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Weekly Word

Entries in Son of God (4)

Tuesday
Dec152015

Lessons of Christmas- The Miracle of it All

John 1:1-3, 14.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on December 13, 2015.

The modern, scientific world basically rejects the idea of miracles.  Unless one is a strong Christian and a scientist, miracles sound like the antithesis of sound reasoning.  However, much of this is a matter of semantics.  The common argument against miracles will go something like this. Miracles are against the laws of science and cannot be duplicated upon demand.  Therefore they are mythical, whether through insincerity or not.

So what do Christians mean by the word miracle?  Well, we do not mean the “miracles” of nature, like a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly.  As amazing as many of the processes of nature are, they are not technical miracles.  Scientists can observe and test to determine the underlying fundamental principles that enable metamorphosis.  In fact all over the world metamorphosis is happening all the time.  There are two main concepts behind the words that are often translated as miracle.  The first has to do with the observation of something amazing.  It is a memorable thing that sticks out among the stuff that naturally occurs.  Another word has the concept of being a sign.  This memorable thing points to something about God and the world. 

This leads us to three main parts to defining a miracle.  First, it is something for which God is immediately responsible.  Everything of nature follows certain laws and operations (physics) that God hardwired into the creation.  Thus he is technically responsible for all actions of nature, but this is a secondary responsibility.  In a miracle, something happens that would not have happened if God had let nature run its normal course.  The red sea parting or Jesus walking on water were not things that would have happened naturally.  There is a supernatural source to the happening of this event.  Second, though the event has a supernatural cause, this does not mean that it breaks scientific laws.  Miracles are not magic.  Rather, God Himself introduces power and laws that are generally above our understanding of physics.  Even if we could completely understand the physics of our world, we can’t completely understand God and how He interacts with it.  Thus miracles would always be beyond mankind’s ability to comprehend.  Plus God does not intend to give miracles in order to extend our knowledge of physics.  He doesn’t owe us an explanation.  Third, miracles always occur in a religious context.  They are given to God’s people, or to substantiate God’s Word.  Thus the struggle between Moses and Pharaoh is accompanied with miraculous signs in order to help Pharaoh see the truth about God and His people.

Now at Christmas we have several miracles among which some are: the virgin birth and the angelic visitations.  However the greatest miracle of all time is the incarnation.  Just when it looked like mankind was doomed to failure and destruction under the wrath of God, God becomes a man.  This was a cosmic game-changer.

The Word Became Flesh

In chapter one of the gospel of John Old Testament wording and imagery is used throughout in order to connect it with Jesus.  He starts out by referencing something called “The Word.”  This is an allusion back to Genesis 1, where God is seen speaking things into existence.  “And God said, let there be…”  The Word is the purpose, logic and reasoning of God coming from within Him and going out from Him.  John begins to define this Word in a way that makes clear it is not just words and it is not just a force.  As we walk through the first two verses, John establishes the preexistence of Jesus in a sequential manner.

First, he establishes that The Word existed at the beginning of creation.  “In the beginning” is the title of the Book of Genesis in Hebrew.  In Genesis 1:1, The Word existed already.  Second, The Word was in relationship with God the Father, “with God.”  It didn’t just exist.  It existed in relationship with God.  Third, we are told that The Word was divine.  It may appear that he is just equating them.  But he is clearly distinguishing two that are both God (and divine).  In verse two this is restated.  Lastly, John states that The Word was the agent or means of creation.  The Father speaks and the Word goes forth to accomplish it (in verse 14 & 18 it is clear the word is a personality).  What is not made clear in Genesis 1 is being revealed here in John 1.  Thus John describes two distinct persons existing together and yet God.  Later in verse 14 and 18 he defines this further as God the Father, and the Only Begotten Son.  All created things were made through Jesus in his divine capacity.  The Son is not a created person, but a reality that had been kept secret until the incarnation.

Thus the birth of Jesus is more than a man that God chooses to use.  Rather, it is the eternal Word and divine Son stepping into the world and taking on the additional nature of humanity.  This all happens when Satan had all but captivated all the nations of the world, Israel included.  The knowledge of God was all but extinguished either by outright rejection, or by perversion.  Thus in verse 14, John says that The Word became flesh and dwelled among us.  The word “dwelled” is the same word used for the tabernacle in the wilderness with Moses.  God has always tried to teach us that He longs to dwell with us.  It is as if God waits until the last seconds to bring out His secret weapon.  He is going to suit up on our side.  It is a miracle because mankind couldn’t have done it.  No matter how hard we try, we will never be able to produce God, much less make ourselves Gods.  The more we try the less like God we will become.  It is a miracle because it can’t be explained by mere natural means.  Yes, Jesus could have been just a baby, but then what about the miracles he did as a man?  If you reject those, what do you do with his prophecies about Jerusalem and the rest of the world?  If you reject that what do you do with the resurrection?  And, if you refuse to believe that then you are open to what God is trying to show you.  This is all history and yet it can’t be explained with the natural.  Also, it is a miracle because it fulfilled all that God prophesied and underscored all He had been trying to teach.  What if God was one of us?  Well in Jesus He has become one of us.  He has become our champion.  He has stepped in between us and our enemy the devil.

He Humbled Himself

In some ways it goes without saying.  But the point is too important to skip over. The humility of this miracle is mind-boggling.  The divine becomes human and the immortal becomes mortal.  This miracle of God taking on the nature of a man is unexplainable.  These are things that only the designer of creation and mankind could fully comprehend.  However, that is not what is important.  The “how” is incredible, but it is the “why” that truly blows your mind.  While we are busy trying to become gods, God a long time ago became one of us.  This humility is explained in Philippians 2:5-8.  Jesus was not just moving to a lower station.  He is choosing to embrace those who had lost and deserved to die.  He is identifying with that which was crushed and captivated by the devil.  He would rather hang out with the losers than with the winners.  Why?

In Philippians 2 we are told that Jesus did not consider his prior state, being God, as something to be gripped tightly.  His nature is such that He is not clambering to be on top, but is the one to choose lowly things.  He voluntarily cooperates with the limitations of being a man, who is also under the law of Moses.  The phrase sometimes translated as “made himself of no reputation,” would be better translated “he emptied himself.”  It is not clear what exactly he emptied himself of.  He doesn’t cease to be God, but he does cease to operate as only God.  He takes on limitations and chooses to suffer pain, hunger, rejection, and death.  He submits not just to death, but to death on a cross, which was a social shame and excruciating.  He obeyed the will of the Father to the point of death on a cross.  Part of the miracle of the incarnation is the depths to which God is willing to lower himself in order to lift us up.  Jesus reveals to us that it is those who lose according to this world who are desired by God.  We are always looking at what is possible and how to get ahead and move up.  But Jesus is God’s word to mankind, “Let me defeat your enemy for you.”

He Came Full Of Grace And Truth

In verse 14, John describes what they saw when the incarnation came into the world to dwell among men.  “We beheld his glory.”  Of course John had seen the transfiguration of Jesus when he had been transformed into a glowing being.  But he is speaking of more than that.  Here he is referencing the whole experience of dwelling with Jesus.  His glory was constantly being revealed for those who had eyes to see it.

It was especially displayed in that he was full of grace and truth.  God shows compassion to those who are captivated by sin and whose lives have been devoured by the devil.  He comes like a gift from heaven to heal, set people free from demons, and speak words of truth that cut through all the confused and deceived wisdom of mankind.  Even more amazing, He does so regardless of the fact that we do not deserve it.

Rather, we deserved him to come into the world full of wrath and judgment.  The miracle of Christmas is that instead of flaming judgment raining down from heaven, we are given aid against our enemy and victory over him.  This is not the story of underdogs overcoming at the end and winning.  This is the story of mankind losing the battle to the devil and his angels.  And, yet, God chooses to have a celebration with the losers and despises the “winners.”

Have you lost in life?  God is calling you to stop trying to win the game of this life and come into relationship with Him.  Are you winning in this life?  Beware that you are not caught up in the judgment that God is going to pour out on the devil, his angels, and all those who have joined his rebellion against God’s Son.  Choose this day, whom you will serve.

Christmas: Miracle audio

Thursday
Sep242015

When The Lord Questions You

Luke 20:41-47.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on September 20, 2015.

In the previous chapter we saw how Jesus wept over Jerusalem because of the hard hearts the people there had, especially the leaders.  This chapter has given us snapshots of the last week before the crucifixion, in which Jesus speaks to the people in the temple area.  This last attempt to turn their hearts runs into stiff opposition from the religious leaders.  Today we see that Jesus somewhat turns the table on them and asks them his own questions.  However, we should be careful of thinking that Jesus is only giving them a taste of their own medicine.  Rather, he specifically asks about a passage that is key to explaining who the Messiah really is and why they stumbled at the way Jesus spoke of his connection with The Father.  They claim to know so much.  But, if they would simply admit that there are some unexplained things in the Scriptures, they would be in a better position to accept what God was trying to reveal to them.  Jesus was the Son of God come down to do for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Jesus Exposes Their Willful Ignorance

There is nothing wrong with being ignorant.  All of us have areas of ignorance, no matter how smart we are.  No one can know all that mankind “knows,” much less all that is possible to be known.  Being ignorant is not a problem.  But, willful ignorance in the face of God’s revelation is a sin that we should be quick to repent of. 

The religious leaders questioned Jesus in order to undermine the authority that Jesus had with the common people, and to find fault with him.  Now God can handle our questions.  We can question Him, but we must recognize that when we are done He may have some questions for us.  This is part of the error of those who scoff and mock the Bible with questions that are clearly intended to manipulate how it looks rather than to find truth.  Go ahead and mock God’s Word, but also recognize that God will in turn have His time of questioning you.  Would you survive the same tactics against yourself that you employ against Him?  Honest questioning for the sake of Truth is not a threat to God.  But dishonest questions as a covering for sin and rejecting God will be shown for what they are.

They were calling Jesus a heretic because he called himself the Son of God.  I will share a couple of examples.  In Luke 19 Jesus told a parable about the owner of a vineyard.  At the end the owner sends his son to the caretakers and they kill him.  It was clear to the religious leaders that the owner was God, the vineyard was Israel, and they were the caretakers.  Notice that Jesus casts himself in the parable as the son of the owner.  This was not lost on them.  They resented and rejected his characterizations.  In John 10:30 Jesus said, “ ‘I and my Father are one.’  Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him.  Jesus answered them, ‘Many good works I have shown you from my Father.  For which of those works do you stone me?’  The Jews answered Him saying, ‘For a good work we do not stone you, but for blasphemy, and because you, being a man, make yourself God.’”  It is being disingenuous to say that they misinterpreted Jesus.  He knew what he was saying.  His “oneness” with the Father was a bold claim of sharing in the divine nature of God.  We also have Luke 22:70 when Jesus is on trial.  They ask him point blank if he is the son of God.  What is the response of Jesus?  “You rightly say that I am.”  This was not their main point for rejecting Jesus.  They had already done this from the beginning.  Yet, it became the leverage they needed to cover their evil desire to execute him.  So is it really blasphemy to claim that the Messiah would be the Son of God?  This is the heart of what Jesus is asking them when he points them to Psalm 110 in this passage.

First of all let’s establish the fact that the Messiah would be the son of David.  This was accepted by all parties involved.  It is in 2 Samuel 7:12-17 that God promises David that his kingdom and throne will be established forever.  God would not reject the claim of David’s family to the throne like He did with Saul.  Thus David’s line becomes essential moving forward.    The prophets picked up on this and added further revelation.  In Isaiah 9:6-7 we are told that One would sit on the throne of David who will be called: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.  Several of these titles pose some problems if you are contending that the Messiah will not have a divine nature.  Thus this coming Messiah would fulfill all that was missing in those earthly kings of David’s line.  Each successive king quickly proved that they were not the messiah and so Israel waited.  In Micah 5:2 it says, “You, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to me the one to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.”  Again this coming messianic ruler is spoken of in terms that go beyond a mere human.  Yes, we can interpret it to mean that the prophecies about his coming are of old, though he is not.  But, it is phrased in such a way that doesn’t negate that his existence would be from ancient times.  Lastly, at the announcement to Mary of her coming pregnancy by the angel Gabriel, it says in Luke 1:32, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Highest and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David.”  So the messiah is the ultimate Son of David.  But it was being revealed to the people of the first century that he was more than a man.  He was the Son of God.  This was not in contradiction to Scripture and only made some Scriptures more understandable.  This leads us to Psalm 110 which Jesus quotes from in today’s Scripture portion.

The question that Jesus asks is this.  How can you say that the messiah is the son of David when David calls the messiah his Lord?  How can an earthly descendant of David also be his lord?  Now when we look at the verse we need to recognize that in the Psalms there are two different words being translated as Lord, in fact you will notice the first “LORD” is in all caps (or small caps) and the second is only capitalized.  This is because the translators are letting you know they are two different words.  Here is a rough translation that helps us see this.  “YHWH said to my adonai….  The first is a reference to the name of God given to Moses at Mt. Sinai.  Historically it has been translated as Jehovah or Yahweh.  The second is a term that refers to a king, master or teacher.  The word always places the person in authority another class (i.e. king to citizens, master to slave, teacher to disciples etc…).  Thus David is literally revealing that he saw the messiah (who would be a descendant of him) as his king and master.  When Jesus asks them how they can call the messiah the son of David, he is not doing it to say they are wrong. But, instead, he is taking them back to a messianic passage and saying, if statement one is true then how do you understand statement two.  Now the answer that is being revealed in the days of Jesus is that the body of Jesus was biologically from the line of David.  As a side not on this biological aspect of Jesus, we should note that the creative act of the Spirit in causing Mary’s pregnancy is not explained further.  Thus even the biology of the body of Jesus is at least partially from David and possibly also from God.  Yet, the spirit of Christ is from before David and has existed from the beginning. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  Jesus was the prophesied “Right hand” of God accomplishing salvation for himself. 

Though these were new truths that God was revealing regarding His plan, we must note that none of it is contradictory to the Old Testament.  This is the problem.  The religious leaders claim to know the truth and will not accept what Jesus is saying.  Yet, Jesus shows them that the very Scriptures they claim to know point to the very things that he is revealing.  Thus they are choosing to reject this new light.  This is what I meant earlier by a willful ignorance.  You might ask yourself this.  Is God trying to open my eyes to something that I am resisting and rejecting?  We know that God is working everyday to open the eyes of people to the Truth and yet many reject it.  One day you will be questioned by God himself.  He will expose the flimsy arguments that we use and give back to us according to how we questioned Him.  I encourage those who don’t accept Jesus as both man and divine to be careful how they deal with God’s Word and Christians, His people.  Do you want to be dealt with in the same way by Him?

He Exposes Their Sin

In verse 45 Jesus turns back to the people and warns them about the sin of the religious leaders.  Those who are going to follow Christ must first learn to avoid the pitfalls that keep people from accepting Jesus.  First, Jesus points out the misplaced desire and love that these religious leaders have.  Their desire was for public attention and the adoration of people rather than to please God.  They were filled with pride regarding their godliness, and yet, they did not really love God.  Instead, they loved to be honored and have the best.  There is nothing wrong with wanting people to approve of our actions.  But when that desire goes outside the proper boundaries it becomes an inordinate desire.  They desired man’s applause more than God’s.  They desired the authority that they had for their own purposes and ends rather than for the purposes of God.  This same sin is rampant today within the churches of the USA.  Our churches are overwhelmed with people who have inordinate desires and misplaced loves.  At the end of the day they are serving their own ego at the expense of the work of God.

The religious leaders also were taking advantage of the desperate within society.  Devouring widows houses is a reference to the way they would worm their way into receiving the money of widows while they live and in their deaths.  The term devour depicts the beastly nature of their actions.  They preyed upon the desperate situation of the widows in order to enrich themselves.  They loved money rather than those widows for whom they were to be a protection.  The love of money has infiltrated the churches of this country to the point that it has become a mark of godliness to be rich.   Although there is nothing wrong with being rich, we must recognize how inordinate desires and love pulls us away from God and in the “name of God” we pursue whatever our heart wants.  As long as we slap a Jesus sticker on it in the end, we are living godly.  If God rejected such mockeries then how much more will He reject those who bring ridicule to the Son of God whom we are supposed to be serving?

Jesus also points out their false piety.  They pray long prayers, not because they love talking with God, but because they love putting on a show for the people.  They are not as pious as they depict.  Such pretensions are false and are revolting to God.  We tend to follow spiritual leaders who look pious and godly.  Many are being misled because they foolishly do not look to the Scriptures.  God has warned us and exposed the methods of the unrighteous.  Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of trying to please men.  Focus on pleasing God and let the chips fall where they may.

Lastly, Jesus states that these leaders will receive a greater condemnation.  Why is this so?  They will receive greater condemnation because they spend their days studying and writing about the Scriptures and yet reject the very things the Scriptures are trying to teach, and they reject the very one who authored the Scriptures.  They receive a greater condemnation because they declare that they have the truth and force others to come under error and miss the truth.

Friend, the day will come when God will judge each and every one of us.  How will it go for me in that day?  It will not be the fact that we have sinned that will be the issue.  No, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  Rather, it will be the fact of how we dealt with that sin.  Did I submit and plead guilty before the court of heaven?  Did I then cling to Jesus, the Son of God, to be my teacher and savior?  These men refused to hear what God was trying to teach them from the Scriptures and thus they missed the blessing He had for them.  Make sure you don’ t miss God’s blessing for you!

WhenTheLordQuestions Audio

Wednesday
Jul162014

The Identity of Jesus

As we have studied through the Gospel According to Luke, we have seen that Jesus had been with his disciples for a while and they have seen many amazing things: healings, exorcisms, miraculous supply of bread and meat, and a storm commanded to stop.  All of these beg the question, “Who is this guy?”

In Luke 9:18-27 we have a section where Jesus tests his disciples to see what conclusions they have made about him.  They obviously think he is worth following, but Jesus wants them to answer the question of his identity.

Jesus Wants Us To Know Him

It is easy to think of God as a being that keeps hidden and doesn’t want us to know Him.  He is invisible, which questions if He is really there, and He is seemingly silent.  Of course, the Bible contends that God has often “shown” Himself to man and often “spoken” to man.  However, He doesn’t do so all the time and especially not at the command of a person.  Yet, here we see the actions of Jesus letting us know that God really does want us to know Him.  As Francis Schaeffer has stated, He is here and He is not silent.  Like any good teacher, Jesus has let their experiences and his teachings stew within his students.  Now it is time to stir up the pot with the question we find in verse 18, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”

The word on the street was that Jesus might be John the Baptist come back to life.  Of course for those who were familiar with John’s ministry, this is ludicrous.  John actually baptized Jesus and told his followers that Jesus was the One that he was preparing them for.  He clearly proclaimed Jesus as Messiah to his followers.  Another idea was that Jesus was Elijah.  This guess comes from the book of Malachi where there is a prophecy that states Elijah will come before the Day of the Lord.  The last guess is more of a catch-all.  Jesus may be one of the other prophets come back to life.  All of these are merely speculations of those who are clearly not intimately connected to these circumstances as the disciples were.  Thus they take on the look of a conspiracy theory.  The problem with conspiracy theories is that there is no end to the speculations that can occur.  Even when there is no conspiracy, you can still make up several like a person imaginatively writing a novel.  Who can know the difference?  If a person stands up and says, that is not true because I was there.  The person with the conspiracy theory only needs to accuse them of being part of the conspiracy.  Thus we are left either paralyzed, not knowing what to believe, or grasping at ideas that have nothing to do with the truth.

Jesus next presses the point home.  “But who do you say that I am?”  This is the more important question that Jesus is leading up to.  Peter is the bold one of the group and so he speaks what is most likely the belief of all of them, except perhaps Judas. “You are the Christ of God.”  We will touch on this more in a moment.  But for now let us recognize that those who were closest to Jesus believed that he was the Messiah that they had been waiting for.  They knew the speculations of the crowd fell far short of who Jesus was.

It is interesting that Jesus forbids them to proclaim this publically.  Why wouldn’t Jesus want to be publically proclaimed as Messiah?  Doesn’t he want people to know who he is?  Yes he does.  But he is not running for the office of Messiah.  He is not trying to get elected to a position.  The Messiah or Christ was not chosen by people, but chosen by God.  So the people needed to come to this conclusion on their own, rather than pressured by Jesus or by his disciples.  Also, Jesus knew that if he proclaimed himself Messiah, the religious leaders would quickly arrest him and have him killed.  So this delay gives him more time to minister throughout Israel and let people see for themselves who he was.  Jesus relied more upon the Spirit of God speaking to people’s heart about who he was then him telling them.  This would be more authentic and not manipulated.  We must notice that after his death and resurrection, Jesus commands his disciples to now proclaim publically who he was.  Of course He would be absent having ascended into heaven.  Yet, the Holy Spirit would be working in the hearts of people to help them receive it.  Why some receive the witness of the Holy Spirit and others reject it is a mystery that we may never completely understand.

Who Is He?

So who is Jesus?  Peter declared him to be the Christ (Greek) or Messiah (Hebrew) of God.  These terms literally mean “Anointed One.”  They point to the prophecies in the Bible of a man who would be chosen by God and anointed with power by Him in order to restore righteousness within the government, society, and individuals.  This Anointed One would also put down those in rebellion against the God of heaven.  This wasn’t just within Israel.  God’s Anointed One would bring salvation and Judgment to the Gentiles as well and thus would become King over all the earth.  Now the other gospels record this as well.  However, they also reveal that Peter’s answer was longer than Luke records.

In Matthew 16:16 Peter also says that Jesus is the “Son of the Living God.”  Now there is no conspiracy here.  Maybe Luke’s source only remembered the first part.  These testimonies of what Peter said do not conflict.  One is just longer than the other, or more detailed.  So Peter also saw that Jesus was not just a man.  He saw him as divine.  He is called son because his body was the miraculous creation of the Spirit of God within Mary.  She conceived without ever being with a man.  This is just as impossible as it is for dirt to come together and form Adam.  Both are direct creations of God.  So Jesus as a man is the direct creation of God or the Son of God.  Of course, in His divinity he is not created.  John makes this clear in his Gospel- John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  He goes on to declare that the Word became flesh in the person of Jesus.  So he is more than a man chosen by God and anointed by him.  But even more, he is a man inhabited by the Word, and second person of the Triune God.

Jesus clearly commends Peter for this answer.  He was correct.  However, he was missing a critical component to the identity of Jesus.  Yes, he is all those amazing things.  The type of person that we would all want on our team and yet look at the response of Jesus in Luke 9:22.  Jesus was also the one destined to be rejected.  In the way of the “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah, Jesus was also supposed to be rejected (You may want to read Isaiah 52-53 for further background on this.)  He would suffer many things at the hands of the elders and then he would be put to death.  Like a cornerstone that had been perfectly shaped and sent to the builders, Jesus presented himself to Israel and the leaders rejected him.  “We will not build with this stone,” they say back to God.  Yet, God would vindicate Jesus by raising him up on the 3rd day.

Will You Follow This Man?

This third part of his identity is important.  Everyone wants to embrace Jesus on the first two points.  But who wants a hero who not only is killed, but asks you to pick up a cross and follow him?  It seems foolish to many.  Jesus knew that if he didn’t bring this up now they would have trouble receiving it later.  So he spends some time walking them through the issues of what it means to believe in him and to follow him as a disciple in verses 23-27.

In verse 23 he points out that to follow him will require denying your own desires.  The cross is an implement of death.  Thus dying would be a critical part of following Jesus.  I don’t have time to flesh this out completely.  Let’s just say, we may not always be put to death physically for following Jesus.  However, at every point that my flesh and this world tempt me to leave Jesus, I must die to that desire to leave him in order to stay with Jesus.  Whom will you choose?  When you madly lust after someone to whom you are not married and it pulls you to commit sexual sin, whom do you choose, Jesus or sin?  When Jesus says, “Forgive,” but your heart says, “No way,” whom will you follow?  When you are told that you need to follow a 21st century Jesus, i.e. the new and improved Jesus who is not so offensive, whom will you follow, Jesus or Jesus+? 

Jesus then adds in verse 24 the issue of self-preservation.  Sometimes we refuse to die to sin because we lust so strongly for it.  However, other times we refuse to die because we are afraid to die.  Though Jesus doesn’t use the word courage here, I am going to apply it.  It will take courage to follow Jesus.  Self preservation may save your body, but it can get you spiritually killed.  Matthew 10:28 “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  But, rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”  If I save my body, I have only done so for a few years.  Even if my actions of walking away from Jesus gains me 40, 50, or 60 more years, then I will stand before God and give account for having walked away from Jesus.  Such small amount of years in this body will seem so trivial in light of eternity.  It takes courage to face both physical death and emotionally dying to those sins that seek to pull us away from Jesus.  Jesus knew his disciples would need such courage.  We must give up the goal and direction of our life for Christ.  Notice in verse 24 the words, “for me.”  We are not called to just whimsically give up things or even totally deny ourselves any pleasures.  But, precisely where following Jesus clashes with my desires or society’s desires that is where I need to die.  You cannot hold on to two conflicting desires.  You will either follow Jesus or, like Judas, pretend you are following him, or you will merely walk away from him.

In verse 25 Jesus moves it up another notch.  Before, he dealt with self preservation, which only gains one’s physical life.  But here he posits being able to gain the whole world.  Being on top of the heap financially, musically, religiously, politically, in business, or among your friends, can all be temptations that pull us away from Christ.  All of these things can take your soul to hell if you let them pull you away from the directives of Jesus.  Jesus is not against accomplishments.  In fact there are great people who have chosen to follow Jesus.  But how many sell out Christ because they think it will help them get what they want?  Countless millions.  Whatever you do, do it as unto the Lord because without him our accomplishments are hollow and will not be worth it in the end.  We have to hold accomplishments in this world very lightly.   We have to be ready to let them go in order to follow Christ.  We have to guard our hearts so that they are not riddled with lusts that will keep up from Jesus.

Lastly, it requires refusing to be ashamed of Jesus before this world.  If we refuse to stand with Jesus before men, then He will refuse to stand for us before His Father.  When Jesus is crucified the disciples figuratively throw down their crosses and run.  They are scared.  Peter even denies Jesus to a young servant girl, he is so afraid.  Yet, this verse is not about a onetime thing.  After the resurrection the Spirit of God filled these men and enabled them to give the good witness and stand with Jesus even to the point of physical death.  They stood with Christ in the end and that is what matters. 

Today there are many, in the Church, who are ashamed of Christ and the Words in the Bible.  They may not say so, but they demonstrate it when they try to redefine Jesus and reinterpret the Bible.  They thus build a different Jesus, an idol.  What say you?  Are you going to follow the modern golden calves being created across this world?  Or, will you follow this man who is Chosen by God, Anointed with power to save and Judge, and is rejected by the majority of this world?

Tuesday
Dec182012

Jesus The Faithful Son

It is easy to think of the baby Jesus in simple loving terms.  However, that little baby was more than just the beginning of something.  In that moment of visibility we are able to see something that had began before creation.  In Revelation 13:8 we are told that Jesus was “slain from the foundation of the world.”  That means that before creation was begun, the Father and the Son had agreed to the plan that required the Son to take on the nature of a man and pay the price for the sins of mankind.  His birth was a beginning but not.  An example of this is when the Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy.  It was a beginning, but a lot of things happened before that which may or may not have been clear to the French.  Planning, moving of troops and assets all had to be worked out before that visible moment of troops landing.  In the same way the little baby Jesus was the divine presence making its own landing on the beachhead of humanity.  Much planning and prepositioning of assets had happened up to this point.  This is an eternal plan reaching a critical and visible point.  Jesus could have been born to Abram and Sarah.  They received a “miracle child.”  However God knew that Jesus’ birth would not be understood and would not help mankind without a lot of teaching.

Let’s look at Hebrews chapter 3 as we focus on the coming of Jesus.

Jesus Comes As The Faithful Son Of God

The writer of Hebrews is writing to people who thought very highly of Moses.  He points out that Jesus comes in a way that is similar to Moses and yet much more glorious.  Thus in the first 2 verses we see that the Father has appointed the Son to be the apostle and high priest of our confession.  As apostle, he is the one sent by the Father to make the gospel known.  As high priest he is the one who mediates between God and man.  He directs and accomplishes the sacrifice needed to cover sins.  Thus the little baby has quite the job to do.  The word confession refers to our statement of faith in Jesus and the gospel.  Thus it literally means to speak the same thing.  This is an important thing for new believers to understand in this day and age.  We are called to embrace the same Truth that the Prime Apostle, Jesus, handed down to his apostles.  If we do not “speak the same thing” as them, then we are departing from the good confession.

Jesus had agreed to fulfill this mission in eternity past, before the world was created.  All of history was leading up to this moment that had been prophesied, a day of salvation and healing for mankind.

Jesus Is The One Worthy Of Glory

It is difficult to imagine the boundless glory of God taking up residence within a human body.  This is the realm of Movies and Marvel comics.  Jesus looked like any other baby, but there was something different about him.  In him dwelt the divine being that had been involved in the creation of all things that existed.  Not only that, but in verse 5 the writer points out that Moses served as a servant in God’s house.  However, Jesus comes forth as the Son to build his own house.  Thus the glory of Moses that Israel so often referred to was nothing compared to the glory of the Son who had come down to build his own house.  Moses’ life and activity was a witness and example of what Jesus would come and do.  Just as Moses called the people to leave Egypt and follow him into the desert until God led them to a Promised Land, so Jesus calls us out of the world to follow him into the desert where he promises to lead us to the promised end of the Father.  The Church is the “house” that belongs to Jesus.  We are his body and the Temple of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus takes the believing remnant of natural Israel and he combines them with a believing remnant of the Gentile nations to create a new house, the Church.  Those who believe have a part, a share, a portion in this endeavor that has been set aside for them. 

To Reject Jesus Is To Forfeit A Share In Him

The rest of the chapter focuses on the danger of missing who Jesus is and falling away from faith in him.  Let me just say that many get bogged down in trying to determine whether those who “fall away” ever believed or not.  Whole systematic theologies have been built up through trying to fill in all the gaps that exist within the teaching of Scripture.  So I challenge you with this.  Regardless what your systematic theology, do not let it distract from the warning that is given here in God’s Word.  The Holy Spirit clearly warns us of danger and we need to treat it as so.  The word Beware in verse 12 is literally “watch,” or “look.”  Jesus had warned his disciples at the last supper that he was going to be put to death.  He warned them again in the garden.  In fact he told them to “watch and pray” so that they might not fall into temptation.  Watching is not just about looking outward to the world.  Often it is looking into our heart before God in prayer.  It is where we confess before God the weakness of our flesh and pray for power to obey the Spirit.  Prayer is ultimately watching and guarding our heart.  What we are watching out for is an unbelieving heart that causes us to “depart” from God.  We see that at Jesus’ trial and crucifixion.  His disciples were afraid and departed from him.  They failed to stand with him, even though their spirit wanted to.  They learned to lean upon the Holy Spirit and guard their hearts against the desires of the flesh.  We can fail here just as easily.  The Bible warns of an end times apostasy in 2 Thessalonians 2:3.    IF we do not guard our hearts and watch our souls in prayer then we will not pass the trials of this life.  But if we believe to the end, vs. 14, we will be saved.  Notice the emphasis is on the belief and not so much works.  Belief will always lead to real works.  But the lack of belief can be masked by false works of pretence.  In fact Jesus had commanded them in Luke 21:1 to take possession of their souls by patience.  Trust God and wait upon him.  Don’t get to over thinking things and desire to go back to Egypt (the world).  We are warned in vs. 13 of Hebrews 3 that sin is deceitful.  It lies to us and manipulates our flesh to self-justify that which endangers our soul.  It is a process that dulls our senses and saps us of strength.  This is precisely what we combat when we watch in prayer over our souls.  A hardened heart will refuse to follow Jesus at the time that it matters most. 

Final Thoughts

God has made a place for you before everything was created.  He even knows the place that “could have been” for those who refuse to believe.  Don’t let yourself be pulled away from it.  Satan does not want you to take your place in the Church of Jesus and neither does he want you to receive your portion in the Age that is to come.  If we let ourselves be deceived and live for the flesh now, it will be harder to follow Jesus later.  God has set us up for success, but we can squander that and set ourselves up for failure.  God help us all to be faithful until the end.  Blessings.

Jesus the faithful audio