Friday, November 16, 2018

The witness of blood


Matthew 27:6-10…

But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, "It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money."  This scene provides insurmountable evidence of the wickedness of the religious leaders.  They had seen fit to use temple funds to pay for the betrayal of Jesus, but now when those funds come back to them they all pretend as if they would never have blood money in the temple treasury.  But they had used the temple treasury to pay for His betrayal in the first place.

Think about this. Now, not only has Judas testified to the innocence of Christ, but here is the testimony of the whole Sanhedrin. They said it was blood money, in other words, money illegitimately paid to someone to get someone else killed. They’re so self-righteous, they didn't mind taking it out of the treasury to be blood money, but they acted as if they were too pious to put it back where it came from because it was blood money. They confirm with their own mouths the bloody deed they did in bribing Judas.

The perversity of the plot and the iniquity in their hearts is clear. The hypocrisy continues as they use the blood money to do a charitable work. The potter’s field would be where Gentiles could be buried if they had no money and died while in Jerusalem. Ironically, Judas was the first person who used this field (Acts 1:18-19).  The people knew the field was at the price of blood. This was all a part of God’s plan (Jeremiah 18:1-12, 19:1-13, 32:6-9 / Zechariah 11:12-13).

This gives us a picture so that we might understand what the atoning death of Christ means for us. Having seen Jesus condemned by the religious court, you have seen what you ought to receive at the hand of the divine court. Having seen Jesus’ innocence, you should recognize your own guiltiness. Having seen the wickedness of the people, side by side with God’s plan, you ought to bow the knee to God’s sovereignty and realize that Jesus is a substitute for your sin. 

The difference between Judas and Peter is that Judas confessed to his co-conspirators, but Peter sought the mercy of Christ. Like them, you are also guilty. But the question is what will you do with the witness of blood? 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Only two ways to turn


Matthew 27:3-5…

I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.  Judas had apparently followed the crowd to the scene of Jesus’ trial. Having seen what has happened, Judas began to feel the crushing weight of his own guilt. He had betrayed the most innocent man that ever lived.

He is now faced with a choice. As the person responsible for getting Jesus arrested, he knew he must declare Jesus’ innocence. He needed to try and make things right. But he only went half way. He didn’t seek forgiveness from Jesus; he only tried to give back the spoil of his sin. The attitude of the chief priest and elders shows their wickedness, but it also illustrates the point that sometimes we cannot undo what we have done.

This is why we need forgiveness. This is why Jesus came to us, not only to pay for our actual guilt, but also to cleanse us from our emotional guilt. There are only two ways to turn. We can turn inward, and allow the guilt to continue to pile on ourselves, or we can turn outward, and find freedom in Christ. Many feel sorrow over their sins, but they decide to turn over a new leaf without turning their lives over to Christ. Judas is the embodiment of this difference between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10).

You can renounce your past all you want; you can proclaim your devotion to Christian principles without fail. But that doesn’t mean you’re walking the walk. That walk doesn’t mean turning in your thirty pieces of dirty money in remorse, it means turning your life over to Christ in true repentance. Instead of letting guilt be the thing that hangs you, let it be the bridge to God’s grace. Admit your wrongs to Jesus, trust Him, and feel His forgiveness (1 John 1:5-10).

Some Christians are not enjoying their forgiveness, because they say that they can’t “forgive themselves”. They have become their own idol and the lord of their life. In saying Jesus has forgiven them but they can’t forgive themselves, they are in effect saying they are a god above Jesus. Although the lesser God, Jesus, is forgiving, the highest god, themselves, is not.

Receive God’s forgiveness. Find your true freedom. You don’t have to be like Judas.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

You heard that right


Matthew 27:1-2 / Mark 15:1 / Luke 22:66-71 / John 18:28…

This is the third part of the church trial. The first two parts, before Annas and then Caiaphas, were a mockery of justice on many counts. These were held at night, which was illegal, and Jewish law forbade forcing someone to incriminate themselves, but that is exactly what the high priest was attempting to do as he put Jesus under oath. Jesus was repeatedly mocked and beaten by the soldiers before, in between and after the trials on the way to His death.

This third trial was by the full council of religious leaders, called the Sanhedrin, and was after day light, giving the proceedings a veneer of legitimacy and due process. The council was seeking to charge Jesus with blasphemy. Jesus had already done that, as far as they were concerned, but now they wanted an official, legal, account.

Jesus answered their question, but not before He gave them a rebuke. He knew that they would not believe the truth of what He told them, and they would not allow Him to cross examine them if He did testify against Himself. Jesus affirmed He was the Messiah, but reminded them, just as when He was questioned before, that they were in His hands, not the other way around (Matthew 26:64 / Psalm 110:1 / Daniel 7:13-14). The council was judging Jesus, but in the end, He will be the one who sentences them.

They pressed Him further. Would He admit that He was the Son of God? If so, they had the evidence they wanted. Now all they needed was the cooperation of the state, to kill Him.  Their attempts to phrase the questions differently were not attempts at justice as much as they were attempts to justify their hatred. They understood the testimony but were blind to the Truth.

We are called by God to proclaim the light of Christ. But you must remember an important truth about truth. You can make something as clear as crystal, but a darkened heart will never see the Truth unless God illuminates the soul (2 Corinthians 4:3-7). 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Piling on


Luke 22:63-65…

Jesus was being mocked and ridiculed on all counts. If the leaders do their sort of condemning, so will the followers. It happens today. People feel safe to attack a person once they think they are on the winning side. People love to pile on. It’s in our fallen nature.

We must remember that Jesus was still in charge, even at the time of His betrayal, abandonment, arrest, abuse, trials, and denials. In all these events we see that men of all stations rejected Him. So that men of all stations might be saved by Him.

While Jesus remains faithful to His calling, all other men consistently fail to be faithful. No one understands fully what is going on. People are abandoning Him. But even in this “hour of darkness” He is in control. His prophecies are coming to pass, through the agency of sinful men. Jesus was taken captive and condemned because He purposed to do so.

Think of yourself and this mocking and abusing. We come to realize that we have done this to Jesus. It is like when we first start to feel the pang of conscience about our sin. Our first thoughts, when we are being drawn by the Spirit to worship Christ, might come as a feeling of, “yeah I’m not perfect”, but then we see that we are personally responsible, and they move to “yeah, I’ve done some bad things”.

Then, as we are being drawn into the moment of saving faith in Christ, we see the truth more fully. We have attacked Christ personally. Our hand was the one that drove the bitter nail into His on the cross. Instead of seeing ourselves as somehow just indirectly sinning against God, we realize that we have sinned directly against a holy and just God, directly attacked His person. It is cosmic treason.

We ask, “How can we trust God?” This is the answer, because while we were yet sinners Christ died for the ungodly. He cared for us, not only when we didn’t care for Him, but while we actively opposed Him, whether we realized that or not. Now we do realize that, and it makes all the difference (Romans 5:10). He doesn’t need to prove himself to us, He’s done it. See it right here. All this betrayal, abandonment, arrest, abuse, trials, and denials are things you have done to Him. This is all a piling on of the evidence of His love for you. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Hiding in a snowball


Matthew 26:69-75 / Mark 14:66-72 / Luke 22:54-62 / John 18:25-27…

The thing about lying is that not only do we have to keep lying unless we want to be found out, but we also have to invent new lies on top of the lie we originally started. Ironically, we have to lie some more if we want to stay consistent in our story. What a mess.


This is what was happening to Peter. He got caught in a lie and didn’t know what to do. It was not that Peter was just a fearful coward. Remember, he had made some bold claims about his loyalty to Jesus. He had attempted to fight at the arrest of Jesus. He had followed along and bravely entered into the courtyard at the trial of Jesus. But in doing that he had denied Jesus.

Now, because he had initially denied that he was a disciple of Jesus (John 18:17), Peter has to reiterate that denial more and more emphatically. He was already committed, invested, and if he were to change his answer, it would invite questions of “what are you trying to hide?” His denial seems to be the “path of least resistance”, even when things began to snowball, as he is faced with someone who saw him draw his sword in the garden (John 18:26).

Peter probably thought he needed to keep up the ruse in order that he might be in a position to do some good later. However, he was sadly, sinfully mistaken. This is what happens when we invest in iniquity. In a wicked way, sin is the most successful enterprise we can be involved in, because it always returns with a higher yield. It just keeps on growing.

The best way to avoid a snowball of sin is to keep a short account of it. If things have already snowballed, you will still have to confess and repent at some point. It will cost you; true repentance means you lose things, and often it means we have to lose some dignity, position, and trust, things that we will have to earn back from others, even if they have forgiven us.

There is mercy and grace to be found (Hebrews 4:14-16 / 1 John 1:5-10), but you have to confess. Even a snowball can be stopped, and for you, Christian, it must be stopped. Otherwise, you will roll all the way down to hell (Revelation 21:8).

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The truth about the truth


Matthew 26:57-68 / Mark 14:53-65…

Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. There are actually two trials, in six total parts, that Jesus would face in the last hours of His life before the crucifixion. There was a church trial and a civil trial. Here Jesus is in the second part of the church trial. He had come from the former high priest, Annas, and now was before the current high priest, Caiaphas, and the other religious leaders.

Now the chief priests and the whole Council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death. Their minds were made up, and there was all sorts of injustice and malice going on here (Deuteronomy 16:18-20, 19:15-19). Yet even among the false witnesses and twisted testimonies about Jesus’ words, they had a hard time getting their stories straight. The high priest asks Jesus to answer the charges. But Jesus remained silent (Isaiah 53:7 / Acts 8:32-35 / 1 Peter 2:23). He didn’t need to defend Himself; the opposing reports were obvious lies.

Frustrated, Caiaphas directly questions Jesus under oath, asking Him to confess whether He had claimed to be the Christ, the Messiah. Did Jesus claim deity? Jesus answered, not to defend Himself, but to proclaim the truth. Jesus was perfectly clear, informing them with Scripture (Psalm 110:1 / Daniel 7:13-14). Not only does He claim to be the Christ, the long awaited Messiah prophesied about in the Old Testament, He tells them that they are not His judge, but that He is theirs. In other words, that He is God. They understood what Jesus was claiming, but this unscrupulous crowd accuses and attacks Jesus for telling the truth (Isaiah 50:6). 

You know, Jesus had said that the truth would set us free (John 8:31-32), but here it didn’t happen. What gives? Well, you see, it all depends on what you mean by being set free. The truth is that His truth will set you free from the tyranny of the temporal. The fabrications of false witnesses and the slander of Satan’s minions can only go so far (Matthew 5:11, 10:28 / 1 Peter 2:19-20, 3:14-16, 4:14). As a Christian, the crimes committed against you are a testimony to the truth in you (John 15:18-19 / 1 John 3:13).

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Jesus and jurisprudence


John 18:19-24…

Annas asks Jesus about His disciples and His doctrine, seeking to compel Jesus to testify against Himself. Jesus rightly refused to respond to this questioning because this hearing is illegal. Under Jewish law, a man was presumed innocent until he was demonstrated to be guilty.  The preliminary appearance was supposed to be where witnesses brought testimony. Annas had no right to ask Jesus anything until the evidence of witnesses had been taken. If the stories of the witnesses matched, then a charge would be brought. However, this whole process was not about truth, but about power. The establishment felt threatened.

Why do you ask me? Annas was fishing for incriminating information, and Jesus knew this was a mockery. One of the officers who stood by considered the response of Jesus to be insolent, and so he struck Him. Jesus points out this obvious injustice. This is what happens when a supposed inquiry doesn’t follow the rule of law. When legal rights do not exist, or are violated, “interrogation” becomes synonymous with physical abuse and torture. This is precisely what we see in the New Testament (cf. Acts 22:24, 29), and today.

Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. And the greatest “kangaroo court” in history rolled on. People talk about Christians being judgmental a lot, but ironically, it is the unbeliever who often has passed sentence ahead of time. Professing Christians will also be prejudicial towards you at times. Most often, devoid of any real knowledge of what they are speaking about. You should be ready to give an answer, but you don’t have to defend yourself, if your life speaks for itself (Colossians 4:5-6 / 1 Peter 3:15-16).  

Friday, November 09, 2018

Guilt by association


John 18:15-18…

This “other disciple” was probably John himself. His acquaintance with Annas got him into the courtyard, and he was able to convince the servant girl to let Peter into the courtyard also. But when questioned, Peter denies being a disciple of Jesus.

Let’s not dismiss Peter as altogether cowardly. Remember, he had begun to fight back in the garden when they came to arrest Jesus. Peter was in a very awkward and dangerous situation, once again surrounded by those same people. They knew John was a disciple of Jesus. The presence of another disciple there might arouse suspicions about an escape plot.

For most of us, it has been true that we have denied Jesus in far less dangerous circumstances. You aren’t supposed to be violent, but you aren’t supposed to be silent either. When others are maligning Him and His modern day disciples, do you deny Him by your silence? Do you hope no one asks the question of you?

Could a court convict you by the company you keep? It is easy to identify with Christ during church time. But outside of the comfort zone, do the friends of Jesus, the enemies of Jesus, and those who are supposedly non-committal about Jesus know which side you are on? 

Jesus knows you will be persecuted for proclaiming the truth about Him, and He doesn’t want you to hide the truth about yourself.  

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Behind the scenes


John 18:12-14…

Jesus was being taken before the religious rulers for a trial. In this mockery of due process, before He was to be examined by the current high priest Caiaphas, there was to be a preliminary examination by a former high priest, Annas, Caiaphas’ father in law.

Annas was no unbiased judge; he had the reason of revenge against Jesus. You see, it is most probably Annas who was the one that had established the money-changing traffic within the temple courts. Remember the tables which Jesus had disrupted? So it is clear that this is not going to be a just trial. This extra examination is all just for a show of due diligence.

In fact, Caiaphas had already determined that Jesus must die (John 11:49-50). The high priest was a very important man, the religious, political, and judicial leader of the nation. Ordinarily the priests came from the tribe of Levi, and the high priest came from the family of Aaron, who held the office for his lifetime. But under Roman rule the high priest was appointed whenever the Roman ruler saw fit.

Still, Annas had been in a place of power for a long time. He had succeeded in arranging for the appointment of each of his five sons as the high priest, followed by his son-in-law, Caiaphas. He may have been behind the scenes, but make no mistake, he was still very much in power, especially to the Jews (Luke 3:2 / Acts 4:6).

We know that as Christians we will face pain, persecution and pressure. We also know that there are secretive, spiritual forces scheming against us. But the most important truth is that we can still stand firm, because behind our scenes is the Lord (Ephesians 6:11-13). 

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

A mystery for now


Mark 14:51-52…

Why is this story included at all? There are many commentators who believe that this young man who fled was John Mark, the author of this gospel (Acts 12:12, 25, 13:5, 13, 15:37-39 / Colossians 4:10 / 2 Timothy 4:11 / Philemon 1:24). If so this was his way of letting us know he was there at the scene when Jesus was taken. Of course, we won’t know for sure who it was until we get to heaven.

In any event, there are no unknowns in the kingdom of God. You may not be noteworthy in the world system, or you may not be a “somebody” in the visible church realm, but if you are a Christian then you are somebody in God’s kingdom, a saint. Of course, our work is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58), and we will all be rewarded in heaven.

In the grand drama of the ages, there are many roles to play, and all Christians are a part of the unfolding mystery of God’s redemptive story. We may not understand why we have to go through this or that ordeal, or how this or that experience was a help to someone else. Of course, we will understand all of this and everything else when we get to heaven.   

Some things may be a mystery for now, but they won’t be forever.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Thy will be done


Matthew 26:55-56 / Mark 14:48-50 / Luke 22:52-53…

At that hour Jesus said to the crowds… After setting Peter straight, Jesus then addresses the crowd that has come to take Him captive. He calls them out for being cowards. He is no social or political revolutionary. He is no criminal. He is not leading some military insurrection.

But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Jesus then explains exactly why they are acting the way they are; it is according to His predictions, in order to fulfill the Scriptures.  They are all instruments in the hands of God. Jesus wasn’t being taken against His will; He was embracing His Father’s will. 

Then all the disciples left him and fled. This was also just as Jesus had said it would be.  Jesus had to face the cross alone. There is no other mediator. The apostles, the martyrs, Mary, the saints, a priest, or your pastor, these cannot save you; only Jesus can (1 Timothy 2:5).

Beyond the fact that we must not ultimately place our faith in someone else, the actions of the disciples also teach us that we must count on Christ and not place our trust in ourselves. Thank God that He remains faithful to us despite our lapses (2 Timothy 2:13).  

Monday, November 05, 2018

Not so fast


Matthew 26:51-54 / Mark 14:47 / Luke 22:50-51 / John 18:10-11…

Jesus had told the disciples that things were going to get tough, and that they must prepare for rejection (Luke 22:35-38). But although Jesus mentioned carrying a sword, He was not advocating violence. He was simply saying that instead of expecting popularity, they would experience persecution. Still, Peter misapplied this truth to this situation, and probably felt like he was doing the most right thing at the moment.

We often do the same thing. We think we have good intentions, but they lead to bad actions. We have truth, but we lack trust. We have liberty, but we use it as license to protect our own self-interests, even in the name of ministry to others.

We may desire to do what seems right in the moment, but it is not as right an action as we think it to be. We make hasty decisions, not having patience and trust in the sovereignty of God. Peter knew that Jesus was God, but his flesh was “rash to do good”. We must be on guard today against such a presumption, especially when we, or someone we know, is persecuted. It is our pride that tells us “how dare they!”

It can be easier to deal with tribulation for ourselves, but when loved ones are involved, we feel a strong urge to intervene, sometimes when we shouldn’t. In such cases we must still cling to our Lord. Consider this; that when Job had lost his children already, this is when he said “though He slay me yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15), and so he is also saying “though He slay someone I love, yet will I trust Him”.

Just because we are doing God’s business does not necessarily give us the right to attack. Indeed, we must remember that the wicked are caught in their own trap (Esther 9:25 / Psalm 7:15-16, 9:15-16). Defend the gospel, not yourself, and the glory of God will rest upon you (1 Peter 4:14). Instead of giving place to the devil (Ephesians 4:27), we need to give place to God (Romans 12:19 / Hebrews 10:30).

Sunday, November 04, 2018

More than they were looking for


John 18:4-9…

Jesus was not a helpless victim, knowing all that would happen to him. The religious leaders expected trouble when they came to arrest Jesus.  This is why Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. But Jesus did not flee from them or put up a fight. Instead, He boldly approached them.

Imagine the amazement of the disciples when they saw Judas, supposedly one of their own, arrive as the head of the mob sent to arrest Jesus. It would seem as if everything was out of control, or that the mob was in control. But indeed, Jesus was still in control…they drew back and fell to the ground.  They were looking for Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus lets them know that He is the man, but that this man is also God.

Jesus was doing exactly as He promised, bringing about future events, and taking care of His disciples every step of the way (John 17:12). Even in the midst of chaos, confusion, and corruption, He was in control. His plan was being executed by all sides, perfectly.

How often is it that we go about our days knowing about Jesus, but we see Him as some far off, ineffable idea rather than the very much alive, all present and all powerful Almighty that He actually is? It is quite a reminder when, sometimes, as our greatest threats draw upon us, Jesus unveils Himself just a little, and lets us all know who the boss of all this really is (Psalm 46:1).

It may seem as if your situations have Jesus all bottled up, but just one word is all you need. Unleash His power and presence into your life; behold the great “I AM” in His Word.   

Saturday, November 03, 2018

The kiss of death


Matthew 26:47-50 / Mark 14:43-46 / Luke 22:47-49 / John 18:2-3…

It is amazing to watch the calm of our Lord as He is betrayed and seized. Usually, if we know someone is out to get us, we will fight back or flee. But here, Jesus tells Judas to go ahead and do what he came to do. To know that someone is out to get you and yet to allow it to happen seems unthinkable to the natural mind. Crises have a way of revealing our character, and here the character of Jesus shines through the darkness, more than any of the torches and lights that the mob was bearing. 

Jesus was spiritually prepared. He was calm because He knew God’s Word and He was counting on God’s providence.  He was not thinking that He would be spared from the suffering, but that righteousness would prevail in the end. This was not about the protecting of His life, but the power of His resurrection. Jesus knew His role in the gospel required His death.

Christians are the friends of God and the enemies of evil. Because of that, there are many who would be instruments against us. Some people seem like they are sent directly from the devil as a personal minister of malice. Yet, while they may cause us great distress, the “kiss of death” cannot stop the gift of eternal life.

There may be times when we will be betrayed by those close to us. When Judas comes for us, we do well to consider the dignity of Jesus considering the indignity of the event. We do not have to be happy about things to be holy about them (1 Peter 4:19). 

Friday, November 02, 2018

Into the silence


Matthew 26:36-46 / Mark 14:32-42 / Luke 22:40-46 …

Imagine the scene that night in Gethsemane. Eight of the disciples were near the entrance to the garden, but they were unaware of what was unfolding. The Master and the temptation, the prayer, the great drops of blood from our Savior’s brow, these were evidence of the most extreme spiritual crisis of all time taking place. In the silence the battle of the ages raged on.

The inner circle of Peter, James, and John had been taken further into the silence by our Lord. They were witness to the troubled, distressed spirit of the One whom they had known as the Prince of Peace. Suddenly they also knew Him as the Man of Sorrows. Jesus told them to watch and pray, knowing that they, too, were about to enter their greatest hour of temptation. 

Jesus had told His disciples to pray, and it didn’t seem like there was much activity, but the silence of the night betrayed the violence of the fight. The human crowds were gone, but the hosts of heaven looked on as the sinless Son of God faced His greatest hour of need. In the silence of that night the greatest spiritual battle of all time took place.

The road to the Cross leads through Gethsemane. It may seem as if there is no action going on in your life, within your family, at your church, but indeed, it is in these moments that all hell is lining up against you to try and take you down. Sometimes we are in the silence, without a clue or a care. Often we are caught and taken off guard even though we have been warned and exhorted to watch and pray (1 Peter 4:7).

Are we following the crowds as they turn away to where the fun is when Christ makes us uncomfortable? Are we revolting against what Christ wants to do in our lives, drawing near to Him, but with our own agenda? Are we settled outside the gate, having left from following Christ because we have not actually come in to the inner circle? Are we devout followers of Jesus, only to be sleeping in the most critical hour?

In the silence, when it seems that all is quiet, right before the drama intensifies, when the great spiritual battles take place, where will you be? 

Thursday, November 01, 2018

How Free Are You?


Freedom is not autonomy. Freedom is liberation from the enslavement of self-interest. You might think of freedom as the liberty to do what you want. But again, that is just the ability to be selfish. Rather, freedom is the ability to give oneself to others.
 

Because of me


Matthew 26:31-35 / Mark 14:27-31…

Jesus tells the disciples that something was about to happen in partial fulfillment of Old Testament Scripture (Zechariah 13:7). He was the shepherd about to be struck, and they are the sheep about to be scattered.  But while they would be temporarily scattered, Jesus also affirmed that they would not be scattered for long. He would return to lead His sheep.

Still, the disciples didn’t understand; they all boasted of their devotion, especially Peter. Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away….And all the disciples said the same. How often are we like this, where we deny the very words of Christ in our spiritual bravado?  Oh no, not us, we will never fail, never fall, we won’t sin, we’ll always win. This is because when we hear Jesus say, “Because of me” we think it is about us, but it is about Him.

The truth is that we cannot trust in the power of our own hearts (Jeremiah 17:9 / 1 Corinthians 10:12).  We think of Jesus telling Peter that he would indeed deny Him three times later that night, and he did. But think about this. Peter denied Jesus two times right there in that same conversation!  Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you! Here he is defiantly denying that he will deny, yet failing to realize that this was a denial right there in itself. He was telling Jesus that He was wrong, about this application of the scriptures, and about Peter himself!

You’d think we would all learn a little quicker, and a little less ironically at times. But that’s just the point, isn’t it? Still, even our failures do not thwart God’s purposes. We remain responsible, but He remains in control.  It is a comfort to know that the Lord can use those who have failed Him. It should give you confidence, not in the power of your will, but the power of His will. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

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.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

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. 

Monday, October 29, 2018

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. 

Sunday, October 28, 2018

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. 

Saturday, October 27, 2018

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.  

Friday, October 26, 2018

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. 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

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.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

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.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

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.

Monday, October 22, 2018

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. 

Sunday, October 21, 2018

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? 

Saturday, October 20, 2018

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). 

Friday, October 19, 2018

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). 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

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.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

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. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

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.