing that made Him stand out in a crowd was the power and authority with which He spoke. He baffled the Jewish leaders of His day with His wisdom and knowledge of the Scriptures. He was the Son of God, the eternal Word, Immanuel, God with us, the Messiah, the Son of Man, Jesus.

Have YOU seen Jesus?

Steve

Jars Of Clay

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the
surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Christian ministry is humbling, because God has entrusted His message to us, unworthy as we are. As I work on each week’s Bible study, I am reminded of the awesome responsibility I have to open the Word and rightly and accurately proclaim it because God will hold me accountable for any mishandling of His Word. This isn’t just any book, it is God’s Word.

God has given us two particularly-encouraging promises which we know that we can take to the bank. Jesus Christ is building His church, not us, and He is the power behind His Word, not us.

So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)

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

I am nothing special. In fact, I am just another fallen man who has been saved by His grace alone, and commissioned to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. I don’t know why He chose me, but He did. That Jesus came to save sinners IS GOOD NEWS!!!

Paul was probably the most educated of the Apostles, having been educated as a Pharisee under Gamaliel, but he still recognized his own inadequacies when it came to proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel, which led him to pen the words of our opening verse. Why should I think any more of myself?

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the
surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)

In Christ,
Steve