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Our DAILY GOSPEL DEVOTIONAL is the story of Jesus from Incarnation to Ascension. This is a chronology and harmony of the gospel accounts in which the ongoing narrative and doctrinal context are carefully considered. In one year we reflect on every passage of every gospel.
May God bless you as we follow the disciples on the journey through the earthly life of Jesus Christ.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Entering into destiny


Matthew 26:30 / Mark 14:26 / Luke 22:39 / John 18:1…

They had eaten the Passover. Jesus had finished His priestly prayer to the Father. They sang a song. Now it was time to go to the place of betrayal, and abandonment. This was the next necessary step on the way of destiny set for Jesus by the Father. It was not to be avoided, but to be embraced, even though it was the most difficult step Jesus had yet taken in His earthly life.  

There is a certain pressure that will come upon a person as they begin to draw closer to Christ. This is what the Apostle Paul was speaking of in his yearning for an increasingly intimate, experiential knowledge of Christ (Philippians 3:10). To enter into resurrection power means walking into the fellowship of His sufferings. The life that Jesus wants for us is on the other side of our most difficult steps (1 Peter 4:13-14). This is the path we must pursue if we are to know His passion in our personal experience.

Walking by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17, 25) means that we will be led to places of pain that prove the overcoming power of the Spirit within us (Romans 8:14-17). We are tempted to step back, as we discover that we are going to the garden, where we will be left alone, to face trials to suffer and temptations to struggle. Yet we must go to the garden, in order to get to the cross, if we are ever going to practically live in resurrection power (1 Peter 4:1-2).

To walk away is to turn back from our destiny.

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Sunday, October 30, 2016

The cross and the crown


Luke 22:35-38…

To understand these words of Jesus we need to look at the passage Jesus cited as the basis for His words (Isaiah 53:12). The hope of the disciples was based upon their understanding of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah, whom they knew Jesus was. But they didn’t as yet understand all the prophecies that pointed to Messiah, like Isaiah 53. This text was not recognized as messianic until later, because the people didn’t expect the Messiah as a suffering servant, only as a triumphant king. Men would reject Jesus because He would not conform to their expectations about the Messiah.

What the disciples did not understand was that the glorious kingdom of righteousness was to be brought about by a “king” who was rejected as a sinner, a criminal. The cross was God’s means of gaining the crown. All of this was revealed through this prophecy of Isaiah. Yet the disciples failed to grasp it, because they were looking at matters through the eyes of their own ambition.

If Jesus was to be rejected, this also meant that His disciples would be. Jesus wanted to focus the disciples’ attention on the change which was occurring in the minds of the people toward the Messiah. When the disciples first went out witnessing, they were popular, but now they would be despised. The people would not like what they see, even as Isaiah predicted. Jesus was not advocating violence. He was simply saying that instead of expecting popularity, they would experience persecution. They must prepare for rejection.

So must we. Our labor is not in vain, but it is always the cross before the crown. 

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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Jesus and the next disciples


John 17:20-26…
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word…The disciples had been prayed for, and they would fulfill their mission, to spread the Word through their witness, and to write the Word in the New Testament.

Jesus also prayed for all of us down through the ages that would believe and be involved in spreading the Word to the glory of God. The unity, glory, witness and love that is in the Trinity, and had enveloped the disciples, is also part of our destiny (1 Corinthians 6:17).  Our spiritual position is settled (Ephesians 2:4-7), even while our earthly condition may be unsettling.

The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one. Just like the first disciples, we have been given the glory of servanthood and of sacrificial service. It may not seem glorious at times, but one day we will know just how privileged we were. There is a glory, a deeper fellowship to be had through our suffering (1 Peter 1:3-9, 4:1-4, 12-19). One day we will see Jesus in all His glory. 

So that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. This power is meant to be a powerful witness to unbelievers. This prayer has been answered, whether we realize it or not. Christians are one (Romans 12:4-5 / Ephesians 4:1-6).

I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them. There are three dynamics of God’s love we are brought into; the love of God toward us, the love for God from us (and to others), and the love of God within Himself (to each person of the Godhead). The depths of this can only be discovered in eternity. 

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Friday, October 28, 2016

Jesus and the first disciples


John 17:6-19…

During His time on earth, Jesus made the Father’s name great and His Word clear to the original disciples. These men were chosen by the Father, and given to Jesus. They had glorified Jesus, understanding that He was from the Father, and they accepted His teaching.

Jesus had prayed for the Father to be glorified by His death, and now He prays for the disciples. He is not praying for the whole world, but for those that the Father had given Him. These men had been unified with God. Jesus had equipped them for their mission.

Jesus prays that the Father might protect His disciples from “the evil one”. While the world will hate the disciples and oppose them, the source behind this resistance is Satan. He seeks to undermine the faith of believers and to defeat their witness to the world. He desires to rob believers of their unity and their joy. Jesus prays that they may fulfill their mission in the face of opposition.  The mission is to spread the Word to the glory of God.

The grounds of Jesus’ prayer are rooted in the eternal purposes of God. Jesus consecrated Himself for this purpose: that we might be set apart for God’s truth.  It is by receiving and abiding in His Word that we realize our unity and are filled with joy. The Word is what sets us apart for the power of truth. It was so for the first disciples, and it is so for us. 

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Jesus prays


John 17:1-5…

Jesus begins this greatest prayer, the “High Priestly” prayer, by praying for glory. He desires that the Father would be glorified, and so He asks to be glorified that He might glorify the Father in return. Jesus is God, yet He submits to His role, in submission to the Father. He wanted to do what His Father wanted to do (John 5:17-19).

He had glorified God with His life, and now wants to glorify Him with His death. Jesus speaks of the eternal glory He already had with the Father, but He looks for that glory to be manifested in a place where none other would do so, the cross. 

Look at these verses and realize that submission is not a loss of freedom, purpose, identity, or joy; it is where we find them. Jesus already knew that this prayer would be answered. He already knew the outcome, and still, He prayed.  This is not a frivolous show, it is evidence that prayer is not about results as much as it is about relationship. If Jesus says that eternal life is to know God, then He is teaching us that this life is to be bathed in prayer.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, through prayer, God invites us into the wonderful freedom, purpose, identity, and joy that are inherent and present within the Trinity itself.  

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Overcome


John 16:29-33…

Jesus answered them, Do you now believe? The disciples, who had seemed overwhelmed, now seem overconfident. Jesus informs them that they aren’t as valiant as they think (cf. Zechariah 13:7). They do have faith, but Jesus is looking to guide them into a faith that is less about how they will perform under pressure, and more about how He will even when they don’t.  

They would grow in grace, of course. And we are often just like they were. We read that Christ has overcome the world, and we think it is just an example that we should follow with a stronger resolve so that we will overcome too. But our focus should not be on ourselves and problems that we need to overcome.  Our focus must be on God and His victorious accomplishments. Many still think they’re heroes, but Jesus is the champion, not you.

The truth is that there will be times in your life when it seems like everyone has let you down. You will be “down and out” and feel all alone. And you’ll know that you can’t even count on yourself. But Jesus has overcome all, including you. This is part of what rejoicing in the Lord is all about. We may at times be overwhelmed, but we are to have faith, not in our ability to overcome but in the fact that He has overcome for us (1 John 5:4).

It is not so much that He gives us the power to overcome as it is that He gives us the faith to understand that He has overcome. We overcome by having faith in Him (Romans 8:35-39 / 2 Corinthians 2:14, 4:7-18 / Galatians 2:20). This is not in the first place about our practice but about our position. Yes, we learn to overcome things in this life. But we can focus on our works, or we can focus on God’s works. Think about it. The reason that we can experience peace in this world is because Jesus has already overcome the world. 

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

In the name of prayer


John 16:23-28…

In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Troubling times call for prayer. Jesus is explaining that when He has left them, they will have access to the Father directly, by praying “in Jesus’ name”. We are to pray to the Father in the name of the Son (Colossians 3:17 / Hebrews 4:14-16).  

Praying “in Jesus’ name” is not some meaningless insertion we tack on the end of our prayers to make them spiritually correct.  It is also not some magical incantation that makes our prayers have power. It is representative of our being under His authority. We must pray consistent with His character and His will, which is what “in His name” means. When you pray according to His will, you will receive (1 John 5:14-15).

Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. It is a stunning revelation for many to know that His will is for us to be filled with joy. Many things can seem to hide our joy, but Jesus told us that no one can steal it (John 16:22). Indeed, we have something that money can’t buy, poverty can’t lose, and no one can steal. Praying for, receiving, rediscovering, and reveling in the joy of our salvation is wholly consistent with Scripture (Psalm 51:12 / Isaiah 61:10 / Micah 7:7 / Habakkuk 3:17-18 / Luke 1:47 / Romans 5:2-11 / 1 Peter 1:8).

Pray for God to put the big picture of eternity on the front burner of your mind and heart. This is living for today by having an eye for tomorrow. It is about understanding that all Jesus is and all He has done makes it possible for us to have a relationship with God and to be recipients of His love, forever, and for right now.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Sorrow into joy


John 16:16-22…

A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me. We may wonder why this was so confusing to the disciples. Yet, in reading this passage, we have to remember that we have the advantage of the whole picture. We know that Jesus would soon go to the cross, that He would rise from the dead, and that He would ascend to the Father in heaven. But the disciples weren’t just reading about it. They were in the midst of the experience, and what’s more they are expecting a Messiah that will soon be reigning, not dying and departing.

Sometimes, as we are going through something, others may be able to read the situation like a book. But that doesn’t mean we will understand it for ourselves, even when they try and tell us. This is why we need to look to the right sources. Some can diagnose us but they can’t direct us. Even if we know what to do or think it can be tough. Just because something goes like clockwork doesn’t mean we enjoy being on the clock.

The truth is that Jesus, the One who IS Truth, is always the right source. That means His Word is where we need to be finding our answers. The Bible doesn’t tell or teach us that we will be free from all trials, tribulations, and troubles. It’s quite the opposite. Yet through all the sorrow, God will lead us into peace and joy. The world laughs at what Christians cling to, but in the end, all of their answers will fall to the ground, and Christ, the solid rock, will stand (Deuteronomy 32:4 / Isaiah 40:8 / Matthew 7:24-25 / 1 Corinthians 10:4). 

Great spiritual growth often happens in the wake of great sufferings. Jesus may seem absent for a while, and there may be much pain involved, but He will show up, and He will turn your temporary sorrow into everlasting joy. The old saying rings true; happiness is the result of happenings, whereas joy is the result of Jesus.

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Sunday, October 23, 2016

It’s for the best


John 16:5-15…

Jesus was looking to engage the disciples in a discussion about His departure. Earlier, they had asked Jesus about where He was going (John 13:36, 14:5). But now, knowing He is going, they become preoccupied with themselves and their sorrow. This caused them to overlook the advantages that would be brought about by Jesus’ departure, both for themselves and for the continuation of His mission.

Jesus had told them of the results of our union with Him, the provisions as well as the persecutions.  Now He once again instructs them about the Holy Spirit, who would be with them in all of these things.  When we are caught up in our own circumstance, we fail to focus on other people, and fail to realize that what may seem like the worst thing is often the best thing for us. The Holy Spirit was literally a God send.

The role of the Spirit in the world is conviction (vs.8-11). He convicts people of the sin of refusing the person of Jesus (John 14:6). He convicts people of their lack of righteousness compared to Jesus (Romans 3:23). He convicts people that evil has been judged, and will be cast out (John 12:31 / Colossians 2:15). When we witness of sin, righteousness, and judgment, the Holy Spirit will work in people’s hearts to convict of the message of Christ. 

The role of the Spirit in the believer is communication (vs.12-15). Christ said that the Spirit would not only bring all the former teachings of Jesus to their remembrance, but that He would also further reveal the truth about Jesus to the Apostles. The writings of the New Testament bear witness, the Scriptures are evidence of what Jesus was talking about (1 Corinthians 2:16).

For us today, the Spirit illuminates that written Word, and exalts Jesus Christ through our experience with that Word in living it out. The Spirit reveals the Son, who expresses the Father. God is communicating, but we must be tuned in to His frequency if we want to hear Him and to have others hear Him through us. We often miss the power because we ignore the provision. If you want to be filled with the Spirit you need to be filled with His Word.

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Saturday, October 22, 2016

The truth about hate


John 15:18-16:4…

Jesus had just been speaking of the results of our union with Him. Being connected with Him leads to the life of Christ being manifest in us, with prayerful, obedient, fruitful and loving joy being characteristic of our lives. Having said that, Jesus now tells them of some other things they can expect. He tells His disciples that they will be hated and persecuted for His name’s sake.

Jesus gives three main reasons why the world hates Christians. First, it is because we are no longer identified with the world (vs.19). Second, because we are now identified with Christ (vs.20). Third, the world rejects Christians because they are ignorant of God (vs.21).

Jesus says the world is guilty because they have rejected His words (vs.22-23), His works (vs.24), and the Old Testament witness (vs.25). But while the world has rejected the words, works, and witness of God, the disciples have not rejected God, and they will have the Holy Spirit as a witness to them and through them (vs.26-27).

Jesus tells us of these events ahead of time so that we may be prepared. To be forewarned is to be forearmed (cf. 2 Peter 3:17). This is especially true when it comes to religious leaders. While the world rejects Christians, the false religious leaders will do more than reject, they will try and suppress and even silence the voice of Christ through His disciples.

The true gospel offends people. It reminds us that we are in bondage to sin and on our way to hell apart from God’s offer of salvation in Christ. Believers are not to expect popularity in the world when we are true to His Word (2 Corinthians 2:15-16 / James 4:4). Our job is not to serve the crowd, but the Crown. 

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Friday, October 21, 2016

Remaining relevant


John 15:1-17…

There are many profound and yet perplexing things about this text. The wonderful things Jesus says have to be matched by wondering what He means. Can we really get what we ask for? Can we really be full of joy? Can a real branch be cut off? The truth is that we can get real twisted by this text, and the depths of this text are an ongoing treasure to be discovered. We can be sure that abiding in Christ is the point, and to abide means to remain.

These words of Jesus are proof that we cannot simply rely on a few moments of inspiration and devotional reading here and there if we are to really grow as God wants us to. We cannot simply skim the surface, we have to stay with it; we have to dive into the depths if we want to reach the heights. Keeping His commandments, loving one another, and bearing fruit to the glory of God as real disciples and friends of Jesus, this means that we have to have a real attachment to Him.

There are so many great promises in the Word of God to get a hold of, but in grabbing hold we need to be aware of something. These things are not so much about having a tool as it is about becoming a tool. The Bible is a tool, yes, but it is a tool designed to make us a tool in God’s hands much more so than it is a tool in our hands. And again, to abide means to remain, that is, we become the tool over time.

Jesus gives us the characteristics of authentic branches. They bear the fruit of Christ’s character, living through God’s Word and prayer. They want to obey God’s commandments and they love other Christians.  The idea is not about imperatives, but indicatives. In other words, it is not that if we stay in touch with Him we can use these promises like a tool. No, it is that abiding in Him turns you into His tool, and these promises become our experience. 

There is a difference between abiding and appearing. People can seem real, sound real, and simulate the real. The test is that when they are pruned back, do they grow back? 

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

I AM with you


John 14:15-31…

Sometimes we may feel as if we have been left alone, abandoned, and we’re afraid. The comforts we have relied on have come crashing down. Chaos abounds, and confusion sets in. Where will we turn? Who can understand? Who can help? What shall we do? All seems lost.

The disciples knew this feeling exactly. Jesus, this wonderful teacher, miracle worker, God manifest in the flesh, was going away. Think about how that must have hit them like a ton of bricks. How in the world would things ever come together again? Life was shattered.

Their answer is our answer, too. Jesus was not leaving the disciples alone. God would be with them by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. The world cannot recognize or receive the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14), but Christians do (1 Corinthians 12:13).  He’s the answer.

The Spirit’s power is indispensable. The evidence of our love for Jesus is that we obey His teaching, which is most manifest by our love for other believers. The power to do that comes from God; we are given the Holy Spirit as a gift, and the Spirit helps us to trust and obey God.

The Spirit’s presence is everlasting. He comes from the Father to stay forever within the believer. The Spirit makes Jesus real. He mediates the life of Christ to the believer. He is our comforter, and teacher, reminding us of biblical truth and the things concerning Christ.  He pours out God’s love to us (Romans 5:1-5), and makes us a temple (1 Corinthians 6:19).

Jesus did what He had to do, and after He had defeated Satan on the cross (Colossians 2:13-15), the Holy Spirit would come. He would make real the presence of Jesus, explain the words of Jesus, and give us the peace of Jesus. We are not alone, we will not be abandoned, and we do not have to be afraid.  The “I AM” is always with us (Hebrews 13:5-6). 

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Truth over troubles


John 14:1-14…

Jesus had been speaking of many trying and troubling things on the immediate horizon. He now speaks these comforting words to their anxious hearts. In our day to day lives, we can be so inundated with concerns that our faith is out of focus in the right now. The big picture is that Jesus is God, so He can be trusted when we are tested.

I go to prepare a place for you. Jesus is not talking about finishing the job up in heaven. He is simply saying that through His death, resurrection, and ascension the way to heaven will be prepared completely for us. He is not making the room itself; He is making the way to it. The rooms are already completed, and He is making room for us. I will come again and will take you to myself. Our destiny involves both a place and a person.

How can we know the way? Jesus was going to the cross, and He was giving them assurance that His journey into death was all part of the plan. They still didn’t understand it. But He clarifies it. I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. Jesus is the only way a person can have a relationship with God and spend eternity with Him (Acts 4:12 / 1 Timothy 2:5). He is our means of access (Hebrews 4:14-16). Still, they didn’t understand. They wanted to experience the reality of a revelation of God. Jesus clarifies further. He IS God, and to know Him is to know God (Hebrews 1:1-3).

He goes on to tell them that while His words and His works testify to His truth, they will personally be a testimony to the Truth also. Pentecost was the beginning of the greater works Jesus was speaking of. They were not greater in power (both raised the dead), but greater in extent. He was referring to the spiritual miracle of salvation. Jesus never preached outside of Palestine, yet His followers would spread the gospel throughout the world. The number of believers in Christ grew far beyond those that were numbered during His lifetime.

Jesus then promises His disciples that their prayers concerning fruit bearing would be answered because this would bring glory to God. Fruitful ministry by following Christ’s kingdom agenda is a means of comfort when we are struggling with heart trouble. When troubling times come it is time to take the mission of God out of our back pocket and put it onto the front burner. If we believe on the One who IS the Truth, then we will see the way and live the life (Galatians 2:20). 

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Strengthen your brothers


Luke 22:31-34 / John  13:36-38…

Satan demanded to have you. This refers to all the disciples. They are all going to be in the midst of great temptation as the events surrounding the Crucifixion are now upon them. “Sift someone like wheat” is similar to “pick someone apart”.

But I have prayed for you. Now Jesus lets Peter know that Satan has targeted him individually.  When the Devil wants to attack the company of saints he will often focus his attack on a particular individual. He picks on one to try and pick the fellowship apart.

That your faith may not fail. Peter’s denials are not pictured as an absence of faith. Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would not be “eclipsed”. He knows what we are going through and that we will fall down sometimes, yet He still loves us and prays for us (Hebrews 7:25 / Romans 8:34). As the devil accuses (Revelation 12:10), Christ acts as our advocate (Hebrews 9:24 / 1 John 2:1). 

And when you have turned again. Jesus quite graciously restores Peter “in advance,” even with the knowledge of his approaching denials. Jesus knew the darkness was coming but He also knew that although Peter would fall down, he would not fail to get back up.

Strengthen your brothers. Jesus commissions Peter, and we are to do the same (2 Corinthians 1:4). This doesn’t excuse what we may have done; it proclaims the mercy and grace of Christ who is with us through the trials. Although we sat in darkness the light shined through.

Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death. Our pride, or whatever else God has to expose, keeps us from God’s best and then God allows the enemy to attack. God uses this to teach you to rely on Him more, and when we lean on Him this brokenness leads to greatness. It is not the sin that broke us that makes us great, but the turning again, the realization that no matter how far we have gone in the kingdom of God we still need the King. God will break us to remake us; God uses the broken to reach the broken.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

This is how they’ll know


John 13:31-35…

When he had gone out, Jesus said. Now that Judas had left, and the atmosphere had been changed, Jesus would get down to some details.

He speaks of His crucifixionNow is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.

He speaks of His resurrection. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.

He speaks of His ascension. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, 'Where I am going you cannot come.

He speaks of His instruction. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

He speaks of His intention. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Jesus wants people to know that we are Christians. So many people have dynamite words but firecracker works. Yet while it is more than words, it is also more than deeds, it is words matched with deeds bathed in truth (1 John 3:18).

Jesus did not say that we become disciples by loving one another. We become disciples by personal faith in Him who offered the atoning sacrifice on Calvary’s cross. Loving others is not the root of our discipleship, it is the fruit. They will know we are Christians by our love. 

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

The pattern and position of greatness


Luke 22:24-30…

Once again, Jesus is contrasting the way of the world with the way of the Word. According to our natural way of thinking, the person who is served is greater than the one who does the serving. This is how it normally plays out in secular society. But Jesus often wants us to do the opposite of what seems natural. The greatest person should be the greatest servant.

The issue here is not whether some saints should be greater than others, but rather how they use their greatness. Jesus said the great Christian is marked by the fact that they don’t use their position to push people around. While they may be the greatest, they are not to act like it, or to demand they be treated like it. They are characterized by servanthood.

Jesus never commands us to give up life, money, family, and power for nothing. He calls us to give up the temporary and imperfect things of this life in order to lay them up for the next. We are to give up wielding our platform, position, and power for ourselves. We are to serve Christ by serving His people, in order to be given a place of honor in His kingdom. In His kingdom, the disciples are promised that they will sit at His table, and that they will be given thrones on which they will be seated, and from which they will rule.

We are to pattern our lives after our Master. In fact, we do. Whatever pattern we are following is indicative of whom our master is.

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Saturday, October 15, 2016

The meal of the Messiah


Matthew 26:26-29 / Mark 14:22-25 / Luke 22:15-20…        

This was the Passover, the night on which for over fourteen hundred years, the children of Israel celebrated God’s deliverance through blood and out of Egypt. In the shadow of where Solomon’s Temple had been built, where David had appointed the altar of thanksgiving to God (2 Chronicles 3:1), where Abraham had given up Isaac and the substitute had been found (Genesis 22:2), Jesus is instituting the Lord’s Supper. Here we see that Christ is the true Passover Lamb whose blood sacrifice establishes the New Covenant (Hebrews 9:15-17).

The Last Supper is the precedent for the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-25). His body, represented by the bread, is symbolic of His sinless life. His blood, represented by the cup, is symbolic of His atoning death. We don’t need His physical body and blood to come to us today, we need what His physical life and death brought to us for eternity. Jesus lived the life we should have lived and died the death we justly deserved. But on the cross, God treated Jesus as if He lived your life so He could treat you as if you lived His life (2 Corinthians 5:21). That’s the Gospel. Faith is spiritual eating.

I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom. Not only does the Lord’s Supper help us to remember the past, it also is a reason to look forward to the future (1 Corinthians 11:26). Just as the Passover was a symbol of the Lamb of God, so the Lord’s Supper is a symbol of an even greater feast: the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6-9). How glorious will that day be when we, in our glorified bodies, sit down with Jesus as His bride, and feast at the banquet table of heaven!   

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Friday, October 14, 2016

The point of no return


Matthew 26:21-25 / Mark 14:18-21 / Luke 22:21-23 / John 13:21-30…      

But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. Now this got the disciples’ attention. They might not as yet understood all the significance of the foot washing, or how it reflected so badly on them, but this they can understand right away and right well. Jesus was not only saying that one of them would betray Him, but that the man was doing it as Jesus spoke.  

We think that because we have not as yet committed the treacherous act, that somehow we have not as yet betrayed our Lord. Yet Jesus knows, and you should know, that the deeds of the damned start long before they come to full fruition (John 13:2). The trail of a traitor starts in the mind (James 1:14-15).  The world feeds it, the devil enflames it, the flesh indulges it.

Thankfully, we can turn around and start going the other way (1 John 1:9). Yet there does come a point when we have so yielded ourselves to the destiny of the devil, that there is no turning back. Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "What you are going to do, do quickly."

Jesus’ statement called for self-examination. We see that while the rest of the disciples asked his Lord if it is him; Judas asks the Rabbi. After all Judas has seen and heard, Jesus is still only a teacher to him. Many are the same, seeing Jesus as only a way to something else.

You have to get past the point of no return or you will one day turn back from following Jesus. If to you, He is truly God, then you’re good. If not, then eventually, you’ll turn and be gone.

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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Bathed in service


John 13:12-20…

When Christ told us to wash one another’s feet, He was not simply talking about the physical act, but about humility and service to one another. However, it goes further than that. This is Jesus telling us that we are to give ourselves to a specific set of individuals. You give yourself to all of Christ’s body, but you wash the feet of those whom you are in intimate fellowship with. This is most often with those whom you get muddy with on a regular basis, like Jesus with His disciples.

A proof of this is found in 1 Timothy 5:9-10. The true widow who had humbled herself and served others personally shows us that this is about a local fellowship, not just a general principle only. You give yourself to a group of people and those people are whose feet you wash.

Even then, there will be people who will do you wrong. He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me. Jesus knew what Judas was going to do, and what would be done to the disciples. He knows that we will face false accusation and suffer persecution. Remember, if we are washing someone’s feet, we are made vulnerable; they can kick us in the face. Still, like Him, and like them, we are to be closely serving others.

Christians can get really defeated in their spiritual lives. Persecution, trials, and the sufferings of this life can weigh so heavy. We sin, backslide, and our spiritual feet get muddy and filthy. Our fellowship with God is hindered, we lose our peace and joy, we get spiritually sick inside. We get spiritually depressed, and we don’t feel like praying, reading our Bible, or going to church. We must be humble enough to allow others to wash our feet, and humble enough to wash other’s feet. This means we confess to one another and pray for one another (James 5:16).

If you think that you don’t have to be a vital, vulnerable part of a local church, if you simply want to serve from a distance, from a position of strength, your discipleship is all dried up. You’ve thrown in the towel against the church instead of girding yourself with it.  

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Humility illustrated


John 13:1-11…

Jesus knew He was just a day from His death. So He wanted to illustrate to His disciples one of His greatest lessons. He was doing something that they did not as yet fully understand. Not simply why He was doing the act, but what it represented, what they had failed as yet to grasp. This was the lesson of humility, the great key to holiness and a loving hope.

The backdrop of this beautiful display of Jesus is a despicable display by the disciples. You see, Jesus began washing the disciples’ feet after the meal had already started. But foot washing normally occurred before the meal, when guests arrived. The point is that instead of looking at Jesus with awe and washing His feet, they were still arguing about who should be the greatest (Mark 9:33-34, 10:35-41 / Luke 9:46-48, 22:24-27). No one would stoop down to serve, and so Jesus gives them an object lesson. 

Actually, they already had an example of this (Matthew 26:7-13 / Mark 14:6-9 / John 12:2-8). Consider that incident and the weight Christ places on it, and His reinforcing it here with His own example. Obviously humility of this nature is an integral part of living out the gospel in our lives. Humility is a facet of the gospel that must not be ignored (Philippians 2:5-8).

However, no matter how humble we may by grace become, it still is no match compared to our Master. Only Christ can humble Himself and give up everything for men who cannot give Him anything. Those we serve can give us the satisfaction of their thanks but here Christ, who is God, sees the utter wickedness of mankind.

Humility doesn’t mean poor, it doesn’t mean pious, and it doesn’t mean powerless. Humility means you trust God and you treasure God. Humility is surrendering your will to God’s will. We all want to be heroes. We would gladly wash the feet of Jesus, or even our brothers and sisters in Christ, but I want you to consider something. Jesus knew Judas was going to betray Him, but He ate with him anyway, and washed his feet also (Matthew 5:43-48).

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A certain man, a certain plan


Matthew 26:17-20 / Mark 14:12-17 / Luke 22:7-14…          

In the busyness and crowded scenes of life, we can get quite frantic and frustrated about meeting our deadlines, timeliness, and perceived needs. Jesus hadn’t given the disciples the details about where they would celebrate Passover. When He does, the directions are so mysterious that they had to have been perplexed. There were hundreds of thousands gathered in Jerusalem for the occasion. How were they going to find this certain man? Of course they were obedient, and of course, it was just as Jesus had said it would be.

It is interesting to see God’s providence in hindsight. Remember, Judas was looking for an opportunity away from the crowd to betray Him. But Jesus knows that He must first eat Passover with His disciples, so He keeps all the details about the location secret.  That way the betrayer will only be able to betray Him after the Passover meal.

Think about the fact that Jesus is infinitely aware of His coming betrayal, trial, suffering, trauma, and death, and yet He is focused on doing God’s will. In this particular instance it is that He worships with His disciples. Jesus will go to great lengths to get you to obey Him in faith and to arrive at the place of worship.

God is orchestrating not only your situation, but all the attendant situations along with it. Remember, the certain man also obeyed the Lord, and from a messenger. Your role in obedience is a key to other things. Yes, God will still get all the things He wants to be done realized, whether we do our part or not. But realize this, your obedience will allow you to see amazing providence. If you are in rebellion, repent, turn and see how God is preparing a place for you. You cannot always trace His hand, but you can always trust His heart. 

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Monday, October 10, 2016

The trail of a traitor


Matthew 26:14-16 / Mark 14:10-11 / Luke 22:3-6…

Judas had been with Jesus and the other disciples for three years. He had seen more miracles than anyone today could even dream of. He had a close personal relationship with Jesus, but he didn’t have a trusting, saving relationship with Him. How can this be? Of course, Jesus knew this was going to happen (John 6:70). Here Judas takes several steps on the road to perdition.

He is consumed with evil thoughts. Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He consorts with the enemy. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. He conspires to do evil. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.

We think that we could never do what Judas did having all the advantages he had. It is true that our struggle with loyalty to Christ is different than his. We don’t have the opportunity to physically betray Him. But we do have the opportunity to practically betray Him.

We don’t think ourselves capable, but we are all culpable (Romans 3:23). There have been times when we know what we want to do is wrong, but we think about doing it, then we plan on doing it, and then we actually do it. The Bible describes this Judas-like death walk. We are enticed, then ensnared, then enslaved, and then we actually endorse the evil (James 1:14-15).  Thankfully, we can turn around and start going the other way (1 John 1:9).

The question is, right now, are we following Jesus or are we following Judas?

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Sunday, October 09, 2016

Destined to die


Matthew 26:3-5 / Mark 14:1-2 / Luke 22:1-2…        

The religious leaders were not interested in learning and living the truth at all. They were out for blood. Of course, they wanted to save their own skins while they were at it. They had long ago decided to kill Jesus, but were concerned with the time and place of their plan.

What they didn’t know is that while their plan would ultimately succeed, it was God’s will as part of His plan. The blood they shed would be the atoning blood that would bring our salvation. What they meant for the worst kind of harm, God used for the ultimate help. It was the most evil act ever perpetrated by men, and yet the most loving act ever perpetrated by God.

Still they were culpable for their actions (Acts 2:23). And so are we; even though we didn’t directly perpetrate that evil, all of us are guilty of cosmic treason against God. We might think that we aren’t against Jesus, but avoiding Jesus is an action against Him. We either embrace Him, or we reject Him. Those are the only options.

If we do trust Him, we will be tested. It means that we will have to go through times where we know we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered (Romans 8:36). Yet in this we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8:37). In going out to a “lost and dying world” we have to enter the den of death to feel and to bring the good news of life (2 Corinthians 1:10 / 1 Thessalonians 1:10). 

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Saturday, October 08, 2016

It’s about time


Matthew 26:1-2…

Once again, Jesus is clarifying what is about to happen. He had been speaking of His return, and warning about being ready and avoiding judgment. Now He was making sure that they were informed about His departure into death and resurrection back to life. It was just a little while till the next part of the grand plan would unfold. Let’s notice three things about this.

It was not an accident. Jesus had told them before that this is what was coming (Matthew 16:21, 17:22, 20:18-19). He knew about timing.

It was not to be avoided. Jesus was to be delivered up, to pay for our sins, so that He might be raised up, for our salvation (Romans 4:25). He knew about testing.

It was a divine appointment. Jesus was playing right into the religious leaders’ scheme, but it was all in accord with God’s schedule (Acts 4:27-28). He knew about trusting.

When your timing, testing and trusting seem all out of sorts, remember, God has it all sorted out. The time has come for you to realize that God has a perfect plan, even when you seem to be messing it all up. Your life is not an accident. Your destiny is not something to be avoided. It is a divine appointment for you to travel on the way to your destination. 

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Friday, October 07, 2016

Torturous routine


Luke 21:37-38…

This was the routine during the week that Jesus was to be crucified. He would teach in the temple by day, retire to the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus by night (Matthew 21:17), and return to teach the next day.

Jesus spoke to the people about being ready, making the most of their opportunities, and warning against withdrawing from preparation, productivity, or people. Ironically, the people didn’t as yet realize that these would be their last opportunities to hear Him teach. 

God has a way of presenting you with opportunities to glorify Him with your life. Sometimes that means having to keep on performing a duty that seems like death. But that is the purpose, to bring life to others as we die to self.    

We talk about “taking it to the cross” and think we will just, in one moment of heroic holiness, thrust ourselves upon the device of our self-destruction in an act of worship. Yet what we fail to realize is that there is a walk, a journey that brings us to the place of actually being like Jesus on the way. This means we have to help others while knowing that they might still turn on us.

We forget that the cross is where other people put us to death. We like going to the temple to teach, but we don’t want to reach the mountaintop just to die. It’s no wonder we so often shrink back at real opportunity. It’s also no wonder that when we find out who Jesus really is, it’s the most wonderful thing in the world. He didn’t miss the opportunity to save us from our sins, even when He had to endure the torture of knowing where He was going. 

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Thursday, October 06, 2016

Judgment Day


Matthew 25:31-46…

When Jesus returns, He will be revealed as King, and act as judge. When Jesus speaks of the nations, He is not saying that part of what people will be judged by is their culture. He is simply pointing out that all the people who are alive when He returns will be assembled.

He had spoken of those who are wise while waiting (Matthew 25:1-13), and then of those who are wise by working (Matthew 25:14-30). Now He speaks of those who are wise through well-doing. He is speaking of helping others, especially fellow believers (cf. Galatians 6:10).

To be this way is costly, risky, and unpopular, but it is also living the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12). It was how the early believers were supposed to go about it then (Hebrews 10:34), and how we are to look at it now (Hebrews 13:3), even though Jesus is speaking of the future.

Helping other Christians in need is doing right by Jesus. Avoiding Christians in need is doing wrong by Jesus (cf. James 2:14-17). Remember, we are the body of Christ, one with Jesus and one with each other (Romans 12:4-5 / 1 Corinthians 6:17, 12:12-27 / Ephesians 4:25).

Clearly this passage is about “social justice” in the sense that it is about caring for the needy. But the needy in view are fellow Christians. “The least of these” doesn’t mean that the Church’s responsibility is to meet the needs of all the poor. While we must not be indifferent to people who have real needs, this passage cannot be legitimately used as a general cover for anything and everything we want to promote under the banner of social justice.

The reaction of both the sheep and the goats to the Lord’s words is one of stunned surprise. In this we can see that for Christians, humility, holiness, and helping are linked. Conversely, as Jesus has been pointing out, you cannot withdraw from preparation, or productivity, or people, and think that is the Christian response. You will either have the inescapable evidence of salvation, or you will not escape the inevitable judgment. 

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Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Don’t waste His wealth


Matthew 25:14-30…

Jesus had just spoken of those who are wise while waiting, and now He speaks of those who are wise by working. The talents being spoken of here are not aptitudes or abilities, but opportunities. A talent was a sum of money or goods, and these had been entrusted by the master to be used for his benefit. We apply this story to us by understanding that we should make the most of our opportunities for God (1 Corinthians 10:31).  

The notion that wealth should be dispensed “from each according to his ability” is contradicted by Jesus, who said wealth would be given “to each according to his ability.” It is okay to be blessed, and their charge was to make use of their opportunity, being responsible for what they had been given.

When the master returned, he sent for the servants to give an account. One did very well, doubling his five talents to ten. Another also did well, doubling his two talents to four. Both made full use of their opportunities and were rewarded for their faithfulness.

A third servant had no increase because there was no investment. He gained nothing because he risked nothing. He had a long time to use what he had been given, and so in a sense lost money that could have been earned. This third servant wanted to do things on his own terms. He did not want to deal with the responsibility given him. He saw this as a burden instead of a blessing.

How many people withdraw instead of engage and invest. They have been given much, but they risk little. They don’t want to deal with the responsibility they have been given. They want to live their own lives instead of using the opportunities God has given them. They think it a chance for worry instead of a chance for worship. It is all about themselves and their comfort.

We won’t always do as we should, but we can thank God for His mercy and grace. We don’t always make the most of things, but we must make an effort to engage. Things won’t always turn out the way we want when we get involved, but we have no right to simply withdraw. That’s not wise, that’s wicked. Those who withdraw are not entering into the joy of the Master. 

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Tuesday, October 04, 2016

The midnight cries


Matthew 25:1-13…

The teaching of Jesus is that we cannot know the exact time of His return but we can know the signs of it drawing near. He repeatedly speaks of the suddenness and the unexpectedness of His coming, and calls us to be prepared at all times. Many know of the Second Coming, and they may believe in it, but they don’t behave like it matters what they do in the meantime. 

As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. This doesn’t mean that sleep is wrong or that everyone has to go through some period of backsliding. No, it means that life would go on as it had for a while. We have been waiting for 2000 years. Still, the wise live in a state of readiness, while the foolish are careless about it (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:6-10).

Remember, all ten virgins were supposed to be part of the wedding party. They all knew what was coming.  All ten took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.  There are many that are in some way affiliated with the church, or who have some feelings of attachment to Christ, but they are like the five foolish virgins who took no oil with them.

But at midnight there was a cry. All ten were awakened to the call. But if there is no oil in the lamp when the call comes, it will be too late. You won’t be able to get in based on family or friends. You have to buy the truth right now (Proverbs 23:23). There will be no time to buy when you hear the cry. This is true whether that be at death or upon the return of Jesus.

Truly, I say to you, I do not know you. This gives us a clear picture of what the oil represents. The foolish are those who never go beyond a superficial knowledge of scriptural truth. They have just enough knowledge to assure themselves that they can make themselves ready when the time comes. They think they can do it their way but Jesus says no way.

Lord, lord, open to us. You see, there will be a second cry in the night, but you don’t want to be a part of that one.

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Monday, October 03, 2016

Prepared means productive


Matthew 24:45-51 / Luke 12:41-48…

When we might know something important is about to happen, but don’t think that it is going to happen too soon, we are tempted to be somewhat derelict in our daily duties. We have to rush to clean up if company is coming, having allowed the mess to accumulate to the point that we are frenzied before the family or friends arrive. We cram for the exam, having allowed ourselves to be lax in our studies. We sprint to the store, having forgotten the anniversary or birthday.

Last minute preparations are fine, unless we waited to prepare until the last minute. Putting the finishing touches on something is much easier if we have been in touch with the situation all along. Production is always preferable to procrastination.

Certainly, there are times when we are caught unawares and unexpectedly have to race in order to get something done. It is inevitable. Yet something that is expected arriving sooner than expected or at an unexpected time is the point Jesus is making here. The Lord will return, and we are to be about our business of living for Christ, winning others to Christ, and edifying our brothers and sisters in Christ, while we wait on Christ to return.

It is inevitable. Jesus will return. The problem is that in the realm of true religion, we cannot afford to be perverse. Jesus is teaching us that He won’t allow it. And this is about more than the end times. The Lord rewards those who are about His business, but He will capture the spiritually lazy in their own sloth. 

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Sunday, October 02, 2016

The reason we cannot see


Luke 21:34-36…

Being ready for the Lord’s return doesn’t mean trying to discern the exact time of His return. Being ready means that we are living for Christ, winning others to Christ, and edifying our brothers and sisters in Christ. In other words, we remain ready by truly worshipping Christ. To have a diligent, faithful expectation means living for today by having an eye for tomorrow (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 / 2 Timothy 4:7-8 / Titus 2:11-14 / Hebrews 9:28 / 1 John 3:2-3).

Jesus tells us that the reason people aren’t making themselves ready is not for a lack of evidence, signs and warnings. It is because they are dull of mind and heart, and so they fail to see the signs as they are. So Jesus warns us of three evils that blind us.

The first is “dissipation”, which means over indulgence. It is like we have a hangover, and we are insensitive to anything we’re not directly involved in. The second, drunkenness, is related to the first. Drunkenness is the cause and dissipation is the result. People are tempted to medicate with drugs, entertainment, busyness, or any number of other numbing things, as a solution to all the chaos they see and feel. They get what they want; they wind up dull to the danger. The third, worry, means that we spend all our energy on anxiety over worldly things.

The antidote is the same for all people in all times. Knowing what is to come, we should not place too much value on material things, and we should place our value in the Word of God. Knowing that over indulgence will dull our sensitivity should motivate us to self-control, not self-indulgence. Knowing that worry hinders our watchfulness, we should pray (1 Peter 4:7).

Many say they love Jesus but their lives deny it. Seeing a sign isn’t the same thing as submitting to its instruction. 

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Saturday, October 01, 2016

Wake up


Matthew 24:42-44 / Mark 13:33-37 / Luke 12:35-40…

Believers in Christ are admonished to always be alert. Jesus likens this to someone who has been given a warning that a thief is coming to rob his house. This person would obviously be ready for the event. The person who did not know of the warning or who did not believe it would obviously not be ready.

Once again, Jesus is pointing out the difference between believers and unbelievers. Unbelievers will not be aware and so will not be alert. Many will scoff at the idea of a coming judgment (2 Peter 3:3-7). For them, the Second Coming of Christ will come as a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 / 2 Peter 3:10).

It is amazing to realize that so many will rationalize away these cataclysmic events leading up to the return of Christ. It is even more sobering to realize that the reason that so many will be sleeping through it all is because they are not made ready now. Jesus has been telling us that we cannot simply know the signs, we must know the Savior. Otherwise we will miss the meanings of all these events. We think it impossible that people could witness these incredible things and still not see the significance. But Jesus says it will be just like that. 

The way to stay awake is to get right and stay right with God right now (1 Thessalonians 5:4-6 / 2 Peter 3:11). With so many warnings that Jesus gives, and with so many places in Scripture that echo this, what are you waiting for? 

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