Saturday, July 31, 2021

More than money

Luke 15:8-10…

Because Jesus receives sinners as if they were family, they grumble against Him, thinking that He obviously was not from God. Yet it is they who are exposed as having no concept of the heart of God. They have no interest in the joy of God, or what brings celebration to Heaven.

Jesus was bringing the self-righteous into the story, using the dirty (shepherds) and the disrespected (woman) as instruments of illustration. If lesser beings are concerned with lost things, so too, is the Messiah, and so too, should they be.

The woman in the story was on a mission. The monetary loss was terrible, but the possible sentimental value would have made this even worse. It called for a passionate search. Finding the coin was cause for great celebration, not just for this lady or her household, but for all of her friends. How much more valuable are the people around us! Christians must celebrate when salvation’s light reaches the dark and lost soul. Our mission is greater than money.

Unlike the religious leaders, God doesn’t mind being compared to a woman. It is God in Christ who is that woman seeking the lost sinner hidden in the dark and dirty world of sin. He did that for us, and He is the one who places the value in us. When we truly understand that we will truly change, because we treat others like we think God treats us (Romans 15:7). 

Friday, July 30, 2021

The lost sheep

Luke 15:1-7…

When we lose or misplace something, we trace our steps, we ask other people, and we ponder where we have been and where it could be. We don’t give up until we find it, whatever it is. The more valuable the thing is to us, the harder and longer we try to recover it. If and when we do, we celebrate, it is a huge relief.  Everyone is this way.

Jesus was saying the same to the crowd gathered to hear Him. The crowd was a mix of the religious leaders, the hated tax collectors, and the despised “lowlife sinners”. The Pharisees and scribes were grumbling that Jesus would keep company with “lesser” people.

What they failed to realize is that compared to Jesus, we are all lowlife’s. The people who can really get something from Jesus’ teaching are the ones who know they are lost and need help finding the way, not those who think they are already walking right along in the first place.  Yes we advance in the faith, but we never advance beyond repentance. Jesus wants people to remember where they came from, that all need rescuing. 

Jesus’ short story tells us about the Father’s love for the lost, but it also tells us what our attitude toward the lost should be as well. We need to be confident in what God’s grace can do for any person; especially those who we think are “lost causes”. Jesus specializes in them, and truthfully, that’s all of us (Isaiah 53:6). After we have received Christ as our Savior, a mark of our walk is that we become humbly grateful not grumbly hateful.

When people find the way of hope in God through the knowledge of Jesus, we should rejoice. That’s what heaven does, and that’s where we are going. In fact, that’s also a good test to see if you are really going there. 

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Following or fooling

Luke 14:25-35…

There were a bunch of people following Jesus, but He wanted them to realize what following Him really meant. They were following along physically but if they really wanted to follow it would have to be spiritually. Jesus tells them about the bumps in the road that might cause those who are only fooling themselves to turn back.

When it comes to committing your life, you don’t continue to follow something unless you hope or trust in it. Jesus was not putting conditions on God’s love for us. He was teaching us that while many may seem to start out on the path, most are not willing to walk in the way when the reality of that walk is tested. Jesus is showing us how our walk will be made manifest. Are we really following or only fooling?

Jesus says that we cannot be a disciple, in other words, we will fail to really follow, if we are not willing to put the relationship with Christ above all others. God is not against the family, He invented it, and He’s all for it. But He is not for it over and against the allegiance to Jesus. God wants you to bring your family closer to Jesus, not to let your family pull you away from Jesus (Matthew 10:37, 15:4).

Jesus says that we will fail to really follow if we are not willing to suffer for His name. Taking up our cross means we must be ready to bear up under the afflictions God sends our way as discipline to conform us to the image of Christ. Your cross to carry is not the sin; it is giving it up and having to feel the pain. Some presume that if we walk by faith, we will be removed from all problems, but that’s not the truth (Philippians 1:29 / 2 Timothy 3:12).

Jesus says that we will fail to really follow if we are not willing to lose everything we have. Following Jesus means going all out, and you can’t go all out unless you are all in (Philippians 3:7-10). It is not that you will have to live beaten, bare, burdened, and broke, but would you be willing to (Matthew 10:28)? The answer is provided in the tests along the way.

Following or fooling it is not about how well but how willing. If we are willing to put even good things aside for Christ, then we will be a disciple. We will learn to trust and to treasure Him above all else. Otherwise, the obstacles along the way will stop us in our tracks, and our walk will only be talk at that point. Direction always determines where we end up.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

The guest of honor

Luke 14:15-24…

Jesus was still dining in the home of the Pharisee when someone spoke up about how blessed it will be to dine in the kingdom of God. The man was speaking as if he knew he would be there. Jesus used this moment to tell a story that was directed to the pride of the guests.

In the story, the guests who were invited to a great feast started making excuses why they couldn’t come. The first man’s excuse is a lie. In those days, no one bought a field without examining it thoroughly. The second man’s excuse is an insult. It was like saying you can’t make it to the big event that was planned weeks ago because you just bought a ticket for a movie that night. The third man’s excuse is just arrogant. The man had already accepted an invitation, and the feast would not have been scheduled on the same day as the wedding. The only real reason the people didn’t want to come to the feast was because they weren’t hungry in humility.

You see, in the story God is the host, the feast is the kingdom of God, the invited guests were the Jewish leaders, and the poor and crippled and blind and lame were the Gentiles. Jesus was saying, “You proud people won’t repent of your evil ways. You are continually trying to excuse yourself with reasons why I am not the Messiah. You refuse my invitations to the kingdom and reject me any way you can. So I will gather up the hurting, and discard you, the haughty. You who were first invited but who make excuses are not going to be eating with me.”

Let the proud of this world have their cake and eat it too. You don’t want it. Remember, they don’t serve devil’s food in heaven. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

By invitation only

Luke 14:7-14…

Jesus was using this dinner among the Pharisees to illustrate spiritual truths. He spoke about being a guest, and then, about being a host. This was easy to understand in a literal, practical way. But the lessons are much broader in scope than just being invited or inviting others to events. The truth about humility and grace is timeless.

Jesus noticed how the guests were maneuvering for positions at the table. As He waited, the only position left would have been the seat of least honor. He told them that they should avoid selfishly seeking honor, because they set themselves up for humiliation. The way up is down (Proverbs 27:2, 29:23 / Matthew 23:12 / James 4:6, 10 / 1 Peter 5:5-6).

Jesus taught that the host can also reveal a lack of humility. When planning a party, the temptation is to invite those who promote our standing, those most likely to do us some good in return. We are tempted to give in order to get. Jesus taught that this practice should not only be revised, but reversed.

The way of the world is to invite people in order to gain from their reciprocal invitations and hospitality. The way of the Word is to be gracious to the helpless and to those who cannot pay us back. Doing so assures us of God’s blessings in heaven.

You invite the blessing of God by investing your blessing in others. This is part of what Jesus means when He says we are to store up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20).

Monday, July 26, 2021

True colors

Luke 14:1-6…

Self-righteous people are the favorite tools of the devil. A leader of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat at his home. Yet it was apparent that Jesus was not invited out of hospitality, but out of hostility. It was an atmosphere of accusation…they were watching him carefully. The Pharisees wanted to bring some charge against Him. Jesus was to be the main course, but He turns the “dinner tables” on them.

There was an ill man among them, probably placed as a trap to see if Jesus would heal on the Sabbath. Calling their bluff, He asks them if they think it is lawful to heal the man on the Sabbath. They remained silent, which was a passive sign of their rebellion. Their twisted teachings and traditions clearly forbade such healing. The Law of Moses, however, did not forbid it. Indeed, how could one refrain from healing on the Sabbath, if he had the ability to do so (cf. James 2:14-17)?

Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. Jesus knew they had only brought the man in to test Him. He then confronts them about their notions of compassion. Their own practices proved their petty hypocrisy. They taught one thing, but made exceptions for themselves. Once again they remained silent, because what can you say when your true colors are showing?

Before accusing someone, you might want to think about this, because the supposed injustice might cause the invisible ink of your heart to become manifest.  

Sunday, July 25, 2021

A warning from God’s heart

Matthew 23:37-39 / Luke 13:34-35…

Here we see warnings to those who will not repent of their sins. Here we also see a picture of the heart of God.  He does not delight in the destruction of sinners.  He delights when they turn from their sin and flee to Him for grace. Unfortunately, many who assemble with God’s people, who call themselves by the name of God and His people, actually reject His love.

The wicked are opposed to God’s saving action in others. The text doesn’t read “how often I would have gathered you” but “your children” which is not the same thing. The people that Jesus willed to gather together and the ones who would not are different. “Jerusalem” refers to the Jewish leadership, the scribes and Pharisees, who hindered Jesus from bringing the Gospel to the masses (cf. Matthew 23:12-15). “Your children” refers to the Jews suffering underneath them.  Of course, many of those “would not” either. Jerusalem was the very heart and center of that nation, and its heart was hard. This is a warning to all people against unbelief.

Christ warns of the desolation which results from those who forsake Him. We have to ask the question today, is our house desolate?  Does He dwell in your heart by faith, so that you are being filled up with the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:17-19)?  Or have you rejected Him, are apathetic about Him, love something greater than Him? Have you not trusted in Him alone for your salvation? 

Everyone will bow the knee to Christ one way or another (Philippians 2:9-11). Jesus is saying that there will come a time when He is returning in glory, but our time to believe is right now (2 Corinthians 6:2).He has warned you because He loves you.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

The unfailing plan

Luke 13:31-33…

The plans and politics of the world’s power brokers do not faze God. This Herod was the grandson of Herod the Great who had attempted to kill the infant Jesus. This family was an enemy of God, yet chosen to do God’s will.

Jesus knows that Herod is scheming to have Him killed before His word can take root. But He also knows and is controlled by the fact that God’s mission will be accomplished. The petty threats of powerless people do not stir the stability in His soul. Jesus wasn’t tossed into a panic by the warnings of others. He knew His mission, and He stayed on course.

One of the difficult lessons of life is to appreciate that God will cause the wrath of man to praise Him (Psalm 76:10). That means people will be after us, and may hurt us, but the crushed vessel releases the reality behind our stability (2 Corinthians 4:7-11).

When you are doing the will of God, you are indestructible. Now this is not a license to be lazy or ludicrous with our lives. It is simply to say that God’s plan and purpose for your ministry will be accomplished. You won’t be taken down before your time. God restrains the vast majority of evil in this world just as He restrained the wrath of Herod from destroying Jesus before His time. We may be confounded for a season, but the schemes of Satan are used as the pawns of Providence (Ephesians 1:11 / Romans 8:28). 

Friday, July 23, 2021

The few, the humble

Luke 13:22-30…

Lord, will those who are saved be few? The person asking this question probably thought they were among the “few”. Jesus’ answer gave them all far more than they wished to hear.

We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets. Many believe that mere association with spiritual things means that they too will be included in the eternal celebration that is heaven. But there is a difference between association and identification. We can take on many of the habits of the holy, and play the part, without a change of heart.

I do not know where you come from. Association with Christ isn’t enough. It wasn’t for the Jews of Jesus’ day. It isn’t enough for you either. You are not a child of God just by being born to Christians or by having godly parents, or going to church, or taking Communion, or reading the Bible. A person who is surrounded by the gospel witness can be cleaned up on the outside, look, talk, and act better, without the true transformation of the heart. This is the “religious spirit” which has dragged so many into smugness and complacency.

And behold, some are last who will be first. Most Jews of the day thought that by birth they were automatically included in the kingdom of God. Jesus was making it clear that many Jews would be left out, while many Gentiles would be enjoying the blessings of God in the kingdom.

Strive to enter through the narrow door. Think about the entrance to a house, narrow means it is one at a time. Entrance into the kingdom is something which we all must do individually. It is something so urgent we dare not deal casually with it. Salvation is a great blessing, a free gift, but it is a limited time offer, and we must diligently pursue it. We are born into the kingdom of men, but we must be born again into the kingdom of God (Galatians 3:26).

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Here come the sheep

John 10:40-42…

Jesus controlled His own destiny. He would not be killed by the religious crowd and their attempt at mob violence. He would return to Jerusalem on His own terms at the final Passover, the time appointed by the Father for Him to die. Jesus is in control (John 10:17-18).

In the meantime He went back to the place where John the Baptist had publically identified Him as Messiah. The atmosphere there was quite different than the hotbed of the Jerusalem temple. Of course, during the time of John the Baptist it didn’t seem as if Jesus had gained much of a following there. Yet despite his apparent failure, John the Baptist’s witness was not wasted; in God’s timing, it led many to be saved.

It can take a while for the Providence of God to produce a harvest. God’s watch doesn’t work like ours, although it is more divinely precise. We are the ones who need attuning. Your “weak witness” or “I wish I would have said that” doesn’t mean that God won’t use what you have said. It means that you are responsible to be ready (1 Peter 3:15 / Philemon 1:6), and God is responsible for the results. 

Jesus does all things well (Mark 7:37), even when we don’t think we do. Just get out there and tell people about Jesus. Remember, we don’t make sheep, we find them. He is the one who promised that they would hear and follow. He didn't say when.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Making it plain

John 10:22-39…

Jesus had previously revealed His identity (John 6:35, 8:12, 9:5, 10:9, 11), but the majority did not believe. They wanted a plain answer: was He the Christ? Jesus says He speaks to His sheep and leads them through life. He holds them and keeps them eternally secure. He then boldly announced, “I and the Father are one”. They are in one accord, one in nature, essence, purpose. This is as opposed to the leaders, who are not doing what was right, by God or by the people.

This statement was blasphemy in their view. They took up stones to put Him to death. Jesus responded by quoting from Psalm 82:6. The judges of Psalm 82 were called “gods” because in their office they determined the fate of other men. If God called those people entrusted with teaching and leading “gods”, it was no blasphemy for Jesus to call Himself the Son of God.

There are many things called “god”, but there is actually only one true God (1 Corinthians 8:4-6 / Psalm 115:3-8 / Jeremiah 10:14 / Habakkuk 2:18-20). God calls earthly judges “gods” (cf. Exodus 21:6, 22:8-9). Satan is called “god” (2 Corinthians 4:4), but he isn’t equal to God. It is merely speaking to the fact that the devil is captivating the minds of the unbelievers, keeping them in bondage (cf. Ephesians 2:2-3 / 2 Timothy 2:24-26 / 1 John 5:19).

Jesus was not applying “you are gods” to all humanity, or to all believers. In essence, He was saying to the Jewish leaders, “You are ‘gods’ but you mistreat and neglect the poor and downtrodden, and yet when I help them you say I blaspheme”. Psalm 82 refers to this matter of injustice. It has nothing to do with our being gods like Jesus is; it has to do with people of stature ignoring their responsibilities to help the less fortunate. They weren’t keeping each other accountable in matters of discipline and sin. They were abandoning social justice. They were false shepherds, unlike Jesus, the Son of God, who is the Good Shepherd.

Today we must make the same decision. Either we bow the knee now to the Lord Jesus as our Savior, or we will bow the knee to Him as our Judge (Philippians 2:9-11).

That is as plain as it gets.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Object lesson

John 10:19-21…

Once again the words of Jesus bring division, even among those religious leaders who were against Him (cf. John 6:52, 7:12, 43, 9:16). The people present were beginning to realize that they could not just sit on the sidelines about Jesus and His seemingly impossible claims (John 10:17-18). Some in the audience recall the healing of the blind man, while others repeat the charges of demon possession, and accuse Him of insanity.

This is an object lesson; the mixed response to His words is exactly as Jesus said it would be. His sheep hear His voice, and they follow Him. Those who are not His sheep do not hear His voice, and they will not follow the Good Shepherd.

Some rightly reason that Jesus’ words must be judged in the light of His works. A demon possessed man would not speak and act as Jesus does. The miracle of healing the man born blind gave credibility to His words. Others dismiss Jesus and are quick to reject Him as their shepherd. Those who are opposed are intensified in their opposition. They are coming to steal, kill, and destroy (cf. John 5:18, 7:1, 19-20, 25, 8:37, 40, 10:10).

What do you believe? You can’t just set the claims of Jesus aside. He is either everything He says He is, or He is none of it. He claims exclusivity (John 14:6); He cannot be lumped in with other religions or their leaders (Acts 4:12 / 1 Timothy 2:5). He demands full allegiance. So what is it? Is He a liar, a lunatic, or Lord? 

Monday, July 19, 2021

The real deal

John 10:1-18…

Jesus is continuing His confrontation with the Pharisees (John 8:48, 52, 9:40-41, 10:20-21). He compares them to thieves and robbers. Illegitimate shepherds enter the sheepfold in illegitimate ways. There are always those who take authority but have not gotten it from God. Those that are truly God’s sheep will not follow another, but instead will flee. This was just illustrated by the fact that the man born blind refused to listen to the Pharisees, but turned to Jesus.

Many think this means that they cannot be deceived, but they presume upon their profession. It is not how well we are following it is who we are following that matters most. Many will faithfully follow a false shepherd and a false faith. But the true sheep will only follow the real Shepherd of the faith. The test is not about who is following but about who is being followed. The false shepherds will have many followers but no real sheep.

Jesus expands on what He has just said. He says the religious leaders of the day were not real shepherds of God, but emissaries of the enemy. They are in position only for their own pleasure, but Jesus was there for their protection and provision.

Jesus says the mark of a true shepherd is that he is fully invested in the sheep. The sheep know who their shepherd is; he cares for them, knows them by name, and will do anything to protect them. He willingly dies for them, while the hired hand withers at the sight of the wolves. 

Jesus indicated that His sheep may be scattered, but they will be brought in (cf. Acts 2:21 / Romans 10:13), the flock of faith would not consist of Jews only. Jesus was not performing some “plan b” of salvation for the sheep; it was the divine design of God. That’s the real deal. 

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Seeing is believing

John 9:35-41…

Jesus had taken the initiative to give this man physical sight (John 9:11). Now He would take the initiative to give him spiritual sight. The failure of the Pharisees and their religion was evident, as was the power of Jesus (John 9:30-33).

Do you believe in the Son of Man? The formerly blind man knew Jesus was God’s messenger, but now Jesus would reveal Himself as Messiah. This resulted in worship. The man who was blind could now see, both physically and spiritually.

For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind. Jesus came to save (John 3:17, 12:47), but in the process of His coming as the “Light of the world” (John 1:4, 8:12, 12:46), He exposed the sinfulness of men. Those who refuse the light remain in darkness.  There is no neutral position on the question of Jesus.

Are we also blind? The Pharisees thought of themselves as having spiritual vision. Jesus tells them that they are not lacking evidence of who He really is, but since they won’t receive it, they are indeed guilty of sin, and spiritually blind.   

People have enough evidence to turn from their sin and have faith in Christ. Yet most refuse to receive the Light. Because they think of themselves as capable judges of Jesus, they remain in spiritual darkness.  Their ideas of God are predicated on their own sinful predisposition.

If you go away just thinking that Jesus was a good man, or a prophet, or some ideal we can aspire to, without realizing who He really is, the Son of God and the Savior of the world, you are in grave danger. People think they can see clearly, but you cannot see what you are blind to. 

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Calling the witness

John 9:13-34…

Immediately, when Jesus sets you free, the religious world puts you on trial. The secular crowd watches on. You are called to serve as a witness. This man who had been healed of his blindness was now being questioned by the Pharisees.  They knew he had been with Jesus. Can people tell that you have been; is it obvious something has changed?

Because this man was healed on the Sabbath, they began to express their opinions of Jesus rather than listen to the man who had been blind his whole life. Yet some did wonder how a so called sinner could do such signs.  The works of Jesus in your life will always cause division among those who think you have some sinister motive or who once knew you and refuse to believe in the power of God’s truth to change people.

The formerly blind man knew that a miracle had been wrought in his life and so he knew that the man who healed him was special. This man’s eyes are beginning to see even more clearly, while the eyes of his judges are becoming even more blinded by the pettiness of pride.  

The Pharisees go to question the man’s parents, but for fear they do not answer them directly. You can’t always expect friends and family to be able to fend off accusations against you. In your witness for Jesus, sometimes it is just you and Him.

They ask the man once again, and failing to shake his testimony, they began to abuse him. However, their scorn only strengthens his belief.  He tells them the truth is staring them right in the face, but that they will not acknowledge it.

Ironically, they do acknowledge it, because as they throw him out of the synagogue they admit this man had been born blind! You were born in utter sin…they don’t realize that they just validated the healing and Jesus! Such is the nature of spiritual blindness. 

Friday, July 16, 2021

Man on a mission

John 9:1-12…

The disciples open this episode by asking a question. The answer Jesus gives points to the plan of Providence and the urgency of Jesus’ mission. It also has to do with us, and our loving quest to see God glorified.

Imagine if after this man died, and went to heaven, that God asked him to go back to earth, once again blind? What if God gave him a mission so that people could see a person who exalted God in spite of such circumstances?

Of course this man would agree to go on such a mission. He would know why he was sent, and know that this temporal situation was giving glory to God. We have examples: remember Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration, or what about the two witnesses sent back from heaven in the book of Revelation?

Now what if, after you died and went to heaven, God wanted to send you back on a mission? You were to go back blind, or with some other “problem”, to rejoice to His glory despite your circumstance. You would gladly do it, knowing why you were sent, the eternal reward, and where you were going to return!

In a very real way, God has done that. We are on a mission. After we have been born from above (John 3:3-8), we are spiritually seated in heaven (Ephesians 2:6). But while we remain on earth, we testify to the glory of God (Ephesians 1:11-14). Christ said that while He was in the world He was its light. He still is in this world, manifesting God’s glory, through you (Colossians 1:27). The mission is to let your light shine (Matthew 5:16 / 1 Corinthians 10:31 / Philippians 2:15).

You may be in a world of sorry circumstances, but you are always called to rejoice in the Lord (Philippians 4:4 / 1 Thessalonians 5:16). God has a mission for you and He will see you through (Philippians 1:6 / 1 Thessalonians 5:24). We need to be humbly grateful instead of grumbly hateful. When the world sees the darkness of sin and situation, and yet the light of Christ shines through that, how great indeed is that light! 

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Jesus is God

John 8:48-59…

Reading the Gospel of John we get a distinct taste for how Jesus presented Himself. If we have ears to hear, eyes to see, and a heart that is opened, it becomes clear. Jesus is pointing to the fact that while He is human, He is also divine (John 6:35, 8:12, 10:9, 11, 11:25, 14:6, 15:5). He is the God-man, the Messiah, and the Savior of the world (Colossians 2:9).

As the Son of God revealed Himself, the hearts of the religious leaders were also manifest. They didn’t want to debate the Scriptures or the Law. They didn’t repent, and they didn’t respect. Instead, in their rage they resorted to name calling and accusing Jesus of being demonically possessed. Jesus defends by saying His purpose was to honor His Father, who would glorify Jesus and act as judge.  

Then Jesus asserts that those who believe in Him would never die. This further infuriates and insults the hypocrites. They appeal to Abraham, but Jesus says they have no right, for they don’t know God, while Jesus does know God, and He knew Abraham. In fact, Jesus says, Abraham understood better than they did about who Messiah would be. They could not wrap their minds around the fact that God was there in their midst. The very Creator and Sustainer of the universe (John 1:3 / Colossians 1:16-17 / Hebrews 1:2-3) was in their very presence, and all they could do was refuse and revile Him.

In the Bible, you have the very words of the very God in your hands, but do you have them in your heart? They proclaim Jesus as the Savior, but who is He to you?

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

One father or the other

John 8:37-47…

Jesus knew that the religious leaders assumed they were children of God. He accuses them, touching a sensitive nerve, and they responded just as He knew they would. He tells them that although they were physical descendants of Abraham, he was not their father. They are not of God, because if they were truly the spiritual children of Abraham, then they would repent and obey the truth as Abraham did. Instead, their father was the devil.

They respond by insisting that they were not illegitimate, but were indeed of God. Jesus replies that if they really loved God, they would also love Him. He says the reason why they cannot understand Him is that they cannot stand the truth. Like their father, they are in love with a lie, and they live a life of lies. If you do the truth you will know the truth. They point the finger at Jesus because they have no faith in God. Their faith was in themselves.

Truth becomes less believable when we let lies cloud our soul. If you obey the truth it is because you love the truth, and if you love truth you will hear God. If your love is poisoned with prejudice you will listen to the lies of your father, the devil. 

How do you respond to truth? Do you become offended? Do you let truth convict and then change you, or do you become complacent? What action do you take? Are your responses tempered with pride or humility? Does truth become a stumbling block or a stepping-stone?  When confronted with Jesus, your answers prove your paternity.             

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Trusting the truth

John 8:31-36…

You can know the truth and still not trust it, and so instead of being free you are bound. Many people make a claim upon Christ, but it is perseverance that proves the profession true. Those who are saved by the Son are saved from the eternal penalty of sin, and in heaven we will be saved from the presence of sin. Yet there is a fullness of truth to be experienced now.  

It is a powerthe truth will set you free. Believing a lie is the genesis of sin. The power of sin is to enslave us, everyone who commits (practices) sin is a slave to sin (cf. 2 Peter 2:19). Trusting the truth is the power of the cross over the power of sin in this life (1 Peter 4:1-2).

It is a processIf you abide in my word. It is not the bare knowledge of the truth that sets us free. It is that we have continued in the Word, and thus have become true disciples, and therefore we experientially know the truth. And it is that truth, the truth that we know because we are His disciples who are continuing in His Word, that truth is what will set us free. If we continue to discover the truth of the Son, we will experimentally know more and more freedom. God isn’t always going to give you some quick fix. You must learn to be a twig before you become a tree. Change is more process oriented than crisis oriented, not a moment but a momentum.

It is a promiseSo if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. Is there some particular sin that still shackles you? Then there is some particular truth yet to be experienced. Many, however, fail to submit to His will. Their way “works” in that it lets them control the pain with pleasure. They may intellectually know the truth, but they are experientially bound. To walk in the truth, we need to look forward in faith and see the Son deliver us from the pleasure of sin (Hebrews 11:24-27). Only when God’s truth is setting you free are you free indeed. 

Monday, July 12, 2021

The missing God

John 8:21-30…

Jesus repeats what He had said earlier to the religious leaders (John 7:33-34, 8:14). He has told them that if anyone follows Him, they will walk in light, but if they refuse, they will walk in darkness. The Jews were expecting a type of Messiah who wasn’t coming. When they would search for the Messiah, they would fail to find Him, because Jesus, who was the Messiah, would have been and gone.

He adds the ominous phrase, “you will die in your sins”, which will happen if they do not believe that Jesus is who He says He is. When they try and get Him to clarify, He says that it has been obvious what He has been declaring from the beginning. That is, He is the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the Jews, and of the world. He is God. They knew He was claiming that; it is why they were trying to have Him killed (John 5:18, 10:31-33).

Jesus was speaking the true things God the Father had given Him to say. The Pharisees did not comprehend Him because they were not born again from God (John 3:3). They would miss their opportunity, as do all who finally reject the Lord (John 14:6 / Acts 4:12 / 1 Timothy 2:5 / Hebrews 9:27). This is the unyielding truth of God’s Word.

There is a sense in which people seek God but don’t find Him because they’re not seeking the real God (the Jesus of the Bible), in the real way (repentance and faith). Instead, they chase after a figment of their imagination, a projection of their best feelings. They refuse to look where He really is, or live the way He really wants. Many say that they love, serve, and seek God; but their idea of God is not real.

Many call themselves Christian, and think they are right with God, but they are not (Matthew 7:21-23). If we continue in sin, refuse to repent, and refuse God’s wisdom, eventually our cries will not be heard (cf. Psalm 66:18 / Proverbs 1:28-31 / Isaiah 1:15 / Amos 8:11-12 / Micah 3:4). Turn to Jesus today, whoever you are.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Keep the light on

John 8:12-20…

I am the light of the world. Jesus was speaking this during the feast of tabernacles, when the women’s court in the temple was lighted by giant lamps. This reminded the people of how God was with them in the wilderness guiding them by a pillar of fire by night. Jesus was saying that He is the light come from God, “the” light, not just “a” light or “another” light among many (John 1:9). The only people who cannot see the light are blind people (2 Corinthians 4:4).

The Pharisees objected to Christ’s testimony because all testimonies must be proven by two witnesses according to the law (Deuteronomy 17:6). They did not understand that He did have two witnesses; Himself and His Father. Jesus made it clear that their thinking was not dependable because their judgment was faulty. If the law required two human witnesses for accuracy, how much more dependable were two divine persons, the Father and the Son?

These Jewish experts claimed to know the law of God, but they did not know the God of the law. They did not know the Father, so they did not know the Son, and therefore they walked in darkness. They thought they had the light, the light of Moses, but they failed to understand that Moses’ light was pointing to Jesus (Luke 24:26-27, 45-48 / John 5:46).  

For Christians it is comforting to know that we will never have to walk through the dark times in life without Jesus lighting our way (Psalm 119:105 / Proverbs 4:18). It is when we refuse to follow the light that we find ourselves in darkness, but we find renewed fellowship when we turn back to the light (1 John 1:5-10).

How do we live up to the light we have been given (Ephesians 5:8)? By walking as those who are right now exposed to the light (Matthew 5:16 / Romans 13:12 / Philippians 2:15).

This is about right now: the light is not shining through us if it is not shining to us.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Accusing the accusers

John 7:53-8:11…

The religious leaders had gone home frustrated that they couldn’t silence Jesus or have Him arrested. They were going to have to deal with Him publically on account of His notoriety.  Their plots had been foiled but they weren’t about to stop. After Jesus comes back to the temple to teach, we see their scheme. They were going to try and outwit Jesus intellectually by making use of their supposed mastery of the Law of Moses.

Jesus takes a stand against the accusers of a woman caught in adultery. Unfortunately, careless Christians and undiscerning unbelievers take this passage to mean that Jesus is showing us that we should never judge anyone, anytime, for any reason. But He is not abrogating the law, or negating it. He knew they were trying to set Him up, but He sets them up instead.

Jesus implies that the accusers were at fault, and had no right (Deuteronomy 17:7). They thought of bringing a charge against Jesus for not honoring the law, when it was they who failed to meet the conditions of the law in this case. The man involved in the adultery was also to be included in the punishment (Deuteronomy 22:22-24).

Jesus was not glossing over her sin, and He was not implying that we must be perfect or we cannot address other people in their sin. He was also not telling her that she must now become perfect. He was saying that she must stop this sort of sin. The days of her accusers were past, and the days of her adultery were over. His forgiving the woman was not conditioned on her repentance, but He clearly sees her repentance as the natural outcome of it.

When our sins have come to light, and yet we find forgiveness, why would we continue to walk down the dark alley (1 John 1:6-10)? When you slide down to live on the back streets of persistent sin, they will not only accuse you, they will accuse Jesus.  

Friday, July 09, 2021

Pride and prejudice

John 7:45-52…

The Pharisees sent the temple officers to arrest Jesus but they came back empty handed. They could have given many excuses, but they chose not to follow orders because they were impressed with the teaching of Jesus. The Pharisees said that the officers had been deceived like the rest of the mob. Their proof was that there wasn’t a single leader or Pharisee that believed in Jesus. The intellectual elite were right, while the uneducated mob were wrong.

But when the Pharisees said that none of the religious leaders believed in Jesus, they were incorrect. Nicodemus had believed and now was defending Jesus, at least in some small way. Nicodemus challenged them in the law that they supposedly knew so well. The other Pharisees responded by mocking him. They stated that prophets do not come out of Galilee. Again they were incorrect in that Jonah, Hosea, and others came from Galilee. Like the Pharisees, our present anger confuses our previous knowledge to blind us to further truth.

Think about what is being exhibited here in this scene. The Pharisees were not interested in the reason why their own officers concluded that “No one ever spoke like this man!” They simply dismissed them as deceived. They wouldn’t even listen to one of their own who knew about their own laws. When time and again you so easily dismiss all the counsel around you, and stiffen your neck, soon you will be without remedy (Proverbs 29:1). It will be your own fault, yet you will wind up blaming God (Proverbs 19:3).

Have you been this way? Have you allowed yourself to ignore people in your life who are trying to get to the truth and heart of your issue? Even when presented with evidence from every corner, you would rather be backed up into your own corner than submit to the truth (Proverbs 18:1). Go ahead, keep putting up a front; the devil has got your back. 

Thursday, July 08, 2021

The eyes have it

John 7:40-44…

When the right thing comes along we will miss it if we are looking in the wrong way. Just as some people had thought John the Baptist might be “The Prophet” (John 1:21) that Moses spoke about (Deuteronomy 18:15), people were confused about Jesus too. This “Prophet” they believed would come was indeed going to come, but He wasn’t who they thought He would be. He had come, but this was not simply going to be another forerunner of Christ, as they thought, this was going to be the Messiah Himself (Acts 3:22, 7:37).

They thought Him special but they were missing the revelation. Sometimes the very thing we really need we dismiss because we are viewing it through sentimental eyes. We think something is nice but we fail to see it fully.  Like a sermon. We have a way of thinking that makes God out to be a projection of our best feelings, instead of really understanding the revelation He has given us. Sentimental eyes are the fruit of a “religious spirit” which drags us into smugness and complacency. Instead of striving to move up to Jesus, we bring everything down to our level.

We can also miss what we need when we view things through cynical eyes. While some correctly identified Jesus as the Christ, others cast doubt on that. But they lacked the right information, and they asked the wrong questions. They were right that the Christ would come from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). But they didn’t realize that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and that the Christ was supposed to be from Galilee also (Matthew 2:23, 4:13-16). Jesus was from the offspring of David (Matthew 1:1 / Romans 1:1-4), but they just didn’t check the facts well enough. Sometimes we look at situations and process our solutions but we create new problems.

Sentimental eyes and cynical eyes can hamper our spiritual vision. What we need to develop are submitted eyes (John 8:30-32). Then we will see the truth as it comes upon us. 

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

The eternal fountain

John 7:37-39…

The feast of tabernacles celebrated God providing shelter for the Israelites in the wilderness, after He brought them out of Egyptian captivity (Leviticus 23:33-43). The last day of the feast, the great day, symbolized the entrance into the Promised Land. On each of the seven preceding days water was drawn from the pool of Siloam and the priests poured it on the altar as the singers chanted Isaiah 12:3. On the eighth day they stopped the literal water.

Jesus took this opportunity to figuratively apply the promise of blessings to Himself (Isaiah 44:3, 55:1, 58:11). He is inviting people to “drink” from Him to satisfy their “thirst” and the result would be that “living water” would be “flowing” out of them. He says to them all, “Does anyone want true relief, the true, living water, from a source that will never dry up?” 

This is Jesus speaking of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon all believers (1 Corinthians 12:13). This was inaugurated at Pentecost, and the narratives in Acts 2, 8, 10 and 19 are the fulfillment of what Jesus had promised in Acts 1:8. Jews (Acts 2), the hated, half-breed Samaritans (Acts 8), the Gentiles (Acts 10), and the disciples of John the Baptist, people in the transitional period between the OT and the NT Church (Acts 19), all were included in the manifestation of unity and spread of the Gospel.

What does this mean (Acts 2:12)? Not only are all people groups potentially included, but all gender, age, and social groups are as well (Acts 2:17-18). The invitation is to all, “If anyone thirsts… Whoever believes in me.” Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Acts 2:21 / Romans 10:13).

The Holy Spirit makes Jesus real to us and slakes our spiritual thirst (Matthew 5:6, 11:28). His power can continue to flood our lives in a faithful witness. Whatever you may be looking for to fill up your life, the truth is that all other things will not last. Their satisfaction is only partial, and temporary. Jesus is the only thing that can satisfy the eternal thirst of the soul. 

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Limited time offer

John 7:32-36…

Jesus had been addressing the questions from the crowd, and some were moved to believe in Him. This irritated the Pharisees, who wanted to just get Him out of the way. Talk of Jesus Christ is always an irritator and instigator, and it will stir up people to try and stop any commotion before it spreads.

The perception planted into the hearts of unbelievers is the deception and distortion of the devil (2 Corinthians 4:4). Jesus was talking about His ascension into heaven, following His crucifixion and resurrection, when their opportunity to believe would have passed (Matthew 23:37-38). But they thought Jesus was proposing to leave for the detested Gentile regions. They expected the Messiah to come and vindicate their status as God’s people. But Jesus came first to die for sins, and this they would not accept. These religious leaders were supposed to be spiritual, but they kept going on about what the natural situation was, because they could not really see Jesus with spiritual eyes (1 Corinthians 2:14).

People continue to miss salvation for similar reasons. Mankind is self-centered, but Jesus defines His ministry focus by what He has come to do for God. Yes, His work benefits us, but what Jesus did was mainly for His heavenly Father (Romans 3:25-26). He came from God and He goes back to God. Jesus was God-centered in all things; we should have the same orientation in all that we do (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Hard hearted people still don’t accept Jesus on His terms. He doesn’t meet our expectations. We want Him to deal with our felt needs, the crises of our circumstances and our social situations. But He wants to deal with our real need, the sin in our soul and the spread of it in our life. We had better heed His words before it is too late (Isaiah 55:6 / 2 Corinthians 6:2 / Hebrews 9:27). Today is the day of salvation because you are not promised tomorrow (James 4:14).

Monday, July 05, 2021

Question and answer

John 7:14-31…

Jesus comes into the temple to teach, and the people start to question Him. The assignment of Jesus was different than ours, we are not the Messiah. But our assignment is the same in that we are also called to glorify God. These same types of questions will be put to us.

They question Jesus about His authority. He was doing the Father’s will and He said that others who sought to do it would realize it. They will know what is right. That is more than just obedience; it’s not less than that, but it’s about seeking to give the glory to God instead of seeking to receive glory for oneself and from others.  If you obey God, and seek to lead others to worship Him, you will learn true knowledge, speak with authority and have an authoritative vision for your life (Acts 4:13).

They question Jesus about His accuracy. They deny the conspiracy to kill Him because He had healed a man on the Sabbath (John 5:1-18). Jesus pointed out their inconsistency in observing what they wanted to from the law. In order to uphold the law of circumcision, they would “break” the law of the Sabbath. Jesus says the issue is not a matter of the letter of the law, but the essence of doing what is right. If you accurately handle the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15), you will accurately handle questions about your actions.   

They question Jesus about His authenticity. Jesus said they didn’t know where He was from, but they contended that they did. Yet He was not speaking about which town He was from, but His origin in heaven, and they knew that. They were trying to make it a matter of technicality rather than a matter of truth. How often do people who refuse to believe put up some smokescreen about semantics when they are just in love with their sin?

You will be questioned, argued against, misrepresented, lied about, and persecuted as a Christian. However, know this: just as it was with Jesus, you cannot be physically destroyed until your divine destiny is fulfilled. God has a job for you, now go and do it.  In doing so, your life will be the answer to others about Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14-17). 

Sunday, July 04, 2021

Waiting for the whispers

John 7:10-13…
Jesus comes on His own terms. The insincere advice of His as yet unbelieving brothers did not change His purpose. He didn’t go when they suggested, but He was going to go. He would be making a very public manifestation and proclamation upon His arrival.

The Jews were conspiring to have Him killed. The people were conflicted as to who He really was. Everyone was afraid to side with Jesus because they knew how the religious leaders felt about Him. This was the set up for the ultimate confrontation between the true and the false.

It is just so today. If you are truly a Christian, the world around you whispers about what is going on. The enemy of our souls has filled the minds and hearts of the unbelievers with doubts as to who Jesus is. The test of trust is upon you. You know it will cost you to publically claim allegiance to Him. Too many of us cower in fear, seemingly unconvinced that He is who He says He is. Others think they need to see Jesus act out loud before they will claim Him as their own. Yet what needs to happen is that we need to claim our allegiance and proclaim His righteousness and salvation, and as we do that, He will indeed be there.

In any event, make no mistake; the battle for your faithful witness has begun, and the confrontation of your claim of Him is coming.

Saturday, July 03, 2021

Count the cost

Matthew 8:18-22 / Luke 9:57-62…

The cost of discipleship is no less today than it was back then. We know that nothing should take precedence over the call to follow Christ, but it is not as easy as some make it out to be. The practical problem is the actual acts of discipline required to follow Jesus when other “good” things are pulling against our commitment. Jesus provides us with keen insight into the conflicting commitments that would try and pull us away. These stories are about us.

The first seeker has his zeal met with an unexpected response. Jesus challenges the man to see that He walks the way of certain sorrows. Would he still want to follow knowing this? The truth of the trail is that testing, trial, and tribulation come before the triumph (Philippians 1:29). The hasty hero needs to realize what he is getting into (Luke 14:27-30).

The second would-be disciple is challenged to see that obedience to Jesus is more important than obligation to culture. This man did not place the value of Jesus high enough. He was hesitant; he wanted to wait until he received his inheritance to follow Jesus fully. Serving God by serving family can become an evil commitment if we fail to follow Christ (Luke 14:26).

The third man was challenged to see that following Jesus means going all out, and you can’t go all out unless you are all in (Luke 14:31-33). You can’t run with the old crowd (1 Peter 4:3-4). You can’t move forward if you keep looking back (Philippians 3:8-14). “Looking back” is like Lot’s wife (Genesis 19:26), not an actual return to the world, but a reluctance to break with it.

When we are hasty, hesitating, or halfhearted, we need to be reminded that Jesus is worth it. 

Friday, July 02, 2021

Hold your fire

Luke 9:51-56…

How often do we presume to be standing up for the honor of God, and yet we do so in a manner not worthy of His grace? How many times have you seen someone in print, or television, on the internet, or in person blaspheme the name of the Lord, or say derogatory things about God? How many of those times have you wanted to be like the Apostle Paul in Acts 13:10-11, and say to the offender, “I blind thee, wretched scum!” Tell the truth; aren’t you just like the disciples here, presuming to defend the honor of God, all the while defending your own self-esteem?

You must realize that we are recipients of God’s mercy, and we should be merciful to others (Matthew 5:7). We should not act hastily in judgment of those who do not believe; we wouldn’t either if it were not for God’s grace. This should make us humble, not hardened. Yes we should stand for what is right, but we do not have the right to strike down those who dishonor God. Jesus will defend His own honor; in due time (2 Thessalonians 1:8 / Jude 15).

In truth, the people of the village were in the wrong; they didn’t receive Christ because He was seemingly looking past them to His destiny in Jerusalem. How like our own lives today, when Jesus is doing something for someone we know, but not for us, and so we complain about it!

This whole scenario points at us, and says, “Hold your fire; you may be aiming at yourself.” 

Thursday, July 01, 2021

Family drama

John 7:1-9…

It can be hard dealing with loved ones who won’t listen to you when you talk about Jesus. When you truly want to do His will, you may discover that some people in your own family don’t understand. They’ll talk about most anything else, but not your faith. They have no sense of God’s will or work. They may even oppose and oppress you. The knowledge that personal relationships may and will suffer is the one place where most “disciples” put down their cross and walk away from Jesus (Matthew 10:37 / Luke 14:26).

It was the same with Jesus’ own family (Psalm 69:8). They had no real sense of God’s will or timing in the work He was doing. They wanted Jesus to make a show, but it showed that they didn’t yet believe He was who He claimed to be (cf. Mark 3:21). Here we have unbelievers giving advice. Perhaps His siblings were being sarcastic. In any event, why should the spiritual take spiritual advice from the unspiritual?

Applying this to today, we are often trying to win the world using the world’s ways and wisdom. Personally, we want Jesus to make some grand entrance into the scenes of our public lives so that we may feel justified, but all it really does is make a parade of our unbelief. Let’s be like Jesus, and not take this same bad advice. 

People want God to hurry up and do something, and something big, but God knows the future and the consequences of doing things too soon and too spectacular. Jesus may be going to the place we want Him to go, and willing to do what we hope He will do, but not necessarily on our timetable or suitable to our taste for the dramatic.

Two of Jesus’ brothers, James and Jude, became biblical writers, so we shouldn’t write loved ones off. However we should be doing God’s will while we are waiting.